Comfort Is A Valid Need
I saw this post on Instagram recently with the phrase "comfort is a valid need" stacked and repeated six times. The context was for meeting the needs of infants, of which comfort is a valid one. I believe this is true for all humans, no matter their age. We are all in need of comfort. Especially when things like a pandemic upend our lives as we knew them in a matter of days and show us how fragile our societies really are.
I approached this COVID-19 hype with a small amount of anxiety and a lot of skepticism. My main concern was that eventually I would have to be cooped up in my house all day alone with my kids for some length of time. For my selfishness, I repent. For my inability to look beyond the ramifications to my own life, I repent. I have done an about face. I see it as the grace of God that my little world blew up in December and I have had almost three months to process before the reality of this global crisis hit. A grace not all have been granted and by no means did I deserve. That is what makes it grace. I am committed to doing what I can to be a helper to others and to hold space especially for those who are struggling right now.
Last week in Bible Study Fellowship our lesson in 1 Corinthians focused on laying down our rights for the good of others. As this COVID-19 crisis has come to a head, I have surrendered my need for face to face interaction. I lay down my "right" to do what I (under normal circumstances) need to do to take care of my mental health. I lay that down because this is not about just me. It is about all of us. It is about the elderly and the immunocompromised that are most at risk of complications and death. It is about all of us. Even the young with no underlying conditions have been put on ventilators. No one is immune. No one is exempt. And that reality terrifies this nation and especially those of us who take our health and daily lives for granted. Who feel invincible. We are not. We are incredibly fragile human beings fighting each other for toilet paper and bread and milk in the grocery store. And if this crisis has shown me anything, it is just how little control we have. Any illusion of it has been stripped from us. We are only human after all.
In the midst of this crisis, I have seen so many calls to adhere to God's "command" not to fear. And I just do not see the heart of God in that. I really don't. I don't see God hovering over us commanding us not to fear when we are fearful. Because frankly, God is not stupid. And he knows that is not how it works. I see passages in the Bible that address this subject through different eyes. I have had it expressed to me by well-meaning people that they know what it is like to be in fear and they are not anymore. As if sanctification is not a lifelong process. And I call bullshit. Bull. Shit. It makes sense that people are scared. That people are fearful. That people are anxious. It makes sense. It is a human reaction to a loss of the illusion of control. The reality of the unknown. The possibility of the loss of a loved one. Of being unable to pay bills because of loss of employment. Of being hungry and in need. Realities that hit the most vulnerable harder than ever, and realities that are new to a lot of us privileged enough not to have to worry about those things before now.
The Bible is full of fragile humanity in crisis. David cries out to God in desperation all throughout the Psalms, fearing for his life. Psalms that brought me so much comfort in the depths of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Not just once did he cry out and have his angst assuaged once and for all. No. Many, many, many times he cries out to God in complete and utter despair and then finds comfort in his Father God. This man who is called a man after God's own heart expresses the same depths of desperation that I feel myself. The book of Lamentations. Job. Ecclesiastes. It's not just in the Old Testament either, it's also in the New. So many times I have recalled how Jesus wept with Mary and Martha for the death of Lazarus. He KNEW he was going to raise him from the dead. He still empathized and wept with them. He didn't say "STOP IT, WOMEN! SORROW IS NOT OF GOD! LOOK WHAT I'M ABOUT TO DO!" He held space for their pain and suffering and then he brought Lazarus back to life. Jesus, the night before he went to the cross, sweat blood pleading with the Father to let there be another way. That level of anxiety and fear is something I have never experienced. The Son of God experienced it and is without sin. He wrestled with God the Father and submitted to his will because he values us so much and wanted to make a way to reconcile us to a relationship with him. Gave his life to save us. Talk about laying down your rights.
I have wrestled with God about all the things myself. I don't understand, Father. I see you provided this job opportunity for my husband to get us out of a toxic situation. Yet now the economy is crashing in response to this pandemic and it seems like we are going to crash with it. A million different possible negative outcomes swirl in my head. What if? What if? What if? And what I hear from God is not a rebuke for not following his "command" not to fear, but a gentle reminder that even when I cannot see, he is there. Even when I am fearful, he is there. My gracious Father is drawing me close to him, wrapping me up tight in his love. Covering me with his grace. I do not know how things will turn out. I do not know what tomorrow holds. My feelings are a roller coaster, just like all of us. I am constantly returning to my fear AND constantly reminding myself that my God is with me.
What I know is that comfort is a valid need. What GOD knows is that comfort is a valid need. Telling others to "stop panicking" when they are panicking is never helpful. Telling those who have expressed fear that fear is not of God and God commands us not to fear is never helpful. NEVER. Ever. Don't do it. Be Jesus and hold space for the hurting. The most comforting thing is often just holding space for the feelings. Suspend judgement. You are not the judge. You don't know what that person has lived and experienced. You don't know what triggers them. Only they do. So look through the eyes of God. The eyes of compassion. When others are suffering, offer words of validation and comfort or for the love of God, please just shut up. Because, you guessed it, comfort is a valid need.
Anyone vulnerable enough to express their fears out loud is not asking for validation that they are sinful for being human (because it is not a sin to have fear). They are asking if they are all alone, or if there are others out there too. And can we get through this together. Can we comfort each other. Can we support each other in uncertain times. Can we make the sacrifices necessary to protect both ourselves and each other. Can we serve the vulnerable. Can we show up even when it is scary. It is not "I am scared BUT I am showing up." It is "I am scared AND I am showing up." Hold space, because comfort is a valid need and God commands us to care for the vulnerable. The end.