It’s natural to seek a certain level of comfort. I’m talking about getting and being comfortable. People want to be comfortable in their clothing, in their homes, and in their lives. If we become uncomfortable, then we try to make a change of clothing, or the body position that doesn’t feel right, or the circumstances that we face.
How does this tendency square with the Lord’s outlook in Isaiah 66:2? “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” We can notice definite times when we should never be comfortable. We can’t afford to be comfortable with any of our sins, especially not with an attitude or habit that the Bible identifies as sinful. Each one will have to take stock of his own heart, attitudes, and actions. For example, are we comfortable in looking down on other people? Are we comfortable in letting unacceptable language tumble out of the mouth without a second thought? Are we comfortable in a routine of attending worship, only to sit there inattentive and hear little of what is said? Are we comfortable with a carefree or careless attitude toward the responsibilities that we have as family members or employees or fellow Christians?
There is a real danger in getting comfortable with sin. Regardless of what the sin may be, if we get used to it, we are making friends with a deadly enemy. If we become comfortable with our sin, we let it attach like an anchor that could sink us spiritually. If we get comfortable with our sin, the devil has an open door to chip away at our faith in the hope that it erodes down to impenitence
Let’s agree on a healthy attitude of being uncomfortable with our sins. In such a state we are then the person described in Isaiah 66, the person who is “poor and of a contrite spirit.” That means that you’re not only aware of your sin, but also broken by its guilt and in desperate need of God’s forgiveness. That person then is the one on whom God looks favorably, to whom He brings His unfailing love, mercy, and comfort. Yes, God will bring His comfort to the spiritually uncomfortable.
It’s guaranteed because of Jesus. He’s the One who became quite uncomfortable for you and me on the cross. He took all of our sins on Himself as the weight that plunged Him into the suffering of God’s judgment on the cross. As a result, we get to hear God’s comfort in His declaration that all of our sins are forgiven in Christ, so that we can go forth in peace with His presence and His promise of blessing and help for all that we face in this sin-cursed world.
The emergency room is a place where you find uncomfortable people. It’s a place where we normally don’t want to be. We go there only when necessary. In the course of our spiritual lives as believers in Christ, we will go to the ER of God’s grace many, many times. With sin as a problem we face every day, we need the diagnosis of the Law and the treatment of the Gospel on a regular basis. It’s a true comfort that God will give when He first leads us to be uncomfortable with our sin and always dependent on His grace, which is made sure to us by our sin-removing Savior, Christ Jesus.
Steven Sippert is president of Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.