I love Sunday afternoons on my mama’s couch. We watch Netflix with a whole lot of pauses for conversation. We drink coffee and eat dessert and take lots of bathroom breaks. But I truly treasure that time with her.
We are comfortable together. And that comfort is where we find our Sabbath rest.
But what if I sought that kind of comfort every day? What if I wanted to wallow on a daily basis? To be honest, there are days, now that I work from home, that I do want to stay in my pajamas, walk over to Mema’s, and hang out with her all day. Comfort can be addictive.
So can our messes.
In a Mess or on a Mission?
I’ve noticed lately devotions and blogs that are geared toward making us feel okay with our comfort and messes. Don’t get me wrong: I totally believe that Jesus accepts us in all of our mess. He chooses us, comes to us, seeks us out, and loves us, even in the midst of messy hair and the days that we just don’t care.
I’m not minimizing our pain, confusion, or disillusionment. I’m not saying Jesus isn’t there when we feel we don’t measure up or that we have failed as wives, mothers, or even as Christian women.
But He loves us far too much to leave us there. Jesus calls us out of our mess and into His mission.
I have days I feel rejected, insecure, and pitiful–days that I know I’m not good enough and I don’t measure up. Those are the days that I have to determine in my spirit that I can be pitiful or I can be powerful, but I can’t be both. Those are the days that I run to Jesus for His love and acceptance. And His forgiveness.
Jesus has called us to be His disciples. Disciple and discipline sound a lot alike, don’t they? Most of us don’t like the word discipline, because it calls to mind either punishment or strict rules. But the truth is that discipline is what we need in our lives to keep us focused on the mission of making disciples.
Jesus, in Matthew 6, discussed three spiritual disciplines that I believe can help us get our minds off ourselves and our mess and on Him and his mission. In each of these, He says “when” not “if” you do these things.
Giving to the Needy
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret” (Matthew 6:2-4a, NIV 84).
Many times, we feel justified in our “messy” living, because at least we aren’t like those hypocrites who just pretend to have it all together. But if you will notice here, Jesus is calling us to neither hypocrisy nor inaction. He is telling us to give sincerely, from the heart.
Nothing will take your mind off your mess quite like giving to someone else. We can always find someone with more needs than our own. The spiritual discipline of giving draws our heart to the the Kingdom, where our giving can be not only an act of sacrifice on our part, but also a witness to those who receive.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (6:5-6a).
Do you ever tell someone you will pray for them and then a week later remember you never did? Are you often convicted of there being so many needs, but you know you fail to pray as you should? I do both of these.
Is our lack of discipline in prayer because we seek the comfort of staying in bed a little longer, because we feel we can’t pray as eloquently as the next person, or the result of our time and energy being consumed with our own problems?
Any of those excuses is (ahem) really because we are focused on our own comfort and our own messy world (me included). Jesus made it clear He isn’t calling us to eloquent words (6:7-8) or public places. He is calling us to sincere hearts that call out to Him from our own rooms, in our own words, not to be seen but to be focused on His kingdom.
“‘This, then, is how you should pray:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”‘” (6:9-10).
Prayer is a spiritual discipline that calls our hearts out of our mess and into the mission of the Kingdom.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen” (6:16-18a).
Fasting is probably the least-practiced of these spiritual disciplines, but one that has great power to get our hearts back in line with God when our focus has become blurred. It’s a way of saying to God that you want Him more than food and you are willing to sacrifice your own comfort for more of Him.
None of these spiritual disciplines gain us salvation or favor with God. They don’t make us better than anyone else. If that were true, the Pharisees would have been commended. But we are not to dismiss these disciplines, either. When done in humility and privacy, they show that our hearts and minds are focused on God and His mission.
So what about my mess?
What if I’m still struggling just to put one foot in front of the other each day, to make dinner for my family, to get dressed, to go to church? What if I’m still comforting myself with unhealthy responses?
Jesus understands. But just like the woman at the well who came looking for a drink, Jesus offers us something better: Himself (John 4).
If you find that you’re a complete mess today, let me encourage you. Jesus loves you completely in your mess. And He can transform your mess into a powerful message. Once the woman at the well met Jesus, she realized that He was what she truly needed to set her free. Instead of finding comfort in the arms of a man, she found comfort in the Living Water.
She left behind her water jar and told everyone she knew to “come see this man.”
Jesus still completely satisfies today. But we have to be willing to surrender to Him, to let Him have His way in us, and to follow hard after Him.
He will call us out of our comfort and our mess and into the greatest relationship we have ever known. All those things we seek to bring us comfort will still call out to us every now and then. But if we will discipline ourselves to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (6:33), our hearts will be drawn back to the mission of telling others the Good News.
And every seventh day, He lets us come to Him to worship, to serve, to fellowship, and then to go home and take a nap. Pajamas. Messy hair. Dessert. Comfort. Then get up. And get back to the mission.