A couple of years ago, a general authority from my church came to our stake conference and spoke to us. Something that was said has stuck with me—the concept it taught, if not the exact wording. The idea was this:
Most of us tend to try too hard to become comfortable here on earth. We are not here to be comfortable. This is not our home.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about that.
It was pointed out that most of us measure “good” as in “I had a good day” by how comfortable we have been: I have felt well. It was not too hot, or too cold. I didn’t have to do anything too difficult, nor too challenging. My children were easy to get along with today. My throat wasn’t hurting like it has been for the past week. Etc., Etc.
This is such a natural way of judging our experiences that it’s hard to step away from it and look at the bigger picture. The eternal picture.
We are here to do our best, to prove what we are really made of. We are here to serve, to learn how to put others’ needs before our own, to live as Christ lived. Our primary goal in life, or even for a good day, should not be to be comfortable. There are much higher goals to be aiming for. Our Lord, of course, puts this best:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).
Can I just point out one thing that I find really interesting about that scripture? The word “treasure.” I tend to think of treasure as a really worldly thing. Kind of like comfort. But Christ refers in this scripture not only to worldly treasure, but to treasure in heaven that we should be focusing on. Interesting.
C. S. Lewis’ classic essay The Weight of Glory (found in his book by the same name) comes to mind. I love this essay. If you haven’t read it, you should; it will give you a remarkable paradigm shift. If you are already a fan of C. S. Lewis, you will understand me when I say that I cannot possibly do justice to his point by writing a few lines of his essay here. If you are not yet a fan of C. S. Lewis, read this essay through two or three times, that you may become one. 🙂
In this essay, Lewis speaks of how Christians are taught to desire the rewards of heaven. But what are they? We hardly know. So how then are we to desire them? Lewis suggests that this desire is already manifested in us, we just don’t realize that it is heaven that we are yearning for. Perhaps we remember a time where we think we had momentarily obtained ultimate comfort, beauty, happiness or inspiration. But even in trying to recreate these experiences, we never…quite…are satisfied. Lewis tells us why:
“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited” (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, Harper Collins 2001 ed., pp. 30-31).
He goes on a little later to say: “A man’s physical hunger does not prove that man will get any bread; he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist” (Ibid, p. 32).
So first, here is the bad news: the ultimate comfort, the ultimate beauty, the ultimate fulfillment that we all seek for, simply does not exist here. We may get glimpses, but they will be gone in a flash and we will always be left wanting more.
But the good news is that what we want does exist. What’s more, we are supposed to be yearning for it, and seeking for it. The reason that we are not supposed to focus too hard on being comfortable or perfectly happy or satisfied here is that we cannot be. And the only way that we can be, someday, is if we give up these moth-eaten earthly treasures to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven—the real, lasting, incorruptible treasures. The ones that we were created for, the ones that we already feel the ache for.
For people of faith, this is the great motivating force for all the good that we do. Take up your cross and follow me becomes an attainable goal when we remember that we are following our Master to the only place where all crosses will finally be laid to rest, and where we will be eternally happy in ways that we have only yet glimpsed or dreamed about.
So don’t lay too many treasures up here. There is much more to life than being comfortable. But remember, we are on our way.
What scriptures or other inspiration helps you to stay focused on an eternal perspective?