Getting Comfortable With Discomfort
Learning to imitate Christ.
The television show Gilmore Girls from the early 2000s depicted a 32-year-old single mom raising her 16-year-old daughter in a tiny fictional Connecticut town known as Stars Hollow. The show quickly became known for its fast dialogue, its wide array of cultural references, and its cross-generational storylines.
But one of the most enduring traits of its main character was her love of winter — well, snow to be precise. Nearly every winter, the show would feature an episode where Lorelai Gilmore would open a window or drag one of her loved ones outside in joyful expectation and say, “I smell… snow.”
Lorelai’s joy in winter finds her in the minority. Even simply the talk of colder temperatures is enough to make most people scowl. With winter comes shorter days and darker mornings. The cold weather brings restrictions, limitations, and discomfort.
Our Christian faith teaches us much about enduring discomfort. Throughout God’s word we’re taught there are times when we must embrace unpleasantness, even to the point of suffering. Some of the Bible’s most moving passages about this topic come from Christ himself.
In Matthew 26 Christ is kneeling in prayer, petitioning God. His time on the cross is drawing near. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me,” he pleads.
Knowing all that would happen to him at the crucifixion, Christ is begging God to put forward another way — a path where he would not have to suffer. Yet even in the midst of extreme anxiety, Christ submits to God’s will saying, “Not as I will, but as you will.”
After he concludes his prayers, Jesus is arrested, and in John 18 we see a scuffle take place where his disciple Peter strikes at one of the high priest’s servants with his sword. Jesus turns to Peter and commands him to stand down saying, “Shall I not drink from the cup the Father has given me?”
Though he did not desire suffering, Jesus did not resist it. Instead he endured the cross willingly for the joy that was set before him — the joy of reconciling us to God. What can we learn from his example, and how can we obtain the wisdom and courage to embrace things we don’t desire?
Christ’s ability to submit to the father’s will did not begin at the cross. Instead the cross was the culmination of a lifetime of submission, beginning when he stepped into our world as an infant. Throughout his childhood, he willingly submitted to the constraints of his day. As an adult, he encountered moments of tension among religious and cultural leaders that would lead him closer to the cross.
Consider this: each and every winter, God gives us a training ground to put aside our desires and embrace discomfort. Every moment that we are giving up perceived control and submitting ourselves to outward limitations — no matter how small — we are learning to be more like Christ.
Whether it's embracing a sharp, consuming wind chill in the dark hours of the morning or being stuck inside and forced to engage with a difficult colleague during our lunch hour, we are learning to get comfortable with discomfort.
As a result of Christ’s work on the cross, we have a clear mission given to us by God: to make disciples in the world around us. Like Christ, our calling will come with its own sufferings. And like Christ, we too will have to set our eyes on a future joy — the joy of making him known.
Luke 16:10 teaches us, “whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much…” Our daily practices of submission to the little discomforts of our lives will help us to attain the resiliency we will need to do the very big, hard things required to fulfill God’s mission.
Dominique McKay is a Women's Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.