Many churches, particularly the ones that televise their services, make a habit of inviting only those whose lives are going well at the moment to share what Christ means to them. The message is consistent: comfort and commitment, both are available. Trust God to change whatever makes you uncomfortable while you choose to follow Him.
I have often wondered how much crippling guilt and soul-wracking pain those testimonies provoke in those who have committed themselves to Christ as best they can but whose lives are filled with terrible discomfort. As the speakers tell their stories of warm family reunions, children preparing for missionary service, relational tensions that have been replaced by joyful reconciliation, and financial losses that God has miraculously turned around, how many hearts rejoice in God’s goodness?
What does the woman feel whose husband of thirty years left her three years ago and is now openly living with a girl half his age? Hope? Confusion? Bitterness? What do the grandparents feel who can’t spend time with their grandchildren because the girl their son married has taken an unexplained disliking to them? Or what about the single person who’s sick of the fun-and-games mentality of her church’s single group and yearns for meaningful adult relationships? Is she blessed by the testimonies of people who praise God for their personal comforts and humbly thank Him for winning them to strong commitments? Or does she quietly give up hope of finding real joy?
Most of us, even people like me who do enjoy many legitimate pleasures and who are sincerely committed to pursuing Christ, must admit to a host of unanswered questions, real disappointments, and a nagging emptiness that even our best relationship never relieves. Are we to ignore these internal realities and focus instead on the blessings of personal comfort as we work to honor our Christian commitment? I fear that most people whose lives provide enough pleasures to escape having to think about those troubling questions and emotions do precisely that. And those folks whose struggles are more pressing — broken marriages, rebellious kids, aching loneliness — well, we can only pray that God will restore their personal comforts as they continue to trust in Him.
This kind of response turns church into a country club offering its benefits to those who are fortunate enough and well-mannered enough to qualify for membership. We sit Sunday after Sunday enjoying the fellowship of others who are comfortable and committed while the brokenhearted and poor press their noses against the window, looking in at us with resentment, envy, and despair.
If we are to become a community of deeply changed people, we must not only admit to our thirst, we must also carefully explore what Christ promised to do about that thirst. Did He promise to bring us comfort through enjoyable relationships, rewarding careers, and pleasurable activities — provided, of course, that we honor some level of commitment to Him? Or is the abundant life of bubbling springs a very different matter? Is it possible to have absolutely no rich communication with your husband, yet still taste those cool waters? Can a parent whose young adult son is far from the Lord know something real about peace and rest?
Our Lord has promised to flood our innermost being with springs of living water. If His words do not guarantee our personal comfort in exchange for spiritual commitment — and I don’t think they do — then what is He saying? If He’s promised springs of living water to all who come, then why do many sincere Christians live lives filled with pain?
Larry Crabb, Inside Out