Everyone wants to get comfortable—a favorite t-shirt, softest jeans; a recliner that is soft enough, but not too soft; shoes that are broken in, but not broken down; a cup of hot tea; a crackling fire in the fireplace; a good book.
There’s nothing wrong with comfort. It’s something we all want and need to get through our busy life.
The difficulty comes when the things we go to for comfort become things we have to have to survive, things we will sell our first-born to get, things we must have despite damage to our health.
Some of these seem innocuous at first—a pan of brownies is not bad unless we have to have an entire batch in the morning and another in the evening just to make it through the day.
If things we go to for comfort limit our life, they cease to be comforting and begin to make our lives extremely uncomfortable.
The problem is, we’ve made them so much a part of our life we can’t see ourselves without them. Who is Jane without the 100 extra pounds on her body? It has become her identity.
Why do we seek out items that comfort us and give the type of identity we really don’t want? Most of the time we do it in order to keep us from feeling something we don’t know how to feel. Here are a few of those.
Fear—There are many things we are afraid of and foods, especially those made with processed sugar and bread, give us this false sense of calm. It may be fear of being alone, fear of embarking on a new vocation, fear of being asked to do something that will embarrass you. And so we eat and for a moment, the fear subsides.
Anger—Anger is an emotion no one wants to feel and yet everyone feels angry at some time. Instead of examining why we are angry and processing our feelings, we tend to stuff them with “comfort” foods and all of a sudden, we are not angry. The problem with stuffing our feelings is we build a kind-of iceberg effect where the world sees what’s on the surface but underneath is something that can be very dangerous.
Sad—Life cannot always be a bed of roses. There are going to be some sad times. Many people don’t like to feel the sadness and so they find some way to make themselves happy. Or some way to at least think they are happy and hide the fact they are sad. Sadness is an acceptable feeling. Tears wash the soul. Go ahead and cry. It helps comfort much better than eating something we will regret later.
Lonely—At some point, everyone is lonely. We can be in a house full of people and feel lonely or we can be by ourselves and feel fine. One does not always have to have someone nearby to feel fulfilled. Eating does seem to be a something people do to take up time when they want a mate or a friend nearby. Eating ourselves to oblivion does not help with making friends. It can actually drive friends away. Acknowledging our need at times to be with people if important. We can go be a friend to someone more lonely than we are. And before long we can’t remember what being lonely felt like.
Pain—Many people want to be comforted if they feel pain of any kind, emotional, physical, even spiritual pain. If there is no one around to give them the feedback they want, they will feed on whatever they can find. However, doing this can make the pain worse instead of better. If there is legitimate pain, find a practitioner who can help. Don’t suffer trying to self-medicate with food.
Control—It seems backwards to think that those who want to feel in control would be out of control with eating foods to bring comfort. However, in a strange way, eating whatever a person wants makes them feel they are in control. In other words we are adults. We can eat that and no one is going to tell us no. It might be the only thing we can control in their life. In that way it brings us some measure of comfort. Obviously, it is flawed thinking.
Tired—Those who binge and give into sugar cravings, are, of course, tired. It goes with the territory. Sugar and flour laden items make us feel tired the more we eat them. Many times we eat these thinking they will give us energy. They do, for a half a minute, and then our bodies hit bottom, become extremely lethargic and want more. So we start the cycle all over again.
Happy—This emotion seems contradictory to all of the others, but in reality when we want to be happy, to reward ourselves, to celebrate, we normally go to something comforting, such as food. Even if there is no one to celebrate with, food will do the trick. It gives us a false sense of celebration when in actuality it makes us feel worse.
Besides food as a source of comfort, there are many other false comforts we go to: drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, pornography, elicit sex, overworking, over-spending and over-shopping, hoarding and many others. Although we know the Holy Spirit should be our source of comfort we choose things we can see, hear, feel, touch, smell or taste.
We can do whatever we want, but at what cost? Paul said it best when he pointed out, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me but I will not be mastered by anything.”1
We can do anything that doesn’t harm another person. But what if the person being harmed is ourselves? What if the seemingly harmless way we are comforting ourselves leads to our demise—emotionally, physically or spiritually?
There is, of course, only one true Comforter and that’s the Holy Spirit. He has a way of holding us, embracing us, securing us, loving us, fighting for us and going before us to make a way. The problem is, we usually don’t choose Him first.
One of the greatest kings of all times knew the secret to going to God for comfort even when an entire nation was counting on him. “Lord, my heart is not proud my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—now and always.”2
Jesus emphasized the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, Advocate, Friend, Guide, Teacher of truth, ever-present source of life here on earth. His role is to help us in all things so that we can be God’s hands and feet here on earth.
It is His sincere desire that we process our emotions and go forward accepting His prescription for Comfort.
He is a gentleman and will not force Himself into our lives. He will however, make a way if we let Him. Let’s begin by not trying to fix every emotion we feel with ice cream and brownies. Why not get comfortable with the Holy Spirit instead. Try talking to Him. He’s always listening.
How does the Holy Spirit comfort you?
1 1 Corinthians 6:12, NAS
2 Psalms 131:1-3, NLT
Teresa Shields Parker is a wife, mother, business owner, life group leader, speaker and author of Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God’s Favor and Sweet Grace Study Guide: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Overcome Sugar Addiction. Get a free chapter of her memoir on her blog at Teresa Shields Parker.com. Connect with her there or on her Facebook page.