Do You Crave Comfort?

Do you ever whine about “first-world problems”? My guess is that, like me, you probably do.  Anger with a cell phone battery that dies too quickly or a weak WiFi signal, a pizza delivery that arrived ten minutes late or the library not having the new release that I can’t wait to read (but don’t want to buy). A Walmart shopper who doesn’t substitute to my liking, forgetting my password again, not getting a snack on an airplane, or the HVAC repairman being booked out all week.

Why does each of these things frustrate us so much? The answer, unsurprisingly, has to do with idolatry. This is the second of three installments on the trifecta of root idols that our hearts serve: approval, comfort, and control. Today we’ll tackle the idol that we first-world problem sufferers serve so readily: our own comfort. (Miss the first in the series? Find it here.)

Does This List Sound Familiar?

The idol of comfort, like all three root idols, can show up in a veritable cornucopia of fruit. While the blossoms may look different, they all emanate from the very same root. As you read through this list, see if you can find fruit that appears in your life.

  • Binge-watching a TV series
  • Refusing to help a neighbor out on a Saturday because you’d have to give up your tee time  (or free time)
  • Sleeping in instead of getting up to spend time in God’s Word
  • Indulging in sexual sins: pornography, masturbation, adultery, homosexuality, etc.
  • Laziness
  • Gluttony
  • Self-indulgence
  • Demanding “me-time”
  • Not taking opportunities to be generous
  • Responding sinfully to…
    • A power outage
    • Inclement weather
    • Failed vacation plans
    • Internet failure
  • Mindless scrolling through social media
  • Attending church only online (so you can stay in your jammies and avoid the people)
  • Covetousness
  • Unwillingness to be vulnerable.

Oof. Did you find yourself in there? I did. But perhaps, it also brought a question to mind.

How Do I Know If It’s Idolatry or Enjoying God’s Good Gift?

A plaque hangs on my dining room wall reminding me of a blessed truth from the book of James: “Every good and perfect gift comes from above” (1:17). That means that chocolate, coffee, extra sleep, a good book, an entertaining movie, the internet, and livestream are all gifts from God. None of those are inherently sinful. Yet, in their own way, each one made the list above. So, how are we supposed to tell if we’re simply enjoying a good gift from our generous heavenly Father (Luke 11:13), or if we’re engaging in the idolatry of comfort?

The answer to this question can be summed up by two helpful questions, that I first heard from a former pastor:

  1. Will I sin in order to get it?
  2. Will I sin if I don’t get it?

A good gift gets twisted into a god when one or both of those questions is “yes.” For instance, how do I respond when my husband uses the last K-cup without telling me and I have no coffee in the morning? While I can’t fathom my husband actually doing that, I can imagine that my response would indicate that I probably love my coffee—ahem, my comfort—a little too much. If I sin when it’s withheld, it has become an idol.

Or, consider social media. While I have pretty strong opinions on the topic, I do not think that Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram are intrinsically sinful. I do believe that it is, at least in theory, possible to use them to the glory of God. However, how can I tell when I’ve crossed the line? Consider the first question. You may not feel like you’re sinning to attain social media, but do you ignore other duties when you’re on there? Do you neglect your children? Do you scroll instead of reading God’s Word? If so, then an honest answer to question one is yes.

Our hearts are masters at polluting God’s kindness with our own idolatrous desires.

Think Different

By now, I hope you’ve got an idea of what the idol of comfort may look like in your life. But now we must consider how we need to think differently about these things in order to change (Eph. 4:23). Here are two attitudes to help govern biblical thinking.

Surrender

Our culture has become obsessed with the concept of “rights.” And when these so-called “rights” are violated, we’re allowed to do just about anything in response. Public outrage is a visible example of what goes on in our hearts when one of our idols is threatened. We lash out in anger or roll our eyes in contempt because we think we’re entitled to comfort. We believe that we have a fundamental right to have whatever will make us comfortable. But that sounds a lot more like the world’s rhetoric than like the Bible’s teaching.

Here’s what we do deserve, according to Scripture:

For the wages of sin is death, (Rom 6:23)

We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. (Eph 2:3)

Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. (Col 1:21)

We all deserve to be under God’s wrath, exiled from His family, and to suffer eternal separation from Him and punishment in hell. Simply put, without the Gospel, that’s the only “right” we really have.

This means that I must recognize that my coffee, internet, chocolate, and me-time as gifts of God’s grace. They’re not my right. He may take them at any time, and that must be okay. Job exemplifies this attitude in an exponentially more dire situation than any of us have ever found ourselves. Upon losing every source of income and all of his children in a single day, Job responds this way:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.  (Job 1:21)

This is surrender—the attitude we must adopt if we want to smash the idol of comfort.

Stewardship: It’s All God’s Anyway

Not only must we surrender the good gifts of our comfort, we also must learn to steward them well. Can I steward my downtime without children yelling my name on repeat to God’s glory? Can I steward my time on the Internet in a way that magnifies the name of Christ? My sexuality? My relationships at church? My food choices? My entertainment choices? I believe the answer to all of these is yes. We can—and we must. If the comfort item in question cannot be stewarded in a way that will honor the King, we must ditch it entirely.

Paul agrees. Though he’s speaking specifically of our physical bodies, the principle extends to all parts of our lives:

Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.  (1Co 6:19-20)

Act Different

Finally, consider three action steps you can take to help you serve the true and living God, rather than your comfort.

Be Obedient

It doesn’t get much simpler than this. I remind my three-year-old approximately fifty times a day, “You need to obey.” And so do I. I need to love others well, even when it means sacrificing my comfort. I need to spend time God’s Word, even if it means sacrificing my sleep. I need to steward my body to God’s glory, even if it means denying myself a yummy snack. I need to obey.

Be Thankful

Learn to cultivate the habit of thankfulness. You could do this in any number of ways.

  • Express gratitude to the Giver of good gifts before enjoying them, or even when deprived of them. Whisper a prayer of thanks before diving into that cinnamon roll; thank God for the internet when it’s on the fritz—and then find a profitable way to fill your time.
  • Make a list of three things each day for which you’re grateful.
  •  Find a different person every day to whom you can express gratitude.
  • Memorize Psalm 100; pray it back to God
  • Learn all the verses of the Doxology (based on Psalm 100)
  • Decorate your mirror with sticky notes of your gratitude

Be Generous

Gratitude and generosity are idol killers. It is very difficult (impossible?) to idolize something that you are grateful to God for and generous with. You will not answer yes to either diagnostic question if you practice generosity. Start by being intentional. How can you share your favorite comfort item? Or maybe it’s something that can’t be shared, like watching TV. Why not, sacrifice your TV time to invest in someone else? Play their favorite game, buy them dinner or coffee, bake them chocolate chip cookies. It doesn’t really matter. Just find a way to bless others instead of indulging yourself.

May we tear down our idols of comfort and celebrate the goodness of God instead!  

3 thoughts on “Do You Crave Comfort?

  1. This was so helpful! Thank you for the clear, biblical truth and for the very practical ways to apply it to my life. I can’t wait to share this with other women in my church!

    Like

  2. Ah, yes, this is such a struggle for me along with its twin idol ‘convenience’. These really came out as idols for me when Covid hit and everything shut down. I so easily get used to things being a certain way and when suddenly life is no longer comfortable or convenient, I get upset. Thank you for writing about this!

    Like

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