Redefining Comfort

I want to start this post in a mindset of gratitude. I won’t go so far as to say that the past two months have been the most difficult, but they certainly have not been easy. In all honesty, I would not have survived the first half of this semester without the care and support I’ve received from friends and family–including biological family, church family, and professors that act as my family away from home. Please understand that your accommodation of plans and general concern for my well-being are not only appreciated, but also remembered. Through the most uncomfortable situations, I receive unconditional love from other members of the body of Christ.

However, in order to reach this point, repetitive instances of vulnerability were required. I often hear, “You don’t look like you’re in pain.” This statement both relieves and frustrates me: I’m glad that I apparently don’t look as awful as I feel, but I don’t enjoy having to point out the fact that I’m pain. (One of my reasons for making this blog is to limit the number of verbal explanations I have to give.) Vulnerability hurts. It gives others full access to view your inner pain. I’m highly uncomfortable when others discover my limitations. But I do have control over this type of discomfort; I choose to embrace the uncomfortable situations of sharing my struggles, with the hope of receiving comfort in return. As John Ortberg states in All the Places to Go, “The paradox of Jesus is that vulnerability is stronger than invulnerability.” I find more comfort in learning of others’ struggles than in concealing my own. Jesus had to break the five loaves before they could multiply to feed thousands. In the same way, I should take comfort in the state of brokenness, knowing that this is how God can use me.

Along the same lines of pride, I like to control what I can. Since I can hardly control my physical circumstances, I like to think that I have control over where God stands in my life. Since I can’t run, I pretend that I can run from God. Since fatigue seems to control my life, I pretend that I’m strong enough to hold God at arm’s length. But this has left me more exhausted and more uncomfortable than any of my health conditions. Comfort is not controlling what I can; it is giving control to the One who knows what He’s doing.

Because chronic pain involves the physical senses, I can easily get wrapped up in the here and now. As a result, I sometimes struggle with seeing the goodness of God right here and right now. So I’m choosing to look to the past and future.

Looking back to the creation account, we see that pain did not exist until after the Fall. By God’s provision of food (Genesis 1:29), occupation (Genesis 2:19), and companionship (Genesis 2:22), we can infer that God never intended for us to be lacking in these areas. He truly does have our best interests in mind. Even with the creation of Eve, God took great care of Adam: He caused “a deep sleep to fall” on him as He removed a rib (Genesis 2:21). The word “pain” is not used until after sin enters the world:

Genesis 3:16-17

16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for[a] your husband,
    and he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

Just as sin was not God’s intention for humanity, neither was pain.

In the same way, God does not intend His people to be defeated by pain. Revelation 21:4 gives us the assurance that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” God is a righteous Judge Who will carry out His wrath on the conniver of injustice.

You might be wondering why I identified my pain as “injustice.” Until recently I refused to use this term to describe my own circumstances, which do not include social injustice. But after hearing a sermon on God our Judge, I realized other situations in my life that God did not originally intend. Why would God, who desires me to draw near to Himself, allow me to be overcome by pain and fatigue every night that I try to spend studying His Word? Why would God, who desires me to fellowship with other believers, regularly cause significant pain that changes my plans to attend church? Why would God, who desires me to participate in His Kingdom work, prevent me from becoming an overseas missionary, as I had originally hoped? I don’t believe that God wishes these circumstances on me. Therefore, I believe that I am suffering injustice by the enemy.

I find comfort in the idea that my anger is justified. However, I’ve been projecting my anger in the wrong direction. Rather than being angry at the God who didn’t and doesn’t intend for me to be in pain, I should be angry at the thief who “comes to steal, kill, and destroy;” this Easter season, I choose to return to the One who “came that [we] may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

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