Spiritual Comfort or Holy Discontent?

Spiritual Comfort of Holy Discontent at Carmel New Church

In Heaven & Hell we read, “Kindred souls gravitate toward each other spontaneously, as it were, for with each other they feel as though they are with their own family, at home…When they are with kindred souls, they enjoy the fullest freedom and find life totally delightful.” (HH n.44)

What a beautiful image of spontaneously, without effort, finding a comfortable “home” where life is totally delightful! This heavenly idea is very appealing to us, but is it reasonable to expect to find that comfortable place in this world? For many of us the earthly reality is a very different experience to the heavenly promise. From time to time, we experience a small taste of belonging, feeling at “home”… comfortable and safe. However, it is never permanent, and is very fragile, easily broken by the cares of this earthly world stealing away those peaceful moments and introducing discomfort and discord.

But experiencing earthly levels of comfort is important. When we create comfortable, safe places, we build community and foster feelings of belonging. But earthly comfort is not a spiritual goal. We can say with confidence that the Lord is preparing a place for us in heaven that will be the most comfortable. However, longing for and expecting life in this world to be spiritually and emotionally comfortable as well is to miss a vitally important difference between heaven and earth. We miss an opportunity that exists in this earthly life alone, an opportunity we will never have again to eternity: the opportunity to be transformed!

Our proprium lulls us into thinking that being comfortable is what life in this world is about, but the process of transformation or regeneration is not a comfortable journey. It is a journey of willingly facing our failings, feeling uncomfortable with our life in relation to the spirit of the Lord’s Word, and working through the discomfort to a new life. This process is repeated over and over again.

We need to make sure that we keep this opportunity alive in our hearts and minds. A “Holy Discontent” is what we need! These are two words I have come to appreciate in summing up the process of spiritual growth. “Holy” because it is to the Lord that we go for direction and strength. “Holy” because regeneration is the work of the Lord within us. “Holy” because of the newness of a heavenly life He is instilling in us.

“Discontent” sums up our part of the work. “Discontent” within ourselves at the evils and falsities present in our life. “Discontent” with the moments of weakness where selfishness hurts others. “Discontent” when we have been lulled into that sense of comfort, meaning we have stopped our spiritual work.

Our earthly reality is that we will experience alternating feelings of comfort and discomfort. We shouldn’t long for the Lord to make the way smooth, but rather we should ask Him to fill us with a willingness to enter the uncomfortable places in our thinking and attitudes, to be discontent with what we find within ourselves, and to guard us from desiring the “comfortable.”

To be comfortable is to be missing the opportunities for new Life given by the Lord.

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