Monday, May 2, 2016

The Desire to Avoid Discomfort

As Americans, perhaps more than any other culture, we tend to resist any form of discomfort. Whether it is physical, financial, emotional, or situational, we cry out against difficulty. We are brought up on our rights, what we can demand, and what we see as a sacred promise of the pursuit of individual happiness. In some ways today, these noble ideas have transformed in our psyche as a desire to shield ourselves from any trouble at all in life. You might even say we largely have redefined them solely to serve our own comfort.

When it comes to real life, it is unavoidable that there will be some kind of trouble. There will be difficult, even painful experiences. We may encounter this almost every day in some manner, or go through periods where we are overwhelmed. Our pasts may be filled with events that left many scars inside of us.

Some seek comfort desperately - or at least the lack of discomfort - by self medicating with drugs, alcohol, prescription abuse, or a myriad of diversions and entertainments. Modern life has uniquely brought many challenges of stress, along with ways of promising to alleviate it, though ultimately they add to the problem. The pull of them, nevertheless, is very strong.

Not everyone reacts this way. Perhaps the most universal reaction in the desire to avoid discomfort is complaining. Grousing has almost become a right in and of itself in our society, while on an individual level it defines much of our conversation. We complain about our bills, our health, our bad breaks, our marriages, how people treat us. The airwaves and media are filled with complaints about our government. We respond with visceral emotion, as if entitled to an intrinsic right to be free of any challenges. If things are not this way, we feel something is very wrong.

In terms of societal interaction, when we see all discomfort defined as a wrong itself, blame becomes a ready weapon, enmity the energy of social discourse. With punishment and apologies demanded, we are appeased, so we can feel safe and comfortable again. Is our over-vigilant sensitivity to tolerance issues, political correctness, or our raging against any contrary opinion other than our own (whatever they may be for either side) really a desire to never be uncomfortable?

When we allow our experiences to be in the hands of God, rather than our own, we are free to address life’s situations in a much healthier manner. In Christ, trials and difficulty are the chief way that God enables us to grow. In and through them God brings beauty and transformation, for our good. In this way difficulty transcends our annoyance, our resistance, and bitter complaining. Instead, it becomes opportunity. Our focus then is not on ease, but on Him.

There really is no way to avoid all discomfort or difficulty. We do not need to allow these experiences to go to waste, using up precious mental and emotional energy. By offering it to our Father, in trust that He has our best in mind at all times, we are free to receive the joy of His love in the midst of painful trials. It is a sure promise to hold onto, even when things get tough. It is then that abundant blessings await us.

Artwork: "Jetty", © Jeffrey M Green.

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