I work in a group home – specifically an adult foster care facility for women with mental illnesses. There are currently four young women living there that I get to spend time with and assist in meeting their personal goals. Some days this can be quite a challenge, but I love it. The girls are great. I love them so much! It can be difficult to see them struggle – to see someone who has made so much progress seemingly begin to move backwards. At the same time, when they are able to overcome the obstacles of their illnesses and meet their goals, it can be so exciting.
Yesterday, we had our monthly staff meeting. Part of our meeting was spent discussing the addition of another staff for a few hours a day to assist with a particular consumer that will need 24/7 supervision when she returns from the hospital for attempting suicide. We discussed each day individually to pick the best times for double staffing according to this girl’s needs and the needs of the other consumers in the home. When Sunday was being discussed, one of my co-workers expressed that she did not want to be the one to take this girl to church. She said something like, “I know that we’re supposed to take them to whatever church they choose, but I don’t want to go to that place. If I had to go there, I would be very uncomfortable.” She said that this particular church was “too crazy” and “out there” for her, and repeatedly stated that going there would make her “very uncomfortable.” I felt sad for her – there was so much fear in her eyes and her voice. Still, I was very pleased with my boss’ response, “You might just have to get over it.” I’ve been pondering the merits of discomfort ever since.
We live in a society that equates comfort with happiness, but this is really a misconception. In our fast paced world, ongoing stress can lead to all kinds of physical and mental health problems. Comfort definitely serves a purpose in bringing some much needed relief. But should comfort be our goal? What’s wrong with being uncomfortable? Who says that we are supposed to be comfortable all the time anyway? Don’t you think that discomfort may also have a beneficial purpose? I do. Think about this for a moment. Have you ever considered that too much comfort (like too much stress) may also be unhealthy for you? Prolonged comfort eventually leads to laziness and complacency. It encourages us to stay right where we are. There’s no need to move forward, and there’s no desire for growth because we are completely at ease in our current state. It’s adequate enough, and we’re satisfied. However, without motion, without movement, life becomes stagnant. If we allow ourselves to stagnate, our lives will reek of undeveloped character. Not only that, but instead of being a life giving source to those around us, we become a hazardous environment that breeds contamination. “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor. 15:33)
Discomfort is necessary. It is often unavoidable. It also serves a great purpose. Discomfort is a catalyst for change. It makes us long for more – for something different. Discomfort compels us to move forward. It propels us to step out and experience new things. When we do this, we stretch and grow. It might not always feel good at the time, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not good for us. It’s the struggle that makes us stronger. A good example would be exercise. I’ll be honest here and tell you that exercising is not my favorite thing to do. I’ll even admit that I sometimes avoid it because it doesn’t feel good. However, when I push through my mental block and get in a good workout, I feel great. I’m even happier if I’m sore the next day. I think it feels so good! I really enjoy having sore muscles. Why? Because it means that my workout was fruitful. It means that I made some progress, and that I’m getting stronger.
When I think about my life and the different experiences that I’ve been through, it’s the uncomfortable ones that have taught me the most. It’s those times of discomfort that have produced the most growth and character as I’ve allowed God to mold me through the circumstances. My friend, Michael, has a phrase that describes this so perfectly. He encourages people to “mine the valley.” What that means is that when you’re in that low place, that place of hardship, discomfort, pain, fear, depression – whatever your struggle may be. . . Instead of fighting it, instead of trying to claw your way up and out of that valley. . . Just call on the Lord, lay down in surrender, and allow God to do a work in you. Trust Him. Depend on Him. Embrace what He is doing in you. Because eventually He’s going to lead you out of that valley; and you’re going to come up with “gold” – growth, character, strength.
The presence of God is not always comfortable, but it is always good. He is always good. He loves you, and He knows what’s best for you.