Discover more from Contents and Containers
Comfort isn't the point, being comforted is.
“I hope you feel better by the time this is over.”
That’s how I started the PM a few weeks ago. We led people to worship God through music, reflection, prayer, teaching, and dialogue. It was not perfect, sometimes even rough around the edges, but it was great. It was full of meaning. We touched people and connected them to God. It was authentic, even if it needed some improvement. It was human. Just like our community is human. Just like Jesus.
I’ve been inspired lately by the ecstasy that I’ve witnessed in the Pentecostal YouTube videos I have been watching. I think of all of Richard Foster’s streams of faith, the one I am most distant from is the Charismatic Stream that’s so experiential and so often emotional that it attempts fulfill our whole spiritual appetite so that we don’t have to “go to church” again that week (it may just infantilize our faith though). But I love it and I long for it. As an intuitive person, I rarely use my body to worship. I’m emotional when I do it, but I’m perfect happy just singing from my seat. Robert Mulholland tells me I need to embody my worship and prayer-life more.
When the pastors’ retreated the other week, I tried to take Mulholland’s advice. We swam across a lake. I didn’t really feel like I could do it and I didn’t want to try. I stood on the dock for a few minutes, and a familiar voice yelled out, “Come on, Rashid!” Well, here goes nothing, I thought. So I did it. And it was tough, but it worked. It was a good embodied exercise. I felt better after, too. I was glad that I did it without expecting that feeling. I suppose I did it because other guys did, but I also did because we discerned it would be good to do. I trust the community. The discipline is sometimes better than the assurance that it will just feel better when I am done. I cannot guarantee that. But I can work toward knowing God more through my disciplines, which I think will ultimately lead to comfort.
It’s OK to consume something just to feel better. I think God wants us to feel good. But I’m not sure it’s OK to be entitled to that feeling. And I’m not sure we can just consume “church,” as opposed to being the church, in order to feel better. The PM isn’t just an uplifting movie or a cupcake or something.
What do we bring to God and what do we expect him to do for us? He is the great comforter, but I think we have to get uncomfortable before we find that true comfort. If we are already filled up with all of the things that sedate us and protect us from pain, there isn’t much room left for God.
Christianity is not about comfort. It is about being comforted. In order to really achieve that comfort, we need to know about our suffering and our injuries. Jesus sure did. The Gospel of Mark is a dramatic exposition of the suffering of Jesus. The Gospel of John gets us so personal with Jesus, as he cries, and protests, and utters that “in this world we will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Being a Christian is all about knowing our wounds and letting the wounded savior save us. If we have nothing from which to be saved—Jesus can’t transform us. It’s not just about dumbing down our symptoms and operating in the right way so that we don’t feel pain. Expect conflict, we are all addicted to sin. Expect trouble. But do not fear.
Come to Jesus and his church with your pain and your brokenness and let Jesus transform you into a healing agent, despite your pain. Life in Christ isn’t just about feeling good. But it will bring you comfort, maybe just through a new lens by which to see the world and yourself. Let’s open ourselves up and suffer with the suffering servant, so that he come complete us and overcomes the world with us.