I guarantee that if you have a “resolution” to lose weight or get healthy or get in shape (however you word it), you will have to redefine what comfort and pleasure mean to you. You did not gain 20, 50 or 150 pounds without seeking pleasure and comfort in an unhealthy place. Let’s get really honest so we can do some work. Don’t get defensive, get curious.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2
Science tells us that if we replace and repeat a new thought and habit over and over again that we can create new neural pathways in our brain. These new neural pathways can become stronger and stronger and eventually override old thought patterns and habits that use to feel automatic. It’s that good news? God has created us with the ability to renew our mind and therefore change our thoughts, actions and outcomes. It’s biblical and has been revealed through science.
As we enter into a new year, I want to share with you what I believe stops people from taking ahold of this incredible insight about how to renew the mind.
Two words hold us back from creating something different than what we currently know: comfort and pleasure.
These two idols many esteem above all else. There are more ways than ever to spend money on ourselves in order to experience pleasure and be comforted in our uncomfortable circumstances and situations.. And pleasure is considered a right in our Western society. Something that is non-negotiable. The message we are consistently given is that life should be a pursuit of happiness through the gateway of pleasure and comfort.
Let’s be honest. The pursuit of happiness through pleasure and comfort often takes precedence over commitments, responsibilities, marriage vows, our purpose and the needs of others. No matter the consequences, seeking happiness through pleasure and comfort is often seen as the most important thing we can do for ourselves. Even security in finances comes back to being comfortable and seeking the pleasurable things in life.
Let’s stop for a moment and think about the ramifications of raising a generation that lives in alignment with this philosophy. It doesn’t take much imagination as we see many living this out in sexuality, how money is spent, the use of time and what is put into the body. Often we see the pursuit of pleasure and comfort begin harmless and with little adverse consequences, but often it is the gateway into addiction with ravaging and widespread side effects.
Please don’t get me wrong. We are designed for pleasure or else we would not have all of the amazing sensory capabilities we do. But pleasure in the context of self, ego and pride ends up costing us in our health, finances, marriages and family values. Of course, we all want to be comfortable, but seeking comfort to avoid, divert or escape the pain of life is not comfort - it’s coping. And coping is not comfortable - it’s an all-consuming prison that will ruin our lives. Pain that isn’t dealt with, has to be managed.
Many of us are filling up our pleasure bucket and it has a whole in the bottom. Everything we pour in, pours out. This type of living will never produce sustainability.
- Do you ever find yourself looking in your fridge, freezer or pantry at night for “something” because “something” is missing?
- Do you ever pour a glass of wine or a stiff drink after work because you need something to help you wind down from a hectic day of problems and people?
- Do you ever sit down and binge watch a series on Netflix so you can avoid the drama in the relationships in your own home?
- Do you ever sneak outside for a break at work or at home to smoke a cigarette or pop a pill to calm down your anxiety about how out of control you feel?
- Do you ever jump online to buy something new because you are feeling lonely, insignificant or bored?
- Do you ever lose hours of your life on social media creating a pseudo life that you wish you had and comparing your real life to other people’s airbrushed life?
- Do you ever gossip about someone you don’t even really know in order to fit into a conversation?
These are all modern day comforts. These are all attempts to seek pleasure and be happy, even if it’s just for a moment. But here’s the truth.
- The tub of ice cream only lasts so long, but the void will still be there - and so will the weight you keep judging yourself about.
- The glass of wine will be emptied, but work will continue to be full of challenges.
- The Netflix series will come to an end, but your relationship will still be there with the same problems.
- The item you ordered will show up, but the elation will quickly fade quickly fade as you place it next to the last item you bought and have yet to wear.
- The escape to social media will end as the reality of your own life crashes in on your fantasy.
- The conversation will end and you will still feel inadequate and like an outcast.
Ladies, this never ends. We can fill our entire lives pursuing happiness through the idol of pleasure and comfort and only ever enjoy a temporary fix. These attempts will never fill the void that only God can fill. Temporary fixes are also costly. Initially, the cost is small. But our hunger is never satiated so we have to continue to feed ourselves with more and more and more. Most of us don’t want to admit we are struggling with the consequences of being addicted to seeking pleasure and being comfortable in our health, weight, parenting, marriage and relationship with God.
From Idols of a Mother’s Heart:
Such pleasures serve as an anesthetic to the soul. They numb us to the harsh realities of life. They are temporary rewards to the trials and troubles of our days. For a time, they make us forget They distract us and help us escape from real life. For some, they give meaning to the dry, mundane boredom of life. For others, comfort and pleasure mask the painful circumstances they face. And for still others, pleasure serves as a fitting co-host to a pity party.
Life is hard. It just is. And when life gets really hard, pleasure can become not just a diversion, but a need. Something we need in order to just get through it. Whatever “it” is at the moment.
- Have you ever eaten your way through a hard season of life and gained weight?
- Have you ever been through a struggle and found yourself depending on a couple of drinks every night?
- Have you ever been through some tough stuff in relationships and escaped into someone else’s arms or someone else’s reality on television or social media?
- Have you ever been so unhappy in your own life that you fabricate the life you would like to have on social media?
Then it can go a step more. We become entitled. We get upset and resentful when we are interrupted by life and our pleasures and comforts are compromised. We yell at our kids when they interrupt our Netflix show with their questions or their refusal to go to bed. We get resentful towards our co-workers when they interrupt our coffee break or smoke break to ask us advice or request us to do more than what we already do. We isolate our spouse as we scroll through our social media feed seeking a hit of connection and validation. We structure our schedules around our pleasures and our comforts so we can just make it through another day.
In this new year, we need to admit that there are just certain places that we should not go with our bodies and our minds. Some of us are fighting the same battles over and over again because we continue to visit places we should not be going to. There are places and people in our lives (right now) that put us in a vulnerable state and in a vulnerable position. By continuing to allow them access, we set ourselves up to fail and then play the blame game whether it’s the devil, our spouse, our kids, our genetics, our mother, Betty Crocker, McDonald’s or even God.
For example. The tub of ice cream in the freezer has to go. It’s a vulnerability. It’s a place some of us seek comfort and pleasure but after the high, we plummet into shame, guilt, frustration, condemnation and self-hatred. What’s pleasurable about that? I believe God made ice cream for our pleasure. I do. But when we go to the ice cream as the source of our comfort, and not God who is the true source of comfort - then we set ourselves up to worship the comfort instead of worshipping the comforter. This is how a stronghold forms in our lives. This is how we exchange freedom for bondage.
You see, having a small scoop of ice cream with my daughter, Berlyn, while talking, laughing and being grateful for the blessings God has given me in my life is different than grabbing ice cream at 9:00 at night, when she is in bed and I am alone with myself and my thoughts. I don’t need ice cream, I need God to comfort me. I need God to bring me peace about my situation. I need God to build my faith for what He is doing in my life. I need to trust God - not the tub of ice cream to bring me sustainable joy. I need gratitude, not grumbling. I need the presence of God, not to check out of the present.
Let’s talk coffee. Having a cup of coffee in the morning while we have a healthy breakfast or sit with the kids or do our bible study is different than spending $6-$10 at Starbucks every afternoon because that is the comfort we have built into our schedule - the break we deserve every day between 2:00 and 3:30 that gives use the momentum to finish the day. God made coffee. It is for our pleasure. But God is our sustainer. He is our break. He can remind us of our identity and that we have a purpose when we are struggling to make sense of “what’s the point?”. We don’t need to stimulate our already over stimulated nervous and hormonal system with caffeine and spend more money on things that do nothing to move our financials, health or overall life forward.
Going out to eat for an anniversary or celebrating a job promotion, birthday or holiday is different than driving through fast food on our way home because making food for ourselves and our families seems time consuming, exhausting, daunting and boring. This is a slippery slope that leads to becoming addicted to checking out and taking the path of least resistance. But here’s the truth. The relief and pleasure lasts only until the last bite is gone and then it’s usually followed up by another decision to bolt and check-out in front of the television or with a drink or sweet treat.
If you are living in this reality, here is what I know. You may be seeking comfort and pleasure in a lot of things, but you are not happy.
So, what gives? Are you ready to do something radically different so you can have something radically different? A year ago, I did something radically different. No alcohol. No television. I read the bible in a year. It’s been over 365 days since I had a drink (of alcohol, that is). I have not watched television or any movie that glorifies what Christ died for. I have spent more time with my sustainer, comforter, creator, teacher, Father and best friend (Jesus) than I have in my entire life combined. Yes, this seemed like a big sacrifice, but I was unwilling to sacrifice any more of my life feeling discontent and chasing after fleeting pleasures. I was done living in the comfort of mediocrity and living for my next moment of comfort. Maybe you are feeling that too?
What amazed me at first was how much time I had available to me. When Friday or Saturday night is not spent at a party or at a bar hanging out with friends and every evening is not filled with my go-to television shows/series and I don’t grab a drink and a bag of chips every time I am lonely, exhausted, stressed and want to check-out - time opens up. I could not believe how much of my days had been wasted in an attempt to just feel comfortable and get a little bit of pleasure.
But let’s be honest. What happens when you take away the comforts that you have built your life around? You feel discomfort. You feel pain. That’s right. I desperately wanted God’s plan for my life after the shocking betrayal in my marriage. And I knew that if I wanted God’s plan and his path that there we some things I could not take with me because those were part of MY PLAN. The things that I had been clinging to instead of him, had to go. And when I let go, I found and felt my pain of living my life on my terms and not God’s terms.
- I felt the pain of betrayal.
- I felt the pain of lost hopes and dreams.
- I felt the pain of rejection.
- I felt the pain of failure.
- I felt the pain of uncertainty.
- I felt the pain of self-doubt.
- I felt the pain of self-awareness.
- I felt the pain of regret.
- I felt the pain of fear.
- I felt the pain of surrender.
No words can ever be written to encompass the pain that flows from within the human spirit when it is given the opportunity to just breathe and be. With no lifeboats available, I floated, swam and at times was taken over by the waves of pain. And you know what? I didn’t drown. Actually I felt alive for maybe the first time - ever. I felt like I was meeting my real self. I felt like I was meeting God for the first time as my sustainer and healer and not the preschool Jesus I had read about in stories. Yes, I was fighting for the life I had been created to have. Ladies, just because we get up every day and fill 24 hours, doesn’t mean we are living.
Nothing about this process was fun, however
- Without the pain, I couldn’t heal.
- Without the pain of rejection, I wouldn’t have searched for my true identity.
- Without the pain of human love, I would never know the unbelievable gift of the Father’s faithful and enduring love.
- Without the pain of isolation, I would never have let go of the need for approval and validation in the world.
- Without the pain of being an imperfect, ill-equipped and insecure mom, I would have never had to depend on the daily supply of God’s mercy and grace.
- Without the pain of losing it all, I would never have searched for the true source of my peace, joy and security.
But Amber, no one likes pain. True. But healing from surgeries can be painful, but the pain is part of the healing process. Symptoms can be painful, but they drive us to a diagnosis. Pain has purpose. But if we mistake the pursuit of comfort for coping, we miss the gifts of the pain and end up causing ourselves and others more pain.
For example, pain can motivate us to take an honest assessment of our lives and make huge, significant and radical changes to move towards comfort (an alleviation of the pain). When pain meets us, it changes us.
This last year has shown me what is possible in this life. I want this for you in 2020. I am so thankful for the pain. I am so thankful for the hard stuff that pushed me out of my lifeboat so I could experience more of what God has for me. God wants this for you. He designed you to enjoy the comforts and pleasures of the world as given by the great Comforter. They are gifts, not crutches. We are to worship God, not the gifts.
Where are you seeking pleasure and comfort as the source of your security and happiness? What if you made a decision to allow 2020 to be the year that you renew your mind and break off the shackles of those habits that have been misplaced as crutches? What if this was the year you stopped stuffing things down and started moving things out? What if you made a decision that you will no longer engage in the battles you don’t need to fight?
I would be honored to be on this journey with you. I have a group coaching program opening to six women beginning in late January/early February. This is a powerful journey that will change you from the inside-out. Yes, we want to release weight. Yes, we want to make healthier habits, but we have to talk about the habits around comfort and pleasure that lure you back in every time life throws a struggle or trial your way. Getting healthy does not guarantee an easy life. Life is going to happen. But being able to be healthy as you navigate the storms of life is a gift not only to yourself, but to those around you. If you would like to learn more, please schedule a free coaching session here or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.