Most people would agree that living in places like Australia or the United States means having a pretty comfortable life. Most of us reading this are affluent compared to global averages, and have privileges that other people around the world only dream of. These are good gifts from God, given out of his kindness and grace, and we ought to thank him for them.
But has it become too much of a good thing? Is it possible that some of us have become too comfortable?
Think about your daily life: your routines, your habits, and your thought patterns. Are you mindful of God? Does he feature in your thoughts throughout the day, or just when you sit down to do your quiet time? Where is he on your daily priority list?
In my life, I have noticed an unhealthy pattern. When things are hard (such as when I am upset or stressed, or have a particularly bad time with my health), the difficult situation makes me cry out to God for help and serves to remind me how dependent I am on him. I pray more, I thank him more, and am more focused on trying to live for him. I find myself feeling much closer to God.
But when things are going well I am quick to forget what I learned in the hard times, and leave behind that closeness and reliance on God that I enjoyed. I start trying to be self-sufficient, and stop asking him for his help and provision. If my circumstances are good, my joy begins to come from things other than God. I still read my Bible and pray, but it sometimes feels like just another box to tick off before getting back into my day.
Does this sound familiar?
When we live in affluence, ease, and comfort, it is easy to forget how much we need God. For the Israelites, this happened when they reached the promised land. After decades of relying directly on God’s provisions to survive, they finally made it to a place where there was abundant food and comfort and security—and they began to turn their backs on God: “For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant” (Deut 31:20).
Can you see how living comfortably can actually be dangerous? It’s why the writer of Proverbs 30:8-9 prays:
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
We need to be careful not to fall in love with the worldly comforts and pleasures that we have at our disposal. We need to be vigilant so that they will not seduce us.
Here are some practical ideas to help guard our hearts.
For me, living with a chronic illness has forced me to rely on God daily for provision of energy and stamina—in this area, I am sorely in need! But asking God to “give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11) is not something that feels necessary for most of us. If we look at the food in our pantry, and the money in our bank account, we probably feel pretty certain of a few months of “daily bread”! But God does not want us to become self-sufficient by hoarding our manna. As natural disasters, global financial tensions and terrorism have shown us, nothing is secure. No matter how well-off we might be, we need to make a habit of asking God daily to supply our needs. He is the provider of all things.
Having great wealth (or feeling secure, or having good health) means having more options: Where should I live? How much money should I give away? Where should I go on holidays? How many children should I have?
You might be fully convinced in your own mind about your capacity to make these decisions, and what your own personal desires are. James 4:13-15 describes a situation that is familiar to most of us:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Making these decisions without God’s input is prideful and unwise. We need to inquire of the Lord and seek his will, in both the big and little things in life.
We are foreigners and aliens here. Our home is elsewhere, so we shouldn’t get too comfortable. Usually we only talk about heaven during times of illness, death and grief. But this needs to change! We need to remind ourselves—and remind each other—of our hope in heaven during the good times too. Any comforts we have in this life will pale in comparison to what God has in store for us.
If we are caught up and distracted by the joys this world has to offer, we are, according to CS Lewis, “far too easily pleased”.1 For:
No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Cor 2:9)
Let’s not settle for second best, seduced by the shallow comforts that we experience in our earthly lives. We need to work hard at cultivating habits that help us depend on God, and keep our eyes on the treasure that is in store for us—because that is the only comfort worth living for.
1. CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory, HarperCollins, New York, 1980, p. 26.↩