Are you in or out of your comfort zone? There's plenty of talk about finding more comfort, especially as negative news hits us 24/7. It's not surprising that it just feels good to sit at home, curled up on the couch in "cocooning" mode. Let the world go on without us, right?
Unfortunately that's what the adversary prefers: Getting us out of the action and away from the battles worth fighting. Too much comfort can make people feel paralyzed and ineffective, keeping us out of the arena. That thought makes me very uncomfortable.
America's make-me-comfy attitude is understandable. We love to relax and get away from it all. A Google search of the word "comfort" finds more than 200 million entries. And we want other people to handle more things for us. Besides, deciding to be part of a solution means investments in time, energy, money, you name it. Too many problems seem too overwhelming for any one person to fix, so we opt for increased solitude.
People are going to take more "stay-cations" this year, hanging out closer to home to save money, but also for fresh escape. Cozy, comfort food is making a comeback. The New York Times quoted a marketing executive who correctly noted that times of anxiety cause people to seek out brands they're comfortable with "and they can trust." It's also been said that hard times make us look back fondly, to times long gone. A little escapism is fine, especially if it gets you closer to your family. But that's not the only answer to the questions raised in these pressure cooker times.
Rising above tough situations and making a difference that lasts requires a commitment to occasionally doing something that might be risky—and a little scary—but is the absolute right thing to do. Ask any missionary or church volunteer about this idea. If not for such moments of bold change, life goes on in a blur. And the other side wins.
Sense of purpose
Several years ago I felt compelled to do something to get out of my sense of complacency. Oh, I was happy with plenty of things to do… lots of urgent agendas each day, but I felt I was missing out.
I wanted to do something different and significant that wasn't part of my regular routine.
A call from The Bible League was my wake-up call. I was invited on a trip to Southeast Asia, where I spent several days with persecuted Christians. Along with a small group of fellow talk show hosts I helped place (well, "smuggled") Bibles into the underground church in Vietnam. We also met with Christians from other countries in the region who were way out of their comfort zones every day, often due to severe oppression from extremists.
For much of the trip, our guide was a man known as "Jonathan." For years he was a big-time drug dealer in the Philippines until his conversion to Christianity. Not wanting to toss all of his "skills," he shifted from the drug trade to widely distributing Bibles … usually by the boat or truckload. He was one of the most optimistic people I've ever met, often boldly announcing (within earshot of communist authorities), "Isn't God great? We get to serve him! And we could get arrested today!"
Talk about courage. I called my wife from Vietnam and said the trip could last two weeks or 20 years.
In more recent years my travels have taken me to other exotic places including war zones like Afghanistan. In many such places great care is taken to avoid offense by being too bold about one's faith. Even military chaplains have to be careful about being too specific about doctrine. Still, one of my favorite moments on a U.S. base camp in Kabul was hearing voices from an upper room Sunday gathering singing loudly without fear, "I love you Lord, and I lift my voice..."
Time to engage
It's been said that effective pastors should "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." I think that's what this is all about.
I'm not a pastor, but I am more passionate than ever about this issue. The days in which we live are not times to wallow in excess comfort if it leads to becoming useless. It's not appropriate to assume others will do all the work, either, be it in the community, at work, church or even in politics. And no, it doesn't mean everyone must be a Jonathan, literally risking life and liberty each day. But it's crucial to start somewhere.
Shouldn't the goal be to look for new ways to engage, to have impact and to be more active in the things that matter most? Then we truly can feel comfortable knowing that we're truly making a difference in our world, every day.
Larson is a veteran Southern California radio/television personality and media consultant. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published, May 2009