I participated in a fair amount of old school door-to-door evangelism. I don’t do it this way anymore, but back in the day, we took the gospel into neighborhoods from house to house like they did Encyclopedia Britannica and Hoover vacuums. Sometimes I went in teams of two or three. Occasionally I’d venture into a bedroom community like Brunswick, Ohio, and just go alone to fifty houses.
One typical report: Forty people weren’t home (or at least didn’t answer because they saw a guy walking up their driveway with a handful of gospel tracts), eight folks rejected me (They said, “No thank you” which translates into, “Hit the bricks, weirdo”) , one person was lonely and wanted to talk about her cat, and one guy had thought about all the reasons he didn’t need the gospel. He named them: “I am happy.” “I am not embarrassed or ashamed of anything.” “I am satisfied with my life as is, with no need to have anything or anyone added to me.”
I found it hard to get mad at that last guy. Just eight or so years prior to that point, it could have been me talking that way. I had had the same list—I was happy, unashamed, and satisfied…all without Jesus. How could that be? Well, easy. I had been the kind of happy like when you’re dirty, but since you’re in the dark, you don’t see it and so you don’t care. I was free of shame, like when you stink, but since everybody else in the locker room does too, you’re not embarrassed. I was satisfied like when you think peanut butter sandwiches are the bomb, but only because you’ve never had anything else in your life to eat. By those standards, I was happy and fulfilled.
Then something started to happen. I got uncomfortable with my life and my world. I received all kind of advice on how to numb that discomfort. Typically it consisted of girls, money, or beer. I’m glad I didn’t waste much time on those elixirs. None of them would have worked, because they never were going to work.
God had chosen me according to His vast foreknowledge and it was slowly playing out in my life. You can’t cure that. There’s no solving it. Bribes won’t help. Even with two hundred Band-Aids, the inward shakeup just continues. You see, God doesn’t choose you by calling your name off a roster and then you respond, jog over to His side and live happily ever after. He does it from your heart within and your circumstances without. “He chose you…by the sanctification of the Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:1-2). Or you could say, “He chose you…by the Spirit setting you apart.” He doesn’t make you happily fit into the current of the world; He makes you uncomfortable in it. He doesn’t make you happy in your life, he causes you to leave it.
For one thing, you start to notice sin both in you and around you. I took a ride with a buddy who had been married less than two years and just had his first baby. He was already cheating on his wife with multiple girls and was proud of it. I thought, Is this what it’s all about—some big game where everybody lies to each other? Then there was the empty, purposeless, trivial nature of life. As I sat in my room listening to music and eating chips, I thought, I’m part of a tragedy where billions of human beings desperately try to make the best of their fifteen minutes before it’s all over.
From time to time I wondered if I was slipping into some sort of mild depression. It bugged me. That scene might end up badly, like for Van Gogh when he cut his ear off.
Except I wasn’t a genius. Or a painter. Or even Dutch.
What finally happened shocked me. All that Discomfort saved my life.