For some time now I’ve been working on a writing project about a condition I call comfort addiction. We are all prone to it, for deep within, we all face an ache—whether we can name it or not.
Our soul-aches push us to seek soothing. We sample ointments of success and belonging and power and pride and judgment. We try them one at a time; we make our own concoctions and mix them together, but to no avail. Comfort eludes us.
Like a snake oil peddler, Comfort keeps coming around, spilling a carefully crafted pitch, calling us to try again—try the latest and greatest elixir that’s sure to ease the pain. But it’s all for naught, for our aches are never healed with such fleeting treatments.
You might think the trouble is that we long for comfort. Maybe if we resolved to quit wanting comfort—help, soothing, relief, and so on—then we would forget about the ache.
That hasn’t worked for me. My futile attempts to obtain comfort have led me to seek God, and the more I seek, the more I find that comfort is a major theme of the grand narrative that God has been telling throughout history.
One of my favorite passages about true comfort is in Isaiah 40, and yesterday my pastor spoke about that chapter, reminding me once again of God’s heart toward us comfort addicts:
“Comfort, oh comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak softly and tenderly to Jerusalem, but also make it very clear that she has served her sentence, that her sin is taken care of—forgiven! She’s been punished enough and more than enough, and now it’s over and done with.”
According to this, we ache inside when we aren’t clear that our sins are taken care of, when we aren’t sure of forgiveness. True comfort eludes us because we’ve been using substitutes, mere topical treatments that only mask the pain rather than healing the root of it.
I loved the points my pastor made about Jesus being the Good News—the Gospel:
1. The Good News is comfort after pain (Isa. 40:1–5).
2. The Good News is that God shows up to clean up our mess (Isa. 40:6–11).
3. The Good News is the incomparable greatness of God (Isa. 40:12–26).
4. The Good News is that jaded skepticism is overruled—God visits us (Isa. 40:27–31).
The Good News is that God offers true comfort in answer to our brokenness, that He cleans up the mess in our hearts so we see His greatness and know His nearness.
God is no comfort peddler. He offers the real deal—real freedom from the sin that weighs us down from the inside. This is the Good News: Jesus is the balm for our souls.