I am the type of guy who can get lost in a field with two trees. To say that I am directionally challenged is an understatement. When in a new environment I habitually scan for landmarks so I can leave myself breadcrumbs to get back to where I started. There have been times where I’ve thought that I was going the right way, only to find myself far removed from where I should be. Sometimes this can be rude, like when I turn up late. Other times, it can be dangerous, like when I got lost running in the woods in Florida and came upon a swamp full of hungry reptiles.
I know my internal directional compass is broken. I often need help. I also know that everyone’s internal compass is broken. We all need spiritual guidance.
We tend to go with our reflex. And for many, this reflex is for personal comfort. When given choices we often tend towards that which is going to be the most comfortable and most personally rewarding. But what if our compass is defective? What if the right sense of direction would tell us to do the hard thing that requires humility? I believe that personal comfort is a deadly compass.
Take Jacob as an example. I know he had some ups and downs, but for the sake of this illustration, we are going to focus on a down day. In Genesis 34 we read the horrific story of Shechem sexually assaulting Jacob’s daughter Dinah. How does this relate to Jacob’s comfort? On multiple levels. Jacob was responsible for leading and protecting his daughter. However, it appears this his neglect of her led to her having the freedom to wander about without any oversight. Further, it was likely due to his favoritism of Rachel and Joseph over the others that led to a culture of hatred and competition.
When he finds out about the way his daughter was treated, he does nothing but be quiet (34:5). He refuses to act and instead sits on his hands. Instead of taking the lead to talk with Hamor and Shechem he fades into the background, and his sons step up.
Finally, after Simeon and Levi massacred the entire community of the Hivites (to avenge their sister), he voices his concern. Instead of it being anger over their mass killings, deception, or dishonoring God by using circumcision as a weapon, he is upset about how it will affect him. He is concerned about his safety, security, and his neighbors’ opinion of him (34:30). In this chapter, Jacob is the picture of a passive leader who loves himself and hurts those close to him. Ironically, his love of himself created an environment where his favored son experiences such suffering. In the end, his comfort brings him great discomfort.
This is an important lesson for us. Look at the devastation that selfish apathy wrought. There is the untold pain in Dinah’s life, the “innocent” slain in Shechem, and the life of Joseph because of it. Do not fall into the trap of laziness and apathy; comfort is a deadly compass. It will lie to you just to protect you. What we need instead is a trust in God that can endure seasons of discomfort by denying ourselves. What we need is to look a lot more like Jesus rather than Jacob.
In Christ, we find the model and the motivation for our obedience. We live after his example while resting in his life, death, and resurrection in our place.
Remember, you have a busted compass. Calibrate your life with and from the Scripture.
Editor's Note: This originally published at The Gospel Coalition.