Three years ago I sat in a darkened auditorium and listened to a slew of graduation speakers. I can’t tell you much of what was said that day, but the words of one speaker still run through my head on a regular basis. “God does not call us to a life of comfort,” she said, “but to a life of compassion.” Why do these words stick with me? Because I am an innate comfort-seeker; I love feeling good. I’m ashamed to admit that I spend much of my life meeting my own needs and desires: I spend two dollars on a single cup of coffee. I wear expensive running shoes because I like the way they feel. I shop at the up-scale grocery store down the block because I like the chic atmosphere.
My hedonistic tendencies spill over into my social life, too. I tend to gravitate towards people who make me feel good about myself. More often than not, these are folks similar to me—people who are the same age, wear the same clothes and share the same outlook on life.
Now, I know that being comfortable isn’t always a bad thing. It’s not wrong to want to have friends, wear comfy shoes and drink good coffee. The Lord has blessed me with a life filled with countless sources of delight. The problem comes in when I let my search for comfort take over my life and control my faith. I don’t like to admit it, but I often fall into the trap of thinking that the world exists to make me happy. Even scarier, without a second thought I assume that God exists to make me happy. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
In my mind, I know that when God called me to be His child my life stopped being about me. All of the sudden, my self-centered existence ended, and I became a follower of Jesus, a member of Christ’s body, the Church. Even so, I conveniently forget the words of Matthew 16:24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (TNIV). It’s just plain hard to deny myself and choose to be uncomfortable for the Lord.
Through His life on earth, Christ showed that faith is not comfortable—it’s compassionate. Jesus, rejected by the church leaders of his time, befriended the social scum of society, spending His days alongside the sick and hurting. Christ preached a message that was largely ignored and died on the cross in a supremely uncomfortable act. More than anything, Jesus showed that Christians are to live a life of love, even when that means sacrificing personal well-being.
So how do I, a twentysomething graduate student, live an uncomfortable, compassion-filled life? Well, I’m still figuring that one out. After I graduate in May, I could move to a nice suburb, find a good-paying job and spend evenings and weekends relaxing with friends. But, in my heart I know that the Lord is pushing me towards a less-comfortable option, even though I’m not sure of what that is yet.
I do know, however, that God is teaching me to live compassionately, one day at a time. By tuning into the mind of Christ, I’m beginning to understand that I can choose to be uncomfortable in little ways every day. I can acknowledge the pain and grief and loneliness that’s all too common in the lives of those around me. I can give my money and my time. I can love people who don’t love back and support causes of social justice. Every day I can seize opportunities to lend my ears and my hands and my heart and trust the Lord will work though me and be known.