God’s dealings in our discomfort

Nobody wants to be uncomfortable. There is nothing to be gained by being uncomfortable for its own sake. The same is true for its related value, self-sufficiency. There is nothing wrong with being self-sufficient of itself. The Lord may well have blessed you with all sorts of things that mean you are relatively comfortable and able to support yourself. There is nothing wrong with this of itself.

But as perfectly acceptable as those things are, it is possible that they may not serve our good. Clearly God doesn’t think there is anything wrong with these things because he promises them to Israel if they obey him. But he doesn’t promise these things without giving them a clear warning. Here is what he says in Deuteronomy 6:10-13:

10 “When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would give you—a land with large and beautiful cities that you did not build, 11 houses full of every good thing that you did not fill them with, cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.

The Lord promises Israel a land with big, beautiful cities, houses full of good stuff, cisterns they didn’t dig and vineyards and olive groves they didn’t plant. They will have plenty. They will have all they need. This is a gift, given to Israel by God, for which they have not worked, toiled or done anything to attain. Then there comes the warning: ‘be careful not to forget the Lord’.

When Israel were wandering around the desert, it was impossible for them not to rely on God. In the wilderness, there was no food. They relied on manna from Heaven. They could only gather enough for one day and had to rely, day by day, on the Lord to provide. And it was obviously the Lord who provided because it arrived miraculously. The same could be said of the water they drank. There was no water in the desert. Instead, the Lord provided it miraculously from rocks instead. It was obvious that Israel had to rely on God because they had no other options. And that it was clearly God providing for them was evident for all to see.

But when they enter Canaan, everything will be there for them on a plate. They will want for nothing. And they will be able to continue working the ground, cultivating the land and building new cities to remain prosperous. But under those circumstances, it is very easy to start thinking that it is their work that is keeping them in clover. The Lord insists the danger for Israel is not when they have no choice but to rely on him, but when they are comfortable and have no apparent need of him. And the consequences of forgetting the Lord are spelled out in all their inglorious horror later on in Deuteronomy 6.

All of that is to say, we should never be scared of a little discomfort. That isn’t to say being uncomfortable is fun. It isn’t to say discomfort is to be sought for its own sake. But whenever the Lord interrupts our comfortable existence, it is his grace to us. It is him reminding us of our need of him. It is one way he will use to shake us out of our complacency; out of any sense that we have built these things for ourselves and have no need of him. It is his means of reminding us that we rely totally and utterly on him. We are so prone to forget him and the more comfortable we are, the easier it is to do.

For those of us labouring in hard areas, reliant on outside support and help, pressing on with little encouragement, let’s remember the Lord’s grace to us. Our discomfort means that we are forced to rely on him all the more. We are far more likely to be kept by the Lord, pressing on faithfully for him, as we are forced to continually remember the Lord, the work is his and these things in no way rely upon us.