Written by Jayda Hooge
Have you ever thought about how being too dependent on your comfort zone can hinder you from following God?
Growing up, I was a shy, self-conscious preteen. I was scared to speak up in groups of people because I was afraid of saying something stupid and being made fun of for it. I only let the people I knew well see the real me. These fears caused me to play it safe with what I chose to do and who I chose to let in.
My mom saw this tendency to seek comfortable environments and helped to put me in situations that challenged me in this area. The summer before Grade 8 she signed me up for a Bible camp that was about three hours away from where we lived. Let me tell you, little unconfident self was fully freaked out!
The week began with my parents putting me on the camp bus that took all of us junior highs away for the week. I remember sitting in a bus row by myself, tears streaming down my face as I waved goodbye.
Fast forward to the end of the week and I had made friends with the girls in my cabin, ridden some horses, done some other fun camp activities, and generally had a great time. Even though I had started out very anxious and nervous, it had turned out all right, because I was willing to give it a chance. I’m sure my mom’s eyes gleamed with the motherly “told you so” look when my parents picked me up!
I know now that my mom gave me an invaluable gift. She encouraged (and pushed) me to challenge the dependence I had on my comfort zone. Looking back, I see that through this experience my parents prepared me for where God would lead me in the years afterward. I went on a missions trip with my youth group to a slum in Mexico and then a few years after that I went to Bible school in Costa Rica by myself.
At the beginning of both of those experiences, I felt the familiar anxiety and nervousness of doing something I’ve never done before, but I knew that I could make it through. All three of these somewhat monumental experiences have helped to pave the way in my heart to trust God with what He wants to lead me into.
Although these three experiences involved travel (what can I say, I’ve got the bug!), there have also been other non-travel related situations where God has showed me the pitfalls of staying in my comfort zone. Unfortunately, I haven’t always said yes to His leading.
Each of my church’s young adult groups takes turns serving at the local soup kitchen, and I have avoided going two years in a row. I felt nervous and a little anxious, so I decided not to. I didn’t realize I was basing my decision on what would keep me in my comfort zone.
When I started reflecting on the deeper reason for not wanting to go, God showed me it was because I didn’t want to sacrifice my comfort. That was very eye-opening and made me wonder how many other times I’ve avoided doing something simply because I didn’t want to be uncomfortable.
Is your need for comfort holding you back?
Maybe this is the first time you’ve thought about this and don’t have an answer. Regardless, we can ask God to show us where we have fallen into the comfort trap. He is a gentle and gracious Father and will bring our mistakes to our attention with love and teach us to walk more fully in His will.
The thing is, the best place for us to be isn’t in our comfort zone, it’s submitting to God’s leading. If I hadn’t given up my comfort zone in the past, I would have missed out on where and what God was calling me into. Just as my mom had my best interest in mind when she shipped me off to Bible camp, God does as well, even more so!
Something else I’ve noticed about my comfort zone—it’s often built on false comforts. Erin Straza points out in her book Comfort Detox, “False comfort whispers that we should turn back from the abundant life God promises because it’s full of things that cannot be controlled and crafted—and that’s rather uncomfortable” (www.ivpress.com/comfort-detox).
God never promised us a comfy risk-free life. Not by a long shot. What God does promise is far better! He promises us an abundant life (John 10:10) and true comfort found in Him (Isaiah 51:12)!