Unmasking the Idol of Ease
A few weeks ago, our school district announced that the start to the school year will begin virtually. No in-person contact, no fall sports, and no on-campus learning. With my husband and I both working full-time, the adjustment to our oldest leaving the nest, and a child who is needy with schoolwork, adding one more complication put me over the proverbial edge.
For a few days, I sat in an emotional puddle of frustration and fear. Covid has created dissonance in the lives of many worldwide, and while I verbalize my ability to “roll with the punches,” the reality is that these disruptions have caused major frustrations. I like order, predictability, and ultimately, I like to be comfortable. Who doesn’t? Who doesn’t want ease and lack of difficulty in life? We all desire life to carry on smoothly, but this desire becomes unhealthy when it becomes an idol.
I chase comfort. I feel a sense of satisfaction when my routine is predictable, when the kids do what they’re supposed to do, and when impending plan falls into place. All of this makes life easier. My idolatry is unmasked when there are disruptions to this ease. Anything that leads to life to breaking out of everyday comfortable patterns, whether it’s a child acting out, a disruption in the schedule, or even a major life change, causes my fears to grow monstrous and my trust in Jesus to wane.
Pastor and author Tim Keller suggests that idols in your life can be identified by what makes you most angry, most anxious, and most fearful. Comfort and ease are not sinful, and it’s not wrong to want to experience these in your family, but ease can deceptively become an idol, especially in suburban America. It subtly takes the Lord off his throne and puts itself as the center of attention. We often treat suffering and challenges as though they simply should not be a part of our Christian life. Though we may not admit it, we often feel we don’t deserve to be uncomfortable. This attitude can all too easily cause us to become bitter towards God.
Nowhere in Scripture do we find Jesus telling believers that life will be easy. Jesus did not give His life for us in order that we might be comfortable. In fact, the Christian life is often referred to as a race:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Recognize: The Christian Life Is Not Meant to be Comfortable
I’ve run several races, including one marathon, so I can say with confidence that races are not easy. There are parts that can be fun, even exhilarating, but they are not easy. If a runner does not have the resolve to keep moving forward, even in the midst of pain and discomfort, they simply won’t finish. The exhortation for believers in this passage is similar – keep moving forward. Run by means of perseverance while keeping your eyes on Christ. None of these reminders would be necessary if God intended for life to be nothing but ease.
Not only should we keep our eyes focused on Christ, but our race will be most effective if we reject the temptations that try to hinder us. For me, and I suspect for others, the race becomes weighty when I take my eyes away from my Savior and begin chasing after comfort as my end goal. When we accept that difficulty is inevitable because of our broken world, we stop treating God as the one who takes away our comfort and start bowing in submission to a God who reveals His loving hand through our suffering. Instead of allowing anger and fear over the disruptions due to Covid to turn into bitterness, let’s recognize that this is part of the race paved out by our Sovereign Lord. He has asked us to run this hill at this time in order to grow and mature us and to make our faith stronger.
Remember: Jesus is With Us Every Step
The beautiful reminder in Scripture is that we run in the strength of the Lord who is always by our side (Joshua 1:9). He is with those who are swiftly on course, yes, but the race is not only for the strong. He is with those who plod along with no energy, and He is even with those who begin to drift wayward. In any stage, when we run into hinderances that cause discomfort, we’re reminded to keep looking to our Savior who knows what it is to suffer. When we relinquish our desire for ease above all else, we find joy in Christ. Not necessarily the kind of joy that puts a smile on our face, but a joy that gives us a settled satisfaction in Christ and in His provisions.
The yielding of our desire for comfort allows us to better trust in our loving God who is ultimately leading us closer to Himself. He tells us to draw near to Him, but unfortunately, we don’t always hear Jesus as clearly in times that are easy. In his book, The Problem of Pain, CS Lewis says, “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Remember that Jesus is with us when comfort is stripped away; listen to the nearness of His voice.
Reflect: What Does the Bible Say?
In order to help our children steer away from the idol of ease in a culture that puts comfort on a pedestal, it’s important to teach a theology of suffering. Don’t brush the subject under the rug but consider reading books like Job which put suffering at the forefront. Wrestle through the difficult questions that arise regarding pain and point out how the Lord works in Job’s life when all is stripped from him. A believer has been given life because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. We live to serve the One who saved us and promises us eternal life with Him.
Because of what Jesus has done, it is not our comfort that should take center stage but the cross. By God’s grace, we must live out the Scriptural truth that our life is not ultimately about us, but it is about bringing glory to God. Disappointment is inevitable. Encourage those in your family to consider asking, “What does the Lord want to teach me during this part of the race?” instead of wallowing in, “Why is this happening to me?”
Ease is a useless idol that offers nothing. Chase instead after Jesus. While there are moments in the race that will bring you to your knees, trust in the strong and tender hand of God that will lift you back up and set you on course in order to run with endurance the race set before you.