Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Is Comfort Killing Your Soul?

In the West, we strive to make everything comfortable. We wake up in a cozy bed, take a steaming shower, dry with a downy soft towel, put on a tailored suit, settle into the leather seats of our car, crank up the air-conditioning, walk through the automatic doors at work, adjust our pneumatic chair, and chat on our hands-free telephone.

We are in love with comfort.

FrankCreative Commons License Al King via Compfight

We work hard to save money to retire comfortably.  Simultaneously, we go into ridiculous debt buying oversized houses—a room for everyone, plus a workout room, craft room, guest room, and movie room.

We are addicted to comfort.

But what if comfort is not actually good for us? What if it kills our souls? What if we are committing gradual soul suicide?

There is at least one place where I gladly jump on the comfort train—the dentist. Think about the days before anesthesia. The dentist gave you a stiff drink than started yanking. Today, they even put you to sleep for more serious operations. At the dentist, I am glad for the comfort that sedatives bring.

However, comfort in other areas of life seems to work in the same way.

Comfort is an Anesthesia. It puts us to sleep.

Comfort makes us lethargic. We become numb to our surroundings, blinded to ourselves. Comfort sedates us.

Think about kids who grow up with everything they want in life. What happens to them? They end up on a reality TV show shouting, “No, Dad! I wanted a RED car not a blue one!”

They never experience the discomfort of working their way through college. They never scrape and save to buy their first car. The never learn to embrace discomfort. Perhaps making children comfortable is not the primary aim of the parent. Perhaps our job is to walk beside them as they face the difficulties of life.

We were made for more than comfort. We were made to live.

“A ship in a harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”William Shedd

Adversity is a Fire. It burns down a house or forges a sword. (tweet that?)

I am not a masochist. I do not love pain. But I know if you avoid discomfort you miss out on real life change.

Uncomfortable conversations are the only way relationships grow. If we avoid them, we slowly grow apart.

Uncomfortable situations show us our weaknesses and motivate us to grow. Coaches intentionally place players in uncomfortable situations to help them grow.

The weight room—uncomfortable.
Wind sprints—very uncomfortable.
Having energy in the fourth quarter—awesome.

Adversity is white-hot fire. In it, we are either destroyed or remade.

Almost four years ago we left our comfortable home in the Atlanta and moved to Sarajevo. We did not speak the language. We did not understand the local people. We did not know how to raise children here. We did not know how to do our job here.

It has been four straight years of discomfort. I have never grown faster or changed more. My soul is alive.

We were not made for comfort; we were made for life, for adventure, for purpose.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Unknown

So what are you going to do about it?

Choose to do something uncomfortable. Go on a trip, start a project, have a conversation that scares you. Get uncomfortable and watch your soul come alive.

Share below in the comments.

About Josh

  • Laura

    Yup. Totally true. Thx for sharing & reminding us what is important for our growth.

  • Peter Sayal

    Your post reminded me of a letter I was reading by John Newton to his daughter. He opened the letter comparing the protected life of his daughter to that of a ship which is at port getting ready for its first voyage. Just like the ship will have to battle rough and unknown seas, so the daughter will have to face an unknown life, but she can rest in the fact that the Lord will be with her, and she should venture out. Adversity can either bring out the best in us or the worst in us. I always pray that it would be the former in my life rather than the latter. Hence, I decided to trust the Lord and come here to Africa.

    • thanks for adding this

    • Josh

      Peter, can you post a link to that letter or where I can find it? Thanks for the comment.

  • Goran Osmovic

    Very truthful and well written article.

    • Josh

      Hvala Ti Goran.

  • I know plenty of people who, after graduating high school, chose to stay in the same environment with the same people in fear of discomfort. Now, they are stagnating with not much going on and some are even becoming worse than they were. It really can kill the soul, although I wouldn’t say it kills everyone. I’d rather say it happens more often than not.

    I think two of the people who are really making differences and taking off are a close friend of mine and myself. He moved to Berkeley, which is a LOONG way from home and I moved to Arizona. We both were tossed into rather uncomfortable surroundings and we used it to grow.

    • Josh

      Agrees. For some people, leaving home is hard–that’s the uncomfortable thing. For others, staying home is hard. But, if we never try because we are afraid of discomfort, we won’t grow.

  • Marshall

    I think you are right on the mark ;)…Mark 8:36 “…For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

    • Josh

      Thanks Marshall. Comfort does not pay out over the long term.

  • a truth you know and stated so well, it is quite familiar to me as well

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