Maybe you correlate this word with adultery, in the sense that both are the act of worshipping or loving something/someone that you shouldn’t. Or perhaps you associate this word with stories from the Bible; like in Exodus 31, where the Israelites worshipped a golden calf instead of the very God that brought them out of Egypt.
Either way, idolatry is in the past, right? Surely this issue does not exist in the 21st Century…or does it?
The truth is, it does. It is more relevant now than ever. You may not worship a golden calf, but the reality is this: anything that you deem worthy enough to dethrone God from the seat of your heart, is an idol. Anything that you put before your God, is an idol. Anything that you love more than God, is an idol.
This month we are tackling the worst of the worst. I’m not talking about the idol that is your Instagram account. I’m not talking about the idol that is your football career. No, this month we’re talking about more than the weeds and the dirt – we’re talking about the roots. The things that are deeply ingrained in you, that are tangled up in your heart. The tough stuff. The stuff that you don’t want to talk about.
And today, we’re talking about comfort.
There are two kinds of comfort…selfless and selfish. I think it’s important that we first define these, so that you don’t get them confused when you’re trying to put God back on the throne (we’d rather you weed out the selfish kind).
This kind of comfort is more on the action side of things. It requires intentionality. When your friend is going through a hard time, you want to comfort them; to ease their pain or grief; to console them.
Likewise, there are many passages in the Scriptures that talk about this comfort, which we first and foremost receive from God. One of the more well-known passages on comfort is Psalm 23, specifically verse 4, which says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (ESV)
In Matthew 11:28 we see a promise of rest. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 we see that we are to comfort others because God comforts us. This kind of comfort is encouraged; it’s a good comfort. A comfort that is selfless, and even sacrificial at times. But then there’s the opposite.
This kind of comfort is for our own gain. This is less of an action, and more of a state of being. A state of physical, mental, and even spiritual ease. It’s freedom from pain, hardship, and anything that brings us discomfort.
The desire for this kind of comfort comes at a cost: we put ourselves before anyone else, including God. This is the comfort that is at the root of many things we desire, including entertainment, food, our social image, relationships/romance, good works, etc. You may call these idols, and while they can be, comfort is the true idol – the idol at the heart.
We want to live a life of ‘no worries’. A life where anxiety doesn’t exist. A life where the idols of happiness and control, among others, can reign alongside the idol of comfort. If we aren’t careful, all these “little g” gods will take a more permanent place in our hearts, and we will start to lose ourselves in them.
If you truly want to press closer to Christ, if you truly desire an ever-growing relationship with Him, then these idols need to go. Your idea of a perfectly comfortable life, where everything goes your way and allows you to live free of suffering…? It needs to go.
I’m going to be transparent with you. This is the one idol I have the hardest time letting go of. It’s the idol that I, every day, need to fight. It is the idol I too often lose myself in.
Almost two years ago I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, which is an auto-immune disease. I won’t give you the full medical description, but basically my immune system is constantly attacking my thyroid. Around the same time, I was diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome (which resulted from me getting one too many concussions), generalized anxiety, and depression.
They are the troublesome-foursome. They work together to attack me. Together, they overwhelm me. Mornings are the worst; it takes me forever to wake up and orient myself. Often my entire body, morning or not, aches with pain from head to toe. I struggle with memory loss, dizziness, and have sleeping problems. I am constantly plagued with headaches. And that is just the beginning.
I know. That’s a lot going on for someone who is 21. And honestly, it leaves me exhausted and aching for peace and comfort; for an end to the pain; for a release from the day in, day out struggle of trying to be a “normal” young adult and failing.
This is what the idol of comfort does to us. It takes the things that unnerve you, pain you, and discomfort you…it takes your broken pieces, and it tells you the lie that you can’t live with those things. That easing those things is the best thing for you. The idol of comfort tells you that being comfortable and spiritually stagnant is better than being uncomfortable and spiritually growing.
But this is one lie I beg you not to believe.
This lie will mar your identity. It will steal into your heart, and if your walls aren’t fortified, it will lay waste to the spiritual truths that dwell there. It will attack you from all sides, burrowing itself into you, until it is all you believe. Until the only thing that matters is this fantasy of an idea that your relationship with Christ just doesn’t matter as much as your own personal comfort. And is this true? Do we believe this?
I would like to think not. But we are human. We make mistakes, we fail. We’re messy people. Idols will come into our lives, and we will let them reign – I can promise you that. But it is in those moments that we must decide to hold on to another promise…a promise of suffering. It’s not ideal. It’s painful. It sucks, honestly. But it’s necessary – it presses us into Christ. So, embrace it. Embrace the truth that suffering is better than a painless life. That being uncomfortable is better than being comfortable. That we belong to someone greater than it all. A God who does not let us suffer in vain.
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…” – Philippians 1:29 (ESV)