You and your family are driving down the interstate. It’s mealtime and your crowd is hungry, not just for fast food, but a meal. You know where to stop. You walk past the rocking chairs, into the store, hoping you won’t have to spend too much time while the rest of your crowd looks at all the stuff for sale after lunch. But you know this place. There seems to be one about every few exits on the interstate. You know the food. It’s predictable and comfortable. In fact, the restaurant advertises itself as a place you can get “comfort food.”
Comfort food. It brings a smile to your face and your taste buds. More than likely, it is the food you grew up with. For me, and for many of you, it was the food from Mama’s kitchen. This time of year it would be fresh vegetables out of the garden. Field and garden peas, butterbeans and corn, all seasoned just right with fatback. There was also the fried chicken, pork chops and all the other meals that thinking about today makes my mouth water. But I can’t forget the beef liver and rice that was one of my most favorite meals.
Liver? Yep, I loved it when Mama would cook liver. Even though I wasn’t a fan of onions, I loved the flavor they gave to the gravy on the rice. Even after I became an adult, Mama would often cook liver when she knew I was going to be home for supper. It was only after she had died, I learned that she and the rest of the family didn’t particularly care for liver. But she cooked it because she knew I liked it. So for me, beef liver really is a “comfort food.”
And comfort is often what we are looking for. We need relief from the pressures and tension of the world around us. It may just be the comfort of that favorite easy chair or those favorite blue jeans. Or it may be sought in an expensive sports car or mansion. It may be another person, or even your old faithful dog.
But the problem is the thing we seek comfort in can end up ruining our lives, instead of bringing comfort. That medication that was supposed to help leads to addiction. That calming drink ends in alcoholism. That sympathetic friend of the other sex ends up destroying your family.
But sometime the dangers in the search for comfort are not so obvious, but can end up just as tragic. This past weekend, I drove to Charlotte for a funeral. The lady who passed was the sister of a close friend. I’ve known her and their family for over thirty years. When she was young, the lady was cute, enthusiastic and full of life. But as she grew older, physical problems, like severe migraine headaches, and the tensions of life took their toll.
As the years went by, in her despair, she turned to food for comfort. But the added weight that came with the comfort of the food, only added to her physical problems. This contributed to the heart attack that took her life at only 55 years old.
Is it wrong sometimes to seek comfort amid all the tensions and everyday problems of this life? Of course, not! A good meal, a good friend, a good laugh, and even a good dog are to be enjoyed and cherished. But too often we forget the God who is the creator and ultimately over all those good things that can comfort us. As Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, he is the “God of all comfort.” (2 Cor. 1:3)
But, as we often do, we end up seeking the creation, rather than the Creator. We look for comfort, rather than the Comforter. Why? Because as God comforts, He often challenges. Paul wrote that He is the God, “who comforts us in all our tribulation; that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:4) Also notice that he is the God “who comforts us in all our tribulation,” not necessarily removing us from our problems, as often those false comforters promise, but fail to deliver.
Yes, I enjoy “comfort food,” including beef liver, from time to time. But it’s the nourishment from the “God of all comfort,” that gives me the comfort I really need.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.