I’ve been thinking a lot about “comfort” lately, not because anything is wrong in my life, just that I find it fascinating to explore the various things, places, people, and situations that many of us turn to for comfort depending on what we are experiencing in our lives. Many people turn to comfort foods, which can either physically comfort us (like hot soup on a cold day) or provide us with a sentimental or nostalgic feeling that links us to loved ones or reconnects us with happier times or places. Enjoying comfort foods is not a bad thing in and of itself; however, according to Wikipedia “Comfort food consumption has been seen as a response to emotional stress and, consequently, as a key contributor to the epidemic of obesity in the United States.”
As Lysa TerKeurst explains in her book Made to Crave: “Craving isn’t a bad thing. But we must realize God created us to crave more of him. … Many of us have misplaced that craving by overindulging in physical pleasures instead of lasting spiritual satisfaction.”
For example, there are those who find comfort in alcoholic beverages. As a former alcoholic explains it: “alcohol gives [me] a false sense of being at ease … it blurs the hard edges of life and gives [me] a false sense of courage. Alcohol helps a person forget his/her problems for a while, but it doesn’t help resolve them.” However, for those who don’t over-indulge, enjoying a glass of wine, a beer, or a mixed drink is simply part of their winding-down process. In situations like this, a drink can be a comfort, but not a cover-up. And that’s okay; I’m not judging here, just following a train of thought. 🙂
For those who DO use food or drink as an escape, I am drawn to these lines from another blogger that I recently read: “If we hide from our pain, we don’t need a healer. If we hide from our faults, we don’t need a redeemer. If we hide from the fact that we are lost, we don’t need a savior.” Are you hiding things in your life? Are you looking to the wrong sources for comfort and answers?
When sharing about her own personal journey, Bonnie Gray shared this: “I decided if I was going to make it through this hard season of my life, I needed as much comfort and beauty for my soul that I could find. Even if it was whisper thin, even if it brought my heart pain to long for it, I would nurture that desire in me. Beauty reminded me that the real me was whole and present inside me. I didn’t know how to begin. But, I knew I needed to begin.”
What are some things (or places) that bring you comfort? Not necessarily in the midst of catastrophes but when you’re dealing with the everyday blues or when you’re just not feeling your best for whatever reason? I definitely look to nature as a source of comfort – it almost always provides me with a spiritual pick-me-up. Do you have things that you consider comfort wear? I’m not talking about sweats or yoga pants that you wear because they are comfortable. I’m talking about things that, for whatever reason, seem to make you feel just a little bit better.
Have you ever heard of prayer shawls? There are many groups around now that participate in this, but the basic idea is that individuals knit or crochet shawls, which they pray over, and they give them to those in need of comfort and solace. Janet Severi Bristow, one of the founders of the ministry in Hartford, CT describes it this way: “Shawls … made for centuries [are] universal and embracing, symbolic of an inclusive, unconditionally loving, God. They wrap, enfold, comfort, cover, give solace, mother, hug, shelter and beautify.” I just love this idea. Imagine wrapping a shawl of prayers and blessings around your shoulders. Close your eyes and feel the arms of the Father (and those who were involved in the making and distributing of the shawl) giving you a much needed hug.
I don’t have a prayer shawl, but I have a couple of shirts that I consider comfort shirts. One is this flannel shirt pictured below that I’ve had for probably 20 years. The other is a Tigger T-shirt that I may have had for just as long. It has small holes in it so I don’t wear it out anywhere, but sometimes I put it on when I’m having a down day. Or if my husband is out of town, I like to put on one of his shirts to feel closer to him. It comforts me to feel connected to him. I also have a quilt that my older sister made for me. I use it at night when it’s chilly, but I also like to cover up with it on the couch when I’m not feeling well. If you don’t have “comfort wear” already, why not pick something out … something that reminds you of happy times or a particular person or place. Next time you are feeling a little blue or lonely or sick, reach for that shirt or wrap or blanket and give yourself a hug. And be sure to also take some time out for yourself – time to rest and recharge.
If what you are feeling is stronger, deeper, more than you can handle alone … reach out. Call a friend or family member (we don’t know you are hurting unless you tell us), go to church, or find an opportunity to forget about your own troubles and help someone else. Helping others is a sure way to find not only comfort, but joy.
Lysa TerKeurst reminded me (and thousands of others) in a recent Facebook post: “Be joyful: Intentionally look around for measures of joy each day. There is joy in simply being alive and in being redeemed by God. Remember, joy is a choice we make, not a feeling we hope to get from our circumstances. It’s good to look for the good, to celebrate it even in small ways. Doing so is a moment of victory!”
No matter how unpleasant your current circumstances might be, don’t cover up or hide from the realities of your life. Don’t cower in shame for your weakness or allow your fears to debilitate you, but boldly reach for comfort whenever you need it. You are not meant to live in fear or to suffer alone. Actively pursue comfort and joy, and you will surely be moving in the right direction!
“If you love me, obey me; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you.”
John 14:15-16 (The Living Bible)