We all need two things in our life: comfort and significance.
Look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
- Physiological needs (Food, water, shelter, etc.) = Comfort
- Safety needs (Security, employment, resources, health, etc.) = Comfort
- Love and belonging = Significance
- Esteem (Respect, status, recognition, freedom) = Significance
- Self-actualization (being the most you can be) = Significance
So you see, everything we pursue in life comes down to these two very basic categories: comfort and significance.
In fact, we will only give up one of those things inasmuch as we are able to gain from the other. It’s a very interesting dynamic.
For example, I will only go to the gym and work out (sacrificing comfort) if I believe that such an activity will give me more physical and mental significance. I will push myself pretty hard in the gym if I believe that hard work and discipline are two things that are worthy of being passed on to the next generation. If I am able to pass those along because I’m pushing myself hard in the gym, now, at least in my mind, I am more significant.
The same is true of comfort. I am only willing to give up the chance at being significant if it gains me a significant amount of comfort. Plenty of people spend their time outside of work and other obligations on a couch or eating junk food. We’re all guilty of this on some level, and the reason we do it is because we are, either consciously or unconsciously, making a decision to except comfort in the place of significance. It’s a trade off we are willing to make weather we realize it or not.
So, then, “success” is simply shorthand for more comfort and significance.
But is God okay with me pursuing more comfort and significance?
Neither comfort nor significance is bad. In fact, I would argue that we are alive for these two reasons.
All the best things about being alive bring some level of comfort. If we are uncomfortable, and if we are uncomfortable for no reason associated with future gain of comfort or significance, then something is probably wrong.
For example, if you’re experiencing increasing levels of discomfort in your back in the form of back pain, there’s probably something wrong. You instinctively know that because there is no end goal of achieving more comfort or significance from your back pain.
So discomfort in and of itself is not a good thing. Yet your body knows that and continually alarms you using discomfort and causing you to address potential long-term problems.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, then everything you believe is based on comfort and significance.
Heaven is comfort (Revelation 21:4), walking with God here on Earth brings comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Psalm 23:4), and being a child of God is significance.
Everything you do in your life revolves around these two things.
The problem is, we tend to lose focus on the right source of these two things.
Too often in our lives, we lean on other sources of both comfort and significance. We look to our jobs, our families, our social status, and any other number of things to help us gain comfort and significance. The problem is, nothing ever fills the void, and so people who mean well will end up abandoning the false sources of comfort and significance without ever replacing those sources with the true source.
So what happens is, we end up believing that comfort and significance are things that are not meant for us. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve come across who live meaningless lives because they’ve come to believe that comfort and significance are bad things. And it’s true, when you are reaching from the wrong source, they are bad things. But we were made for comfort and significance.
Let’s get deep for a second
Think about the biblical history of the human race. At one point in our history, we had all the comfort and significance we wanted. We had every resource at our disposal and all the authority we could ever ask for. Except there was more.
There was one thing that seemed as if it could bring more comfort and significance, so we tried it out. We thought that if we just learned enough and tried hard enough then we could be the source of our own comfort and significance. Yet here we are still today with many of us trying the same tactic. It doesn’t bring lasting comfort or significance now just like it didn’t then.
But here’s where it gets fun. Once you can see and identify the problem, you actually have a chance at resolving it. Once you know that comfort and significance drive your life, now you know what void to fill. Now you know what battle to fight.
The truth that we all need to hear is that we are not nobodies from nowhere. Success is not something to be feared. Ideas in your heart are not something to be stifled. It’s not always pride and it’s not the enemy trying to destroy your life through aspirations.
You’re alive for a purpose, and that purpose is comfort and significance. If we can learn to fight the battle within ourselves – the battle of trying to gain comfort and significance on our own instead of pulling them from God – then we’ve learned to fight the only battle worth fighting, the fight of faith.
The faith you and I are fighting for is the belief that comfort and security come from a higher source and not from our own abilities to achieve. So don’t shy away from accomplishment or success. Instead, see them for what they are – A gift from your father to you for you to enjoy the comfort and security he has already given you. Once you realize that, then go use what you’ve already been given to bring the same thing to others.