You and Jesus share a desire for your comfort. But you and Jesus do not always agree on what kind of comfort is best for you.
In fact, right now you might be feeling that if Jesus really cared so much for your comfort, then you would not be dealing with such pain. But that is not true. What is true is that you likely prefer the comfort that comes from the absence of discomfort, while Jesus prefers you to have the ultimate comfort of your holiness.
So, while you might feel frustrated over a very uncomfortable situation you’re being forced to deal with, Jesus is actually pursuing your long-term comfort through that very situation.
It is in these seasons that Jesus’s promises to be with you always (Matthew 28:20) and to never forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) may not be so much comforting as they are bothersome or even painful. These are times you might wish that Jesus would just leave you alone.
But it is merciful that he does not, for unless you are holy as he is holy, you will not have the comfort you need the most (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16).
Training Is Always Uncomfortable
If you’re a Christian, you are a disciple of Jesus. And by necessity, a disciple undergoes discipline. If a disciple is a student, then discipline is training. Jesus’s discipline for you, however severe (and it is severe at times), is not God’s wrath against you. If you are tempted to believe that, don’t. It’s your unbelief or the Enemy talking to you. When Jesus became sin for you (2 Corinthians 5:21), he removed all of sin’s condemnation from you (Romans 8:1).
No, discipline is training. Training in what? Training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). The unique training course that Jesus has designed for you (he designs a unique course for each disciple) has one great aim: to teach you to trust him in everything. That’s his goal for you. Jesus wants you to learn to trust in him in all things at all times. For the more you trust Jesus, the holier you become.
Now, justification by faith alone is a glorious truth. When we first trust in Jesus’s person and work for the forgiveness of all our sins and the promise of eternal life, God credits to us the righteousness of Christ, in union with Christ by faith. We are saved from God’s wrath (Romans 5:9), and we are considered, in that moment, holy as Christ is holy — because we are in Christ. It is a moment of great comfort.
Then comes the school of sanctification. God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). First, he confers on us the degree, and then he sends us to school. It’s a wonderful education system, for we are guaranteed graduation (Philippians 1:6).
Nonetheless, in this school, things get very uncomfortable for us. Jesus begins to train us to live by faith in him (Galatians 2:20). He trains us to live out the righteousness we have received through faith; he means for us to grow in the experience of the holiness he has given us; he transforms us into his likeness by the renewing of our minds (Romans 8:29; 12:2).
Jesus Is a Gracious Trainer — And Relentless
Jesus is a gracious trainer, but he is also a relentless trainer. We are not nearly as eager for our growth in holiness as he is. We tend to think that our progress so far is good enough. We might even be tempted to think that Jesus is cruel because of the amount of pain he puts us through. But the truth is, we don’t really know what’s good for us.
Think of the training experiences in your life that benefitted you the most. How many of those experiences were comfortable? Zero. And the more excellence you sought (or were pushed) to achieve in a discipline, the more rigorous the training became, right?
How often did you want to give up? How often did you wonder if it was worth it? How often did you feel mad at your coach or instructor or parent or boss for pushing you beyond what you thought necessary? If you did give up, not because the training was bad for you but because you just didn’t want to work at it, how did you feel? When you look back at a coach or instructor or parent or boss who just didn’t let you give up on what was best for you, how do you feel about them now?
Jesus is a far better trainer than any of them. All our earthly trainers “disciplined us as it seemed best to them,” but Jesus disciplines us “that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).
Jesus really does desire your comfort. He desires it more than you do. He so desires your ultimate comfort that he will make you very uncomfortable in order to give it to you.
He wants to give you the true comfort of learning to fear only God, so he will give you the discomfort of facing your false fears.
He wants to give you the true comfort of resting secure in the promises of God, so he will give you the discomfort of living with apparent uncertainty.
He wants to give you the true comfort of sharing his humility (Philippians 2:3–5), so he will give you the discomfort of opposing your pride (James 4:6).
He wants to give you the true comfort and joy of worshiping God alone, so he will take the painful whip of discipline into the temple of your heart to clear out the idolatrous merchants. And therefore your experience is this: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
Jesus, Please Do Not Leave Me Alone
So, if today you’re tempted to “grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:3) in Jesus’s training course for you, join me in this prayer:
Lord Jesus, forgive me for my shortsightedness and for how often I sinfully prefer my earthly comfort over the comfort of my holiness. Forgive me for the smallness of my faith. Despite what my flesh craves, my spirit craves your will for me more. I want to share your holiness and bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness. So, do whatever it takes until you have completed your good work in me. For I want more than anything to trust in you in all things at all times. Please, Lord, whatever you do, do not leave me alone! I pray this in your name and for the sake of your glory. Amen.