The Puritans do not give me the impression that they were men of comfort, nor was the society in which they lived. Fast forward a few hundred years and our society is, in almost every way, the polar opposite of the Puritan society of the 16th and 17th centuries. Our society today is one of extreme materialism and one that seeks its own comfort above all else. America’s peoples seethe, scratch, and claw up the industrial ladder just so that they might attain some level of material comfort. We, as believers, know this striving to be futile. We have a greater hope of a far greater comfort; however, we also fall into the materialistic race for earthly comfort. What happens to our souls when we fall into this earthly and sinful snare? What happens when we set comfort upon the pedestals of our hearts, instead of Jesus?
As Christians, we are told that we are going to suffer (Romans 8:17; 1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:10; 2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus was the son of a carpenter and had no place to lay his head (Matt. 13:55; Luke 9:58). Our Lord would not have us seek earthly comfort, but rather set our hope on the eternal comfort of life with Him (1 Peter 1:13; Colossians 3:2). We are to set our minds and hearts on the Spirit and on spiritual things.
Lest it become lost in all of this, rest is necessary. Each day we rest for, hopefully, 7-8 hours and we regularly rest on Sundays. This rest reminds us that we are not our own and that we are completely dependent upon the Sovereign Lord; this rest demolishes any notion of pride or self-sustainment. But what happens when this good and godly rest results in the exact opposite of its intended purposes? What effect does it have upon our soul and upon our intimacy with Christ? How could rest negatively affect our spiritual discipline and result in a facade of independence?
When we allow ourselves to be so comforted that we sputter spiritually, we’ve allowed physical comfort, something our Lord never promised, to overtake our hearts. Physical comfort breeds spiritual complacency. While this is probably not a hard and fast rule, it is a truth that I have found to be true through experience. Breaks and vacations are great gifts from God that can be used to renew us spiritually; but when we focus on the gift, the break, rather than the Giver of the break, God, we gravitate toward an unbiblical spiritual contentment. We wake up and rather than head to the Scriptures, we head to the couch. Comfort frequently leads to a change of routine, especially in regards to our spiritual disciplines. So instead of spending more time in the Word, truly being refreshed, we turn our minds off and watch hours of Netflix which only serves to displace us from reality and provide false rest and comfort.
Comfort is the god of this generation and breaks undoubtedly bring about this sad reality in us as believers. So what is the solution to one of the biggest idols of our time and our hearts?
There is only one answer to this problem — Jesus. It is only when we see Jesus as the Bread of Life and the Living Water that we will experience true comfort and rest. By seeing breaks and vacations as an opportunity to bask in the glory of God and to give praise to his name, rather than an opportunity to advance our own comfort, we will use them properly; rest is meant to guide us toward our Creator, not to comfort. When we seek earthly comfort while lying on the couch for endless hours, we actually damage our souls. We are no better than the world which seeks these comforts through climbing the corporate ladder at any cost, even at the cost of rest.
When we rely upon ourselves and try to sustain ourselves apart from God, we fall and fail. Comfort breeds complacency, which usually leads to sin running amuck within our hearts. John Owen said
Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.
Christian, rest is good and godly, therefore praise God that He has given us rest from our work and a great reminder that we are not pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. Whether we are on break or trudging through this week’s work, we have a daily duty to be killing sin by engaging with our Lord and Master through many of the spiritual disciplines (Go and pick up Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, you will not regret it.). In Genesis 4:7, God tells Cain this:
…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.
Make no mistake: Sin abounds in material and physical comfort. Do not seek after what the world seeks and do not be choked out by the cares of this world (Matt. 13:22). Our Lord does not promise us earthly comfort, but a much more fulfilling and satisfying comfort in him. Remember, rest is good and necessary but do not fall to your face in worship to the god of this generation. Continue in your daily work of meeting with the LORD who is more satisfying than any physical comfort. Use your breaks and vacations to the glory of God. Don't set your hope in comforts and couches, but set it upon the coming redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23) in heaven with our great Comforter. Hope is not hope if the object can be seen, therefore set your hope on him and wait patiently for the far greater comfort, a comfort this world cannot comprehend. This Comfort gave up all of His heavenly comfort, so that we may be comforted by the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). Praise God for this great and unshakeable hope.