In July 2007, twenty-three Korean missionaries were held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan for forty days. Every day these missionaries lived with the realization they would probably soon become martyrs. All of them committed their lives to God and declared that they were ready and wiling to die for the glory of God and for the sake of the Gospel. One of the missionaries had a bible that they tore into twenty-three pieces so that each of them could have at least a part of God’s Word. During those forty days of imprisonment, they experienced the presence of God in a way they never had before in their lives. In the darkness of the prison cell, the presence of God was their strength. Two of them were executed before a deal was reached and the other twenty-one were released. They returned home and were able to resume their lives as normal. Since they have been back, on many occasions they have asked each other, “Don’t you wish we were still there?” They explained that they did not feel the presence of God the same way in their comfort as they did in their suffering. In their prison cell they experienced the presence of God in such a powerful and intimate way that they wished they could be back there if it meant they could feel that closeness to God again.
In my own life, the times of greatest trial and trouble have also been the times of greatest intimacy with Jesus. When things begin to get comfortable again, I notice that my closeness to God seems to fade. The same thing happened often with God’s people in the Old Testament. When nations rose up against them, they would cry to God in their distress. God would hear their cries and deliver them and they would worship him. But very quickly they would forget about God, their Deliverer and Redeemer, and go back to living in their old ways. They would get too comfortable. It’s dangerous to be comfortable. It causes us to get lazy and negligent of spending time with God. It causes us to take for granted the blessings of God that we do not deserve. It causes us to forget where God has brought us from and what He has done for us.
It seems that when everything in our life is going well, we don’t really have that much of a need for God. Francis Chan, an author and speaker, asked a very pointed question: “Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable?” And so we live our lives as if He does not matter and then wonder where He is when we need Him. He has not gone anywhere. But in our comfort we have allowed our hearts to drift away from Him.
If God is currently giving you a time of rest from trials in your life, thank Him for that grace, and pursue Him all the more. If you are in the midst of the storm right now, press into God and His Word. His presence will be your strength. And as James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”