Photo by Nicole
For just over two years, I lived in the Middle East—flitting solo around countries that are often considered dangerous by those in the West but were far less daunting up close. (Pro-tip: Some of the best adventure kayaking I’ve ever done was in the Kurdish region of Iraq.) I did not have indoor air conditioning. I did not own a car. And I always chose the cheapest flights, regardless of what time they were scheduled to leave.
Admittedly, these facts/choices led to a certain level of discomfort: I sweated through the hot, humid summers, and I lost plenty of sleep travelling to and from airports or bunking down overnight on a terminal floor. Though I sometimes resorted to writing in an air-conditioned coffee shop to escape the afternoon heat, for the most part, I didn’t dwell on the discomfort. It was simply part of life. Instead, I joked about the ‘luxury’ of having internet, electricity and hot water all at once, as I lived in a place with daily power cuts and slower-than-average Wi-Fi speeds.
When things you take for granted aren’t readily available, you relish the simple blessings. I noticed—and appreciated—the blast of cool air as I entered the supermarket. I literally gave thanks for each hot shower in the winter. I rejoiced when the internet worked well enough for me to complete a full Skype call with a far-away friend.
Then I moved back to the US, where, I thought, things would be easier. Sure, the state I lived in also had hot, humid summers, but I’d have both air conditioning and a car! I got married a couple months after arriving home (Thanks, ‘Operation Marriage’!), so instead of travelling alone, I’d have a built-in adventure buddy and ministry partner.
You all know that’s not how things worked out. I mean, yes, I had air conditioning and a car, but in those few minutes of walking between buildings, the entire world felt like the inside of the tropical bird exhibit at the zoo. One month after our wedding, my husband was scheduled to go on a two-week ministry trip without me. Then I went somewhere without him, and, as it turned out, our travel schedules didn’t align so perfectly after all. I started collecting miles with a particular airline, and I groaned when I had to get up early to go to the airport or take a cheaper out-of-network flight. When my plan didn’t work out, I got picky and complained.
Still, a lot of things in my new home were really great. It was much greener than I expected, which thrilled my nature-loving heart. I reconnected with old friends and made new ones. My husband and I, despite often travelling separately, were also able to collaborate on several ministry projects and take a few trips together. But I realised that sometimes it’s when I’m most comfortable that I’m most apt to complain.
A couple months ago, God convicted me about chasing comfort. First, there’s Philippians 2:14-15, which says, “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (NLT). Then there’s Paul’s comment two chapters later about being content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13).
As I’ve stood in long immigration lines at airports or experienced lengthy delays, I’ve caught myself thinking about the impact of my attitude. When I’m impatient and annoyed, that’s what the people around me see—that’s how I’m representing my life as a Jesus follower. But when I shrug and smile and settle back into my seat or when I use the time standing in line to pray, I’m passing the peace of God onto those travellers around me. It doesn’t matter if I want things to be a certain way; inevitably, life isn’t perfect. But I can choose how I react—to the weather, flight delays, travelling alone—and I can “be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT).
I won’t always be comfortable, but I can embrace discomfort as I pursue God’s will in my life and seek to glorify Him.