Please Pass the Comf, er, Casserole

May 02, 2022

What possible connection exists between Jesus’ promise to his disciples in John 15:26 and a stove?

First, you’re going to need to step into your sixth-grade school shoes -- just for a minute. Ready? Good! Find which one doesn’t belong in this set. Chicken soup. Green bean casserole. Apple pie. Creamy, pipin’ hot mac’n’cheese. Spaghetti & meatballs. Steamed broccoli. Deep-dish pizza. Pot pie. French fries.

And the answer is -- cue breathless anticipation -- the green florets tenderized by boiling water. In other words, steamed broccoli. It’s rich in at least 15 different vitamins and minerals, has no fat, minimal carbs, and contains sulforaphane which may help prevent serious diseases, including cancer. So what makes this cruciferous vegetable, which dates to ancient Roman times, an outlier?

It’s not a popular “comfort food.” Now, if you’re pointing a sharp fork in my direction and asserting, “Hang on just a minute! I disagree,” hold on. I didn’t say it couldn’t be a “comfort food;” it just doesn’t appear on most “Top Twenty Comfort Food” lists. Why do the other foods qualify?

Research suggests foods high in sugar, calories, and carbohydrates stimulate the brain’s reward system. To a lesser degree than in drug addiction but using the same neural pathways. It’s like narcotics zooming at Bugatti speeds in the left lane while comfort foods mosey like Hyundai’s in the right. Same road; different degrees. However, go too heavy on comfort food or devour it too often, and a physical crash is likely to occur, accompanied by emotional regret.

Why are comfort foods a category at all?

It’s fascinating that research suggests this fare ease loneliness by reminding us of social ties, with scents triggering strong connections to positive emotional memories.
Perhaps these dishes reveal our deeper hunger – for soul comfort.

It’s not only certain cuisine we turn to for soothing. It’s an overstuffed recliner, corner of the sofa, chair by the window. Thick, soft blankets we can wrap around ourselves are labeled “comforters.” Shopping becomes “retail therapy.” We use phrases like “comfortable lifestyle,” “comfortable home,” and “comfortable retirement.” What do all these have in common?

They give us a sense of security. Of belonging. Of rest.

Doesn’t something more than just our back and limbs and feet yearn for rest? Don’t we always thirst to belong? Don’t we constantly crave security?

Jesus knew your need for soul-food was real. He understood, better than anyone, how exhausting the trials of this life can be. He knew the war between good and evil would wear you down. That you would “grow faint” and be tempted to give up. He made you a promise.

I John 14:26, newer Bible translations use the word “Advocate” in reference to the Holy Spirit Jesus says will come. The word’s also been translated as “Comforter.” Either way, Jesus is conveying someone will come who will be for you and with you, reminding you of Jesus’ goodness and instruction. Not as an impossible-to-please lecturer, handing out shame. But as a beloved mentor, eager to help you succeed.

Your longing for comfort is understood by God.

Throughout the Old Testament, especially in the book of Isaiah, God proclaims his desire and plan to bring comfort. In the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 assures us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Sure, staying inside one’s “comfort zone” out of fear or laziness, isn’t aligned with God’s goal of maturing us. But there’s a place for tenderness. For assurance. For comfort. Just as there are times you should feast at the dinner table in celebration, you should also accept the invitation to come and receive abundant comfort.

Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength isn’t just about “doing.” Sometimes it’s just asking and receiving. Today, know when you need comfort, God isn’t coming at you like a bear robbed of her cubs. He’s coming for you like a grandmother with a giant casserole dish of steaming mac’n’cheese. Put up your feet, hold out your heart, and let Comfort fill you up!


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©Stephanie D. Smith, 2022

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