See now that I myself am he!
There is no god besides me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
I have wounded and I will heal,
and no one can deliver out of my hand.
Deuteronomy 32:39 NIV
We hesitate to fully abide in the Lord because we want to hide the fact of our sin. We work to make ourselves right ahead of coming to Him. Since we are incapable of removing sin Jesus died to cleanse, this self-defeating behavior cripples our spiritual lives.
It is frightening but freeing to come to the Lord just as we are. The humility of exposure brings shamed tears, His unconditional love cleanses sin, and love for Him pours forth in praise as a response to His great love.
Praise is hard work when we try to conjure it ourselves through a sense of duty. When we finally give up and step fully into His light, we are confronted by a love so powerful that praise and adoration are the natural response.
Exposed by the Lord's light and forgiven by His sacrificial love, we become bearers of God's light. That which is exposed to the light, becomes light.
We confuse self-denial with self-discipline. Self-discipline is a resolution to control ourselves so that we can achieve a self-assigned goal. Self-denial for the sake of the life of Christ within us is a different calling, in some ways, nearly the opposite of self-discipline: it is a falling back rather than a pushing forward. In releasing our own desires into His hands, we fall back into His will and then--only then--in Jesus' Name we press on (see Philippians 3:14).
When Jesus calls us to deny ourselves there is a dual challenge; we are also to take up our crosses and follow Him. Denying ourselves some desired escape or pleasure is worthless apart from the commitment to follow Jesus. It is an exchange; my thoughts for His thoughts, my way for His way, my plans for His. As we seek to honor Christ in thought, word, and deed, the pleasure of abiding more closely to Him becomes more gratifying than any earthly pleasure.
We try to make ourselves right ahead of coming to the Lord rather than coming to the Lord.
This is an effort bound to failure. If we were able to make ourselves right, Jesus would not have had to rescue us.
Today, Lord, help us to give up working hard to make ourselves right in our own strength. Help us to fall back into Your arms, recognizing our helplessness and sin, accepting Your forgiveness, recognizing we are not our own, we've been bought with a price. We trust You, we say, without fear but in faith, without resignation but with hope, "Thy will be done."
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
It is our tendency to cry out to the Lord when we are in trouble, and then, during better times, to withdraw into an insular existence with both God and our fellow human beings kept at safe distance. Past suffering can provide excuse for present self-comfort; we feel entitled because of all we've been through. For the sake of our own mental health (we tell ourselves), we grant ourselves permission to withdraw from the discomforts of the sufferings of others. In so doing we choose our own modes of comfort ahead of the solace of the Holy Spirit, who would have us remain engaged with other people even when they are suffering: especially when they are suffering.
Bearing one another's burdens requires being present for one another. Abiding in the Lord requires we expend the energy to be vigilant for the sake of His life in us, and on behalf of the precious souls He places in our path. Is it comfortable? No! But only through a willingness to be uncomfortable for His sake do we move into the circle of the precious and unequaled comfort of abiding in Him.
Father, keep us present in the lives of those who need us, because You have been present for us. Thank You for the peace that passes understanding that surrounds us as we trust in You to be our defender and our strength. Thank You for Your mercy and grace that surround us. Amen.
God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.