I was just thinking, Man, I have comfort issues. We all do, right? You know, those kinds of issues that are usually treated by Ben & Jerry’s or sleeping in or texting a friend for some connection and encouragement. (Haven’t you felt lonely or upset and just texted a friend like, “What ‘cha doing?” but really you want to write “TEXT ME BACK BECAUSE YOU ARE MY ONLY LIFELINE!!”? No? I’m sure I’m the only one using Ben & Jerry’s medicinally as well.) We seek comfort when we’re lonely or upset, or there is an issue stressing us out, or we’re confused or hurt, emotionally swirly, or are just plain bumming on life. There’s healthy comfort and unhealthy comfort (guess where Ben & Jerry’s falls on that spectrum?), and healthy comfort is really supportive for us, but let’s be honest, we mostly slip into unhealthy comfort.
Life is tough, folks. As Kid President says, “Give people high fives just for getting out of bed. Being a person is hard sometimes.” We comfort-seek to ease our humanity. And in thinking about comfort I remembered the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?”
Granted, I didn’t remember the answer. I figured the answer was the all-encompassing but vague “Jesus.” But when I looked it up I found this:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong — body and soul, in life and in death — to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
That answer got in my face. I didn’t expect them to go in that direction. I expected something like, “My comfort is that I am loved,” or, “My comfort is that Jesus died for me,” or, “My comfort is that I’ll go to heaven,” or another very theologically true but doesn’t-quite-get-at-the-heart-of-it promise. Granted, they are all good promises, and ones we need to hold on to. But they don’t quite cut close.
“I am not my own” cuts close. Because it cuts into who we are as fallen, sinful humans. It cuts into my schedule. It cuts into my plans for my life. It cuts into my pride. It cuts into my whining. It cuts into my career, my relationships, my money, my time. It cuts into me because it’s a possession issue. We all want to belong to ourselves, right? My apartment, my paycheck, my dinner, my phone, my sexuality, my rights, my job, my ministry, my relationships, my anger, my abilities, my past, my future, my design. We balk when something or someone threatens to take anything of ours away, don’t we? Don’t take my phone. Don’t take my job. Don’t take my house. Don’t take my friends. Don’t take my life.
But it’s Ok for God to do it?
If we are saved by the blood of Jesus, who satisfied the requirement of the law for the penalty of sin in our place, if we were redeemed unto the Lord to be His people, if we were transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, if the Lord is sovereign and created us to glorify Him, then we don’t have any claim to ourselves and would belong to the Lord, right? As Paul writes, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price.”
Therein lies the comfort. If I belong to the Lord, that means that I am saved, redeemed, reconciled, given a new spirit, a new creation, given access to the Father, given eternal life, no longer a slave to my sin, brought into a narrative written by a sovereign God, and, as one of my friends said, “I can’t screw life up.” Belonging to Jesus is a huge comfort because then I don’t have to worry about life. The Lord will guide my job, my finances, my relationships, He’ll give me what I need when I need it, He’ll bring the people I need into my life, He’ll work out all things for good for me, He’ll decide my story in the way that best glorifies Him.
And there is much comfort in God’s sovereignty, which gives us a theology of suffering, something that is different than every other religion. When trials and challenges come, we can see that this is part of a greater narrative that works for good, and that works to produce character and perseverance in us. The blessings are gifts from the Lord, not anything we’ve earned through our own achievement. With an understanding of God’s sovereignty there is the understanding that everything has meaning, no experience is wasted, and everything happens for a reason.
I love God’s sovereignty, and that’s what I beat my drum about all the time. But when God’s sovereignty collides with my sovereignty in the possession issue of “I am not my own”…? That’s tougher. That’s a lot tougher. And it reveals what I’m lacking in trust and surrender, to say that “I am not my own” is more of a challenge to me than a comfort. I know some for whom this concept is incredibly straightforward – “I am not my own? Yes, absolutely!” – but for me, and I’m sure for many others, it’s a struggle. Granted, I’m much further down the spectrum than I was before; the deeper in relationship you get with Jesus, the more you see Him work and trust Him in what He’s done, the easier it is to turn your life over to Him. But again, the possession issue strikes to the core of who we are as prideful, sinful humans. There’s comfort in having control, not comfort in losing it. Sometimes it’s hard to walk in the knowledge that we were bought with a price.