Of the things I search after and seek out, comfort is near the top. Sure, I’ll make myself uncomfortable with exercise, but aside from that I’d rather be comforted.
Vacuum the house, clean the bathrooms, wash the dishes? I’ll take the comfort of the couch, thanks. Bear and Rumba (my two dogs) would quickly tell you (if they could) that I even choose the comfort of staying home over walking them, more often than not.
So, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that I seek comfort in this journey with God. I want that “heart strangely warmed”–J Dubs (that’s John Wesley)–peaceful-easy–feeling…all the time. The desire for this comfort (lack of temptation, assurance, call it what you will)becomes a constant need. It can become a kind of vicious cycle:
want comfort, don’t get it, beat self up for not having comfort.
Good thing I wasn’t the first person to think of this, Thomas a Kempis beat me to it:
“When, therefore, spiritual comfort is given by God, receive it with giving of thanks, and know that it is the gift of God, not thy desert. Be not lifted up, rejoice not overmuch nor foolishly presume, but rather be more humble for the gift, more wary and more careful in all thy doings; for that hour will pass away, and temptation will follow. When comfort is taken from thee, do not straightway despair, but wait for the heavenly visitation with humility and patience, for God is able to give thee back greater favour and consolation” (Imitation of Christ, II.IX.4).
“I have never found any man [sic] so religious and godly, but that he felt sometimes a withdrawal of the divine favour, and a lack of fervour. No saint was ever so filled with rapture, so enlightened, but that sooner or later he was tempted” (Imitation of Christ, II.IX.7).
Masculine language aside, Thomas offers a word of comfort even as he dismisses the notion of constant comfort in God. Temptation, spiritual drought, ___________, call it what you will, can leave a sense of isolation and fear.
Looking around in church it’s easy to think: “Everyone else is feeling something, why not me?” “I wonder what they’d say if they knew I hadn’t picked up a Bible in weeks.” “I don’t remember the last time I heard or felt anything from God.” “Everyone here is better/holier/more Christian/more spiritual/________ than me.”
And all these tracks just play on loop until they’re all we can hear, and we start to believe them.
I wish this post could be a “5 tips to feel divine comfort” kind of post, but it’s just not. But, even if I don’t feel God’s comfort and nearness all the time, I take comfort in the lives of the saints who have trod this road before me and who were bold enough to name their own spiritual drought or feeling of divine isolation.
Getting closer to that comfort may mean I have to share my own perceived lacking with the saints who are walking the road alongside me, now. If there’s ever a time to be thankful for the body of Christ, this seems like a good place. Even if we don’t experience the comforting presence of God, hopefully we can find some peace in the presence of our sisters and brothers, until that “strangely warm” feeling returns.