Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Comfort Does Not Equal Happiness

This is the second blog in my series: 
6 Things Robbing You of a More Meaningful Life.
If you want to read the introduction to this series click here:

This is a photo taken by my friend Bayliegh Lowe of the actually mud and stick church in Nicaragua. 

I will never forget the moment I was standing with a group of friends at the back of a mud and stick church building in Nicaragua when my perspective was turned upside-down. We had crossed the border from Honduras earlier that day to give out food and visit some churches that were a byproduct of the Good Samaritan Baptist Mission we were working with. The building was probably 25 feet long by 12 feet wide, and in the middle of the dirt floor were about twenty plastic lawn chairs. As our group stood in the back, behind the chairs, and along the wall, the pastor began to welcome us. We fanned ourselves and wiped the sweat from our foreheads as our translator began to tell us what the man was saying.

I had my guitar strapped around my shoulder and fiddled with the tuning as she relayed the pastor’s gracious welcoming. I honestly believe I was more concerned with what a blessing we were about to be to these people. The thought never registered that I was about to be the one blessed by them. Anyways, as I was standing there waiting for the cue for us to go up and perform a couple of songs, the people of the church stood up from their chairs and told us they wanted us to sit down, as we were their honored guests. We tried to politely decline, but they would not hear us. They insisted we take their seats. Women holding babies, elderly men, and kids stood up and filled the back of the building, as we took over their chairs. We were very humbled by the gesture.

What happened next floored us all.

The pastor explained he and his congregation were informed months ahead of time of our visit. There had been much talk among their church to be expecting our group of Americans.

“We want you to know that we as a church have been praying and fasting for all of you,” the pastor said through the translator.

The room got quiet as the weight of his words sunk deep into our hearts.

I am not sure if you are well versed in Christian tradition or practices, so for the uninitiated, fasting is a purposeful period of time a person goes without (usually food) as they focus their affections and attention on God. Many people will fast before making important decisions. The idea is that it shows a different level of commitment to what you are praying for.

That being said, this small group of Nicaraguans were the poorest of poor people I have ever met in my life. Most of them skin and bones. We were bringing large sacks of rice just so they could have a meal, and yet they were denying themselves of food to pray for us? Something seemed backwards. Shouldn’t we be the ones praying for them? Aren’t they the ones in need? And to top it all off, they seemed genuinely happy. There was a joy in their eyes. There was delight in their smiles. All of a sudden I felt like I was the one missing something.

As I sit here and type this and revisit my time in Nicaragua, I am looking around me at all the luxuries of living a comfortable life. The weather is turning cold outside again, yet inside my central heat is humming and keeping us all nice and cozy. The refrigerator buzzes softly in the next room. It allows us to keep food from spoiling so fast. And speaking of food… we’ve got lots of it. So much, in fact, that we have to clear out the leftovers every Thursday when we come home from the grocery store with newer and fresher food. Yes, we have managed to make life pretty comfortable. Beyond the basics of electricity, running water, and indoor plumbing, we have things like wireless internet, Netflix, blu-rays, and a hundred other ways to escape the reality of our real lives.

I am not saying all of these things because I think they are bad, or because I think we need to fight back by stepping on our iPhones or throwing a brick through our televisions. No, all of these things are amoral. They are neither inherently good nor bad. It is just what we do with them that matters. You are welcome to go all out Amish if you’d like, but you might find, electronics or not, the problem is still there. We are all creatures prone to seek maximum comfort. And when we get comfortable we get stuck. Stuck in our routines. Stuck in our own little bubble. In our comfort zone. Yes, comfort is not a bad thing unless we allow it to lull us to sleep and keep us from good things.

No great achievement has ever been accomplished without extreme discomfort. No Olympic gold medalist runner ever wins the race and thanks his parents for encouraging him to drink more sodas and play more video games. No great inventor has ever created anything by nonchalantly throwing some parts together and succeeding the first time. No leader has ever risen to power without inevitable failing and trying again. It is the discomfort that drives us. It motivates us. Discomfort is not the enemy. It is the fuel that fires us to move. It is the push that compels us to do.
How does this all play into living a more meaningful life? Well, the truth is, you cannot live life to its fullest from your couch. You have to get up. You have to do something. You have to get your hands dirty. Volunteer at a local feeding kitchen. Sign up for the short term missions trip to Haiti with your church. Invite your neighbors you have lived next door to for years over for dinner. Step outside of your comfort zone. Embrace the discomfort, and see it as a sign that you are growing and moving. The more you find yourself doing those things, the more find you will find the material things do not have the same hold on you as they use to.

The Nicaraguan church had no food. They lived in huts that left them exposed to the elements. They walked to work and anywhere else they were going. Yet they were happier than most of the people I work with, who have a big breakfast each morning on their drive into their job that pays for their nice car and home. If comfort equaled happiness then we should be the happiest people on earth, and yet somehow we are the most miserable. We are depressed. We are stressed. We are angry. And we will do anything we can to forget about that reality. 

This is all easy to say from the comfort of my own couch. I have by no means overcome this any more than you have, but I am becoming aware of it. I no longer want to buy into the lie. Comfort has done a great job at pacifying me for most of my life, but it has been in the discomfort I have grown the most. Who knows how many opportunities I have let pass me by because they would have forced me to step out of my bubble. But I now see it is outside of our comfort zones where real life happens. It is where our adventure begins.


  1. Wow, such a powerful message. Ive never thought about this before now. You are amazing with words and putting things into perspective. Thank you for this piece, its awesome. Really something to think about.

  2. Thanks again for commenting Sarah! It means a lot.