When we encounter hardships or endure a dark night of the soul, what’s the first thing we do? What’s the first thought that runs through your head or the first person you confide in? How we react in adversity says a lot about where we put our hope and trust. What you reach for when your world is shaking says a lot about where your loyalties lie.
When adversity strikes some people for ice cream, books, or movies. Others seek out comfort in another’s arms, mac and cheese, or social media. Some seek love through drinking or smoking, and others might seek release through sex or shopping. When we’re hurting, we run to whatever is at the forefront of our minds because our brain seeks comfort in familiar neural pathways. The brain will always take the path of least resistance, which usually leads to what you reached for the last time you felt this way. This is why it’s so easy to slide into habitual self-soothing without ever even realizing that it’s happening until your 12 cookies and a tub of ice cream deep.
Since we are creatures of comfort and order, we seek relief when our worlds begin to tilt out of balance. These are the coping mechanisms that we have acquired and honed over years of lived experiences (some of which are healthy and others can be harmful), but is the binging and suppressing and ignoring all there is? These things never work long term, and when the highs they give us wear off, we’re left feeling alone and broken all over again. They’re a dollar store get well card and bouquet of flowers when what we actually need is a cast and weekly follow up appointments.
We slap band-aids on broken things and calling them healed.
We address the symptom but ignore the sickness.
We hide behind filtered pictures and trendy coping mechanisms.
We make the broken look beautiful so that we don’t realize our wounds are rotting away and taking us with it.
How often do we say to a friend who is hurting, “What do you need? Comfort food? A sad movie to make you cry? Time alone?” I love the concern that those questions come out of, but what would happen if instead of directing someone to worldly comfort, we turned them towards the author of comfort? Instead of seeking solace in things, why don’t we seek the Comforter? There is so much more to life than merely getting by, and there is more comfort available to us than a closet full of new clothes could ever give us.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NIV
We have access to the God of all comfort. He will not fail us or walk away once he’s given us a spike in endorphins. God stays with us. He walks through the hurt and the affliction with us because he loves us, and He comforts us not so that we can return to how we once were but so that we can grow. God isn’t a big cuddly teddy bear that sits in your spare room, waiting for you to hug it whenever you’re sad. He’s a lion waiting for you to weave your fingers into his mane and walk through the dark forests and gleaming meadows of life with him. He’s not safe but he is good.
This past summer has been extremely emotionally draining for me. There have been accidents and losses that I never thought I would have to deal with, let alone all in the span of two months. It has taken everything in my some days to get up and go out the door, and the only way that I’ve been able to do it is by the grace of God. I’m not a superhuman person who can power through the pain and still keep a smile on her face. I’m a deeply flawed and broken person who has been trying her best to dwell daily in the arms of the Father.
The Lord doesn’t comfort as the world comforts, because the Lord’s comfort changes and transforms us from the inside out so that we can then go and care for others deeply and meaningfully. Why are we chasing after a shadow when we could have the real thing? Why settle for quick fixes that leave us empty when we could experience love and comfort that never ends and is always overflowing? Drop the vices and temporary endorphin rushes and run into the open arms of the Father who is waiting to heal your broken places and bring you into the fullness of who He created you to be.