Sorry, the two don’t go together.
There are verses about comforting. There are verses that offer comfort. But there are no verses about following Jesus being comfortable.
There are times when we need to be comforted. Those are times when we are afflicted. There are plenty of people who are oppressed and exploited around the world – those folks need to hear a message of comfort. And God does comfort the afflicted.
But no where in Scripture does it tell us that following Jesus will be comfortable.
In fact, there are plenty of places in Scripture that tell us the exact opposite. We hear Jesus tell us that we are to pick up our cross, die daily, and follow him. That’s not comfortable. We are told that those who follow Jesus will be reviled. We’re told how Jesus really doesn’t like lukewarm followers – those that claim to follow Jesus, but the actions don’t match the rhetoric.
Following Jesus is not comfortable. I haven’t had a comfortable day since I really followed Jesus. Yes, I’ve had joy. I’ve had contentment. I’ve had peace. But I have never been comfortable in following Jesus.
I think part of this has to do with the fact that following Jesus is about growing. Growth is uncomfortable. I’d go so far as to say there is no growth without discomfort. Doesn’t matter if you are talking about physical growth, mental growth, emotional growth, relationship growth, or spiritual growth. Discomfort is a way to know that you are growing.
We should rejoice when we are uncomfortable in our faith journey. It means there is some kind of growth going on.
The first followers of Jesus were uncomfortable. They all died as a result of following Jesus – 10 of the 11 faithful ones died as martyrs. The last one died alone and broke. Tell them about your discomfort. Or you can look to Paul or Stephen – both died for the faith. Want to complain that you are uncomfortable to them? I’m sure they will happily listen.
One of the reasons following Jesus is uncomfortable is that Jesus opens our hearts and minds to see things differently. When we follow Jesus, we can’t unsee the injustices around us. We can’t go on ignoring things that should not be happening. When we hear about children starving, it’s uncomfortable. When we encounter someone who is experiencing homelessness, it is uncomfortable. When we come across racism or other injustices, it is uncomfortable. And it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be so uncomfortable that we act in response.
Where did this notion come from that following Jesus was comfortable? I don’t know. But it isn’t grounded in Scripture or faith.
When we focus on comfort in church, what we are really doing is being blind to the purpose of church. Church isn’t a social club that meets everyone’s needs. A church doesn’t exist to make you comfortable. It exists to make you a disciple.
When we focus on our comfort, we are really trying to control the Gospel and Jesus. We are trying to put boundaries around God, put Jesus in a box, and contain Jesus. We want to tell Jesus what he can and can’t do.
Here’s what I have experienced. When we do that, we create low expectations for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We don’t expect prayers to be answers. We don’t expect lives to be transformed. We don’t expect the hungry to be satisfied. We don’t expect to be challenged. We don’t expect much from God, from church, from faith, from Scripture, from worship, from pastors, from each other. We don’t expect God to show up. We don’t expect God to even be alive and active. We expect everything to remain the same.
Comfort isn’t where transformation happens. When the Gospel is unleashed, it’s uncomfortable. And it’s where lives are literally transformed in incredible ways.
So church, what’s it going to be? Are you more interested in your own comfort, or in following Jesus? If you prefer comfort, then don’t expect anything. And no one else out side of the church will expect anything either. Why should they?
But if we are committed to following Jesus, then it’s time to go all in. To be uncomfortable. To expect amazing things. To expect Jesus to show up. To expect transformation.
Being uncomfortable isn’t fun. It’s not supposed to be. But it’s where growth happens. It’s where lives are changed. It’s how Jesus works in us individually, and in our congregations. It’s what the core message of Christianity is all about – Life, Death, and Resurrection. There can be no resurrection if we first don’t go through death. And death is uncomfortable. But thankfully death doesn’t get the final say. That’s not where the story ends. It’s merely a stop along the way.