RickThomas.net 
28Mar

The idol of comfort

Val lives in her house.

No, let me restate that: Val never leaves her house.

She spends her days mostly on her couch watching whatever the TV is pumping out.

You can walk into her home on any given day and wonder if she is watching TV or if the TV is watching her–she sleeps a lot.

When her close friend confronted her about her lifestyle, she said that she loved comfort.

She is a self-proclaimed comfort idolator.

Her friend did not totally buy into her assessment, but what can you do?

Though Val was willing to talk about it, she was not willing to change.[1]

My friend called me, asking for advice on how to care for Val. Here is what we talked about:

I asked my friend–let’s call her Paula–if Val was overweight. She said she was grossly overweight, that she not only spends time on the couch, but she is not alone on her couch: potato chips and sodas are her beckoning buddies.

The reason I asked her the weight question was because it is a normal assumption when thinking about sin patterns. A particular sin, whatever it may be, never isolates to one kind of manifestation.

If Val is being lazy in one area of her life, then you can bet that she is being lazy in several other areas of her life too. Cancer goes for the whole body if it is allowed to–and sin will do the same.

I suspected that if you evaluated Val’s whole life you would find many areas that resemble laziness–not just slouching around or eating a lot. For example, it would not surprise me if she was a critical gossip–a person who has a negative attitude toward others.

Saying bad things about people is an act of laziness. It takes diligence, discretion, self-control, and willpower to be kind and guarded about how you communicate–that means work, effort, and energy. Read that last sentence again with Val in mind. These are not the kinds of labels that describe her.

She does not exhibit diligence, discretion, self-control or willpower in regards to her eating habits–she is overweight, or her time management–she watches TV all the time, or her sleep patterns–she sleeps up to 12 hours a day…ad nauseam.

In fact, I would be shocked if there weren’t other areas of her life that were out of control. This is why I would ask questions about many areas–like how she talks about others–to get a fuller snapshot on the depth of her “caught-ness.”

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. – Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

The other reason I would want to explore as many collateral areas as possible is so Val could get a clearer perspective on the pandemic nature of her sin. She needs to feel the full weight of her choices, which I hope would lead her to godly sorrow, rather the wishy-washy worldly sorrow that she is exhibiting now (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Once you gain a solid and sober grasp of the depth of all her sins, then you both could begin to think about how she got to where she is–the past, what is really going on–the present, and what a sound solution could be for a person like Val–the future.

The past–how she got to where she is

I’m not an advocate of over-unpacking the past. The past is the past and you can’t undo it. The Christian’s goal and attitude about the past is to place it under the sovereignty of God–to learn how the bad, on a human level, can be used for God’s glory (Genesis 50:20).

Some people get too involved in the past, as though that kind of inspection and reflection is going to change things. The best answer you’re going to get regarding the bad things in a person’s past is that sin was involved.

Sin happens and the longer you live, the more you’re going to experience it. Trying to understand the why of what happened to you can be a wrong-headed focus. We’ll never know the total why and we don’t need to. The best answer that explains the past is that sinners sin.

Sin is what sinners do. The better thing to think through is how can we turn the sins that sinners do into something that can glorify God. God can use sin sinlessly, right? For example, I have had a horrible life, if you want to think about it that way, though I do not believe this.[2]

God wrote an amazing story for me and today I’m seeing the fruit of His kindness to me, as I get to stand on a platform and proclaim the goodness and kindness of God through the Gospel of His dear Son. This is an incredible privilege.

I could complain and/or have a bad attitude about what happened to me, but where would that get me? Apart from the grace of God I could probably be on a couch somewhere, drowning in self-pity, munching on potato chips, while watching ESPN Classics.

Who are we to think that we can rise above our sacrificial Master, who came to earth to give His life as a scandalous ransom so we could be born again? We do not rise above Him, but walk behind Him as we follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21):

Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. – John 15:20 (ESV)

Val needs help filtering her past through the lens of God’s sovereignty. God writes suffering into everybody’s story–even His Son’s (Isaiah 53:10). Our job is to understand and believe that the cup is half full rather than half empty. This is more than a psyche-job–it is two real perspectives, but the former is supposed to trump the latter because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4).

While we do not dismiss pain and suffering, Christians are called to see what God sees in our suffering and to respond to Him in such a way that it matures us, helps others, and brings glory to Him.

Val is completely missing this. She is not interested in what God wants, choosing rather to play the victim card and, thus, further incarcerating herself into a life of degenerating dysfunction.

The present–what is really going on

Though Val self-diagnosed herself as craving the idol of comfort, that is not what is really going on in her, or any other comfort idolator like her. There is always a sin under the sin. For Val, it is unbelief. This is the real sin that is under her sin of comfort.

Valerie is a rebel against God, choosing to not trust Him (belief), but choosing her own path to salvation. Her fear and ignorance of God and her anger toward God are unremitting. They are so strong that she is volitionally choosing her way over God’s way.[3]

Even though she probably sees the destructiveness of her choices, she is relentless in holding onto them. She has lost all hope in God–another form of unbelief. Like the drug addict, who sees no other way of escape, she has resigned herself to a life that is slowly being choked away.[4]

Val has been doing this for so long that it is more than volitional choices. It is a full-blown habituated life. Her lifestyle is who she is. Though she is not a victim, she is no longer in control of her own body. She is a prisoner within, a prisoner of her own making.

Think again about the drug addict. How are they helped, if they are ever helped? They have to be taken to a place where they can detoxify. They are put in an inescapable place until the temptation to use drugs subsides. Here, they will experience some of the hardest days of their lives, but it is the only way.

Their bodies crave drugs. The drugs are their gods. That is the way of salvation for them. It’s the only way the addict can live. Though it is killing them, it is safer to die this kind of death than dealing with the real world.

Val can’t deal with the real world. She hides from it. My brother was like this too. He spent the last 14 years of his life in prison. He was paroled on three occasions and on two of those occasions, he purposely committed evil acts so he could go back to prison. On the third occasion, he was murdered.

To you, what I just said sounds insane. It sounds that way to me too. But to my brother, prison was his salvation. Val has learned to cope in her prison of self-secluded comfort idolatry and any attempts to release her will be met with incredible resistance from her–the inmate.

The future–a sound solution

Valerie is amazingly afraid. Therefore, she has created a world that works for her. My advice to Paula was to be very careful about how she interacts with Valerie. She may be able to help her, but then again, she may not. This makes Paul’s words even more meaningful:

…you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. – Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

Paula is set-up to be tempted. There is a good chance she will sin against Valerie the more she tries to help her. It is one of the most frustrating things that a caregiver will ever have to go through–watching a person self-destruct on purpose.

Valerie is poised to self-destruct: her anger of and fear toward God work like double-locks on her heart. The very Person who can help her is the very Person she is resisting…but isn’t that our story too?

Paula will have to decide at what level she wants to help her friend–assuming her friend will allow her to help her. If they are part of a local church, then that would be a good place to begin.

This is more than what one human should take on. Valerie needs to be rehabilitated from the inside out, seven days a week, over many months, within the context of a local church family. Think about the drug addict here. This is going to take a long time.

Paula will also need to guard her heart from Val’s manipulations. If Val is unwilling to come out of her prison, there is a good chance that she will try to swing Paula’s friendship to her advantage. Again, think about the addict.

Addicts are users. They not only use their drugs, but they use their friends. Paula will have to come to terms with what love looks like for a person like Valerie. Sometimes love means strong correction. Love is not always giving in each time a person pleads for your help.

Paula and all the other caregivers will have to be walking in the Spirit. If not, they will become just another bag of potato chips for Valerie to consume and when she is done with them, just like the bag of chips, she will throw them away. That is how it works with users.

However, if there is repentance, then there will be signs of repentance. Repentance is like walking up steps–there is always forward and upward progression. It may not be perfect progression, but it will always be forward and upward.

If Valerie wants to change, she can change. Paula and her friends will need to discern this. They will also need to be reminded that one of the most common sin issues with addicts is lying. They lie to protect themselves–to get what they want.

More recommendations

Other things that Paula will need to understand and help Valerie with–assuming she wants help–are:

Addiction Discipleship Habits Maturity Self-Control
Anger Emotions Humility Motives Sovereignty of God
Bitterness Fear Laziness Needs vs. Desires Suffering
Conscience Fear of Man Local Church Relationships Theology
Depression Gratitude Lying/Honesty Repentance Time Management

On my Membership Site I have written scores of articles on all of these topics, plus hundreds more. Paula is a Member on my site and I suggested that she spend time perusing these materials, with the hope of helping her caught friend. My prayer is that Val will come to an end of herself (Luke 15:17). If she does, she will see that God has given her a grace gift in Paula, a friend like the Prodigal’s daddy who was eager to help his wayward son.

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  1. [1] Val loves talking about her problems. She is a problem-centered person. Like Linus with his security blanket, Val feels safe in her comfort prison.
  2. [2] Two murdered brothers, drunk dad, verbal abuse, physical abuse, divorce, etc.
  3. [3] These are the three sin issues that will have to be explored in order to help her. These are the hindrances that are keeping her from trusting God. You can find my article on the Member Site called “Why is it hard to trust God?
  4. [4] What is ironic here is that she is the one with her hands around her own neck. It is a version of suicide.
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About Rick Thomas

Rick has been training in the Upstate of South Carolina since 1997. After several years as a counselor and pastor he founded and launched his own training organization in order to encourage and equip people for more effective living. In the early ’90’s he earned a BA in Theology. Later he earned a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry and in 2000 he graduated with a MA in Counseling. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow with ACBC. Today his organization reaches people in every country through consulting, training, blogging, and coaching.
  • Michael Hawkins

    Good article Rick. I just talked with someone this morning about getting involved and helping a friend to break-free from a life of partying, lying and drunkenness. A coincidence…I don’t think so…God’s kindeness

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