Friday, August 19, 2022

Uncomfortable in the Race of Life

[Originally published in the Monroe News on August 19, 2022]

One of the favorite shows my wife and I share when we’re looking for a few simple laughs is The Big Bang Theory.  My wife would likely say the geeky social-awkwardness displayed by all the main guys in the show is probably the man she’s known and loved since college.  The primary character on the show, Sheldon, is the most awkward of them all.  He may also be the brightest.  A simple dialogue between him and another character Rajesh came to my mind recently as I was finishing up thoughts for a sermon at my congregation at Grace.

Rajesh: Come on, Sheldon. The world is filled with people doing things outside; let’s go outside. Outside is good.
Sheldon: If outside is so good, why has mankind spent thousands of years trying to perfect inside?

It’s definitely a line good for a chuckle.  I happen to resonate most with Rajesh here.  I do believe outside is good.  I do love the beauty and wonder of nature and even the fact that outside does sometimes get uncomfortable and challenging.  While Sheldon makes an interesting point with all the comforts we’ve developed over time to guide our inside lives (I’m pretty sure no one complains about the invention of indoor plumbing) it isn’t a complete replacement for the need to get uncomfortable and get outside.

I bring up these thoughts because I am especially interested in talking about the comfortable/uncomfortable dynamic.  I do believe God’s word speaks to the fact that this life will, and even needs, to involve getting uncomfortable.  In our congregation we recently read from Hebrews chapter 11.  It is an amazing chapter speaking of the faith of individuals of old.  By faith they conquered kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire and all sorts of other amazing deeds.  But it also speaks of individuals who went about in the skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated, wandering about in deserts and mountains.  Uncomfortable things.

The writer to the Hebrews furthers this thought of getting uncomfortable when he begins chapter 12 and compares this life to running a race: “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”  I don’t know about you, but I can hardly even speak the word endurance without starting to break a sweat.  I hear endurance and all I can picture is sweat, and pain, and blood and dirt and blistered feet.  More uncomfortable things.

Faithfulness to God’s calling in this life is absolutely an endurance test and one that almost certainly will involve us getting uncomfortable.  This life is not about getting comfortable in this world.  Too much comfort here tends to involve making idols of the trinkets of this world.  Too much comfort leads to complacency and apathy about the things of God.  It is the idea that if we feel we’ve met all our needs by our own hands and we’ve reached complete self-sufficiency in our comfort then what is God needed for?  

Jesus modeled a different path.  In Matthew 8:20 we hear Him say “foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  Though the Son of God in the flesh, Jesus didn’t require or demand a luxurious palace to live in.  He showed the uncomfortable life by making it a life of service and sacrifice.  He was the kind of Lord who would get dirty on his hands and knees washing the feet of His disciples.  He was the kind of Lord who would confront others in their sin because He loved them.  He wouldn’t dare look the other way when someone He loved was in a spiral of self-destruction.  All of Jesus’ ministry was uncomfortable.

As I considered the words of the writer to the Hebrews who tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” and also bids us “look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” I couldn’t help but think of an example from my own experiences in running races.  In the world of ultramarathons (and I would certainly think of this race of life as comparable to an ultra) aid stations are a big deal.  Aid stations are set up along a race course usually every 5 miles or so and they are little beacons of hope for tired runners.  They have food and drink and other supplies to help weary runners on their path.  In long ultras it is common to have chairs for runners to sit and take a break while they eat some food.  These chairs might seem a blessing and a welcome rest but they can also be a comfort trap.  You sit down too long and get too comfortable and many runners have been led into the decision to quit their race as the comfort of the chair became too alluring.  The runner who has endurance and a drive to finish needs to get uncomfortable again.  They need to drag themselves out of that comfort zone and get moving forward again.  

Life can be so much like this.  We can get too comfortable in things that will ultimately lead us away from God and His Word.  These things will lead us away from the prize that awaits us at the finish line.  We need to get uncomfortable again.  We need to run with endurance and perseverance along the path our Lord Jesus set before us.  It's the path He ran for us.

To God be the glory.

Mark Witte is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church.
You can contact him at

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