Yesterday in church, our pastor prayed, “Make us comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I’d been looking for a New Year’s resolution, vision statement, or manifesto of some kind, and this seems like a good candidate. It captures the heart of the Christian discipleship journey. On the one hand, we should be “comfortable” because we’re safe. God has assured us of his unconditional love for us through everything that Jesus has done. But the reason we need this baseline “comfort” is in order to step into the “uncomfortable” process of bravely facing the things about our hearts and lives that need changing.
As a default, human beings are not comfortable with being made uncomfortable. I realize it sounds like a meaningless tautology to say that. But this statement is true about a number of discomforts that we face every day. We are not comfortable with being wrong. We are not comfortable with witnessing human suffering first-hand. We are not comfortable with being asked for money. We are not comfortable with learning that the world really isn’t the fair and friendly place we thought it was. We are not comfortable with encountering the legitimacy and sincerity of people whom we perceive to be our ideological enemies. One measure of our spiritual maturity is the degree to which we have gained comfort with each of these things. Not necessarily comfort per se, but the willingness not to turn away from the discomfort.
Too often, our discomfort with cognitive dissonance or having our heart-strings pulled by another person’s suffering makes us build ideological walls against it. The function of ideology is often to provide us with stories that explain and dismiss people whose encounters make us feel uncomfortable. For example, the “bootstraps” ideology about poverty in our country serves this function. When a homeless person asks us for money, we reassure ourselves that he’s entirely to blame for his predicament because he’s an addict or just a stubborn, lazy person.
I really don’t like being made uncomfortable, which is precisely what God is doing in my life right now. So far, campus ministry has made more uncomfortable than any other ministry I’ve ever been involved in, not that it hasn’t also been exhilarating. It’s a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows every week. My ministry is so small that when one or two people blow me off, it’s devastating. I feel so much pressure to get “results,” and it’s become clear that without God’s intervention, I will fail. I really want to be in the part of the story where I’m looking back on the bumpy beginnings and chuckling about how I never thought I’d make it. But you’ve got to go through the part where you don’t see how you’re going to make it first. So God, make me comfortable with being uncomfortable. Help me to do my best and trust you with the rest.