One weekend, late March of this year, we awoke to a house twelve degrees colder than the preferred temperature of our home. With assistance diagnosing the issue from a friend, we determined it was very likely time to shell out the funds to replace the furnace. While the timing of the news was unexpected, the news itself was not a complete surprise to us. When we purchased the home in 2015, the home inspector informed us of the HVAC unit’s age and advised replacing it would soon be on the horizon. We got another four years out of the system. After all, why replace something that is working and meeting your needs? It was mid-March when the heat quit working and temperatures in East Tennessee were starting to warm up. Given the fact the cooling functions would continue to operate normally, could we delay the expense for another four to six months until fall just before onset of winter? We made the attempt. The very next morning we awoke to a cooler than normal living quarters and made the trek to purchase a couple of space heaters and make our best efforts to live without the benefit of central heat. While not entirely unbearable, it was unpleasant. We watched the weather forecasts closely to see exactly what we were in store for. Temperatures were warming up with the onset of spring, but as lifetime residents of the region we were very aware they generally do not remain warm for the season until after Easter. Sure enough, freezing temperatures were coming within the next three to four days and we were all silently dreading it. Silently? I must pause here to commend my family of four. All of us were colder than we wanted to be, but never once do I recall anyone complaining, whining, or grumbling about the situation. Though it was never really a stated discussion, all of us seemingly set our mind we were going to make the best of it. The space heaters were spread strategically throughout the home to accommodate our most common resting spots and we learned very quickly exactly how many it would take to kick the circuit breakers!! Within seven days of the unit breathing its last, the aforementioned friend had not only secured a new furnace for our family, but it was installed and heat was restored to our home. It was only at this time did we all admit to each other how cold and frustrated we truly were during the week. The sense of relief flowed through the four of us like the warm air through the floor registers.
What’s the point of this? I’m not simply telling a story to share what happened and I’m certainly not trying to buy your sympathy or make you feel sorry for us. I am well aware heat is not necessary for survival and am not so callous as to disregard those living among us who are unable to afford the comfort of climate-controlled living. My reason for sharing this tale is to illustrate what happens when we end up in situations where our comfort is lost.
Comfort can be defined as a state of freedom from pain or constraint in which you are relaxed and do not have any unpleasant feelings. We are all born with a natural instinct and desire to seek comfort. From the newborn baby crying to be held to the rebellious teen seeking to break free from the constraining demands of an overbearing parent to the newlyweds seeking to establish a home and financial security for the future, we are all striving to live relaxed in our own space shielded from the pain and unpleasantness of life. We strive for comfort in every part of who we are: our physical being, our mental being, our emotional being, and our spiritual being. The only issue is there are times, many times, when comfort is lost and simply can’t be found. What happens when you or those you love are faced with an unexpected death, tragedy, loss of income, or threat to your security and well-being?
A loss of comfort can be a conflicting time. What is going on? Why is this happening? How can I fix it? Often there is nothing to be done to remedy the situation, but there are times when a loss of comfort is the motivating factor to affect change. Regarding my family’s furnace failure, I mentioned we knew four years earlier something needed to be done; however, we waited until our comfort was lost to actually do something about it. Although the furnace is a very practical example, reluctance to relinquish the comforts we are accustomed to can cause us to remain in places maybe a little longer than what is ideal. With the knowledge hindsight is twenty-twenty, we often look back and wonder why it took so long to take action when we knew in our hearts change was needed weeks, months, sometimes years before we were willing to move. A little more than ten years ago a career change from a job which drained me of who I was and stole my mind from my family even when I was home would have never occurred if I had not been presented with a decision from my employer which greatly threatened my comfort. Through much discussion, tears, and prayer, the decision was made to leave the company I had been a part of for thirteen years in hopes of a better quality of family life. Honestly, it was a decision my wife had come to months earlier, but it took the loss of my personal comfort to drop-kick me into action. The twelve to fifteen months which followed that decision were very uncertain and uncomfortable, but I can now say I am a better man and my family is in a better place because of it.
I believe it’s in those uncertain and devastating situations we learn the true meaning of comfort. To limit the definition of comfort as freedom from pain and unpleasantness is short sighted and shallow. Comfort is best described as a feeling of being less worried, upset, or frightened during a time of trouble or emotional pain. Synonymous with security, this is the kind of comfort Jesus came to bring us. We will not prevent the ups and downs, ins and outs of life but we can experience peace when such situations arise. John records Christ as saying, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart cause I have overcome the world.” Knowing He has overcome the world and knowing nothing will ever separate us from His love, we can live at peace and in true comfort despite our circumstances. Paul describes this as a peace that passes all understanding.
Stepping out in that comfort Jesus offers is what finally gave us the ability to pursue living life outside the institutional church after years of discomfort feeling like square pegs being forced into round holes. Much like the decision to leave a long-time employer, the departure has made me a better man, but it did and has produced more uncertainty than certainty. The journey over the last few years has been at times lonely, at times confusing, and even painful as we have been forced to answer questions and inquiries from friends, family, and lifelong relationships which we may not yet have answered for ourselves. We are coming face to face with our beliefs and why we believe them instead of simply accepting what’s been force fed and handed to us. Only by living in the peace which defies understanding and realizing it was the Father who placed these desires in our hearts as our Creator have we been able to fully embrace who we truly are and continue on this path.
I have no idea what the road ahead looks like or where it may take us. It would be foolish and naive to expect it to be free from pain or any unpleasant experiences, but I do believe as we live in Jesus we can live less worried, upset, and frightened during those times of trouble or pain. Circumstances may affect us externally and cause a loss of external comfort, but they should never threaten our true internal comfort. Returning our focus to Him is a choice we must make when comfort is lost.