In our over-scheduled and over-stimulated society, addiction is everywhere. It’s the millennial who can’t put down her smartphone while having lunch with friends, it’s the father who takes home work on the weekend, or the people pleaser who won’t stand up for themselves in a relationship.
The truth is, most of us are addicts in some way and exceedingly our drug of choice is comfort. Regardless of how “safe” or “harmless” the behaviors might seem, if we are using it to avoid something–from connection to inconvenience–we are using it in an addictive way. In turn, we stop growing personally and spiritually and become further disconnected and dissatisfied with life. We need to detox, but how?
In her new book Comfort Detox: Finding Freedom From the Habits That Bind You, Erin Straza hopes that her journey of breaking out of her comfort zone will inspire you to live life more fully and realize your greatest potential. Recently, Straza answered a few questions about the ideas she discusses in her practical and thought provoking-book.
Why did you write Comfort Detox?
A few years ago, it came to my attention that the bulk of my decisions were made to benefit myself first and foremost. God, in His mercy, began alerting me to these self-serving patterns. As I shared my bent toward comfort with others, I found I was not alone. We all desire comfort, looking for it in all sorts of places. The good news is that God Himself is our Comforter. But too often we turn to those faulty substitutes in an effort to obtain comfort on our own terms, for our own benefit. I wrote Comfort Detox to encourage others to seek the comfort God provides so that they might, in turn, become His comfort agents to a world in need.
What is a comfort detox?
A comfort detox is the process of putting aside pseudo comforts to make room for the true comfort that comes from God alone. Although it sounds like a once-and-done task, it’s actually part of ongoing spiritual formation. Learning to depend on God for what we need and then freely give that to others is something we need to practice every day.
We all run to false comfort in life to alleviate pain. How can the comfort detox help us?
It’s true: We do turn to people, places, and things to ease the aches of this life. Lots of things provide temporary, partial soothing. But lasting comfort comes from God alone, and full comfort is only experienced when we freely give away and pass on the comfort we’ve received to others. Detoxing from pseudo comfort helps us become less self-serving and more focused on others as we grow in dependence upon God.
You wrote about spiritual morphine, what do you mean by this?
Our world is full of tragedy and pain, so much so that we often detach from it as protective measure. This is something called acedia, wherein we choose not to care about the plight of others because it hurts too much. We detach from others and from painful situations. Acedia is a buffer, blocking the spiritual pain in our heart much like morphine blocks physical pain in our body. First we choose not to care by numbing our hearts from the pain; then our hearts atrophy from lack of use and they become unable to care at all. But if we are to be God’s comfort agents to a world in need, our hearts need to be all in, ready to respond with compassion and mercy and justice, wherever it is needed.
Why do you recommend detoxing from the American dream?
The American Dream sets us up to strive for gaining the ever-elusive more, whether it’s more money, power, status, security, opportunities, adventure, or education. It’s so easy to become caught up in arranging a bigger and better life for ourselves that we become blind to all we already have and all we could do to expand comfort to others who have none. God has given us resources, talents, and positions of authority to benefit others, even the world. To use them merely to grow and expand our own comfort is shortsighted at best, disobedient at worst. By sharing all that we’ve received from God with others, God’s comfort is multiplied to us all in ways we cannot even imagine.
Comfort is not necessarily wrong. The trouble is that we look for comfort in places that won’t satisfy. When those sources of comfort fail, our comfort addiction kicks in, pushing us to live in unhealthy, futile ways. When we are bent on living for selfish gain, we expect people and things to fill our comfort deficit; we use everything at our disposal for our own skewed needs. The end result is a society of people who live trapped in the comfort zones they’ve crafted, detached from true community, disconnected from God’s Kingdom mission.
How do we draw from God’s comfort moving forward instead of returning to material things or people for comfort? Please share specific examples.
Drawing on God’s comfort is a spiritual discipline. We have to put off the old ways of gaining comfort and then put on the new. It’s helpful to identify our preferred pseudo comforts and the desires that prompt us to live for them. Confession is needed, to recognize how comfort has become a heart idol. As awareness of our comfort habits grows, we can invite God into our needy places instead of stuffing them with substitutes. In short, this is spiritual formation: turning to God in confession and repentance, finding joy in fellowshipping with Him in prayer, choosing to lean on Him for everything we need, saying no to sin that beckons us back to old ways, laying down our own comfort for the sake of others, and choosing to live a life of faith that puts God’s Kingdom principles and priorities above all else.
Megan Schmidt is a staff writer at Patheos.