I think it's easy for us to get comfortable in life.
Comfort zones can be danger zones, though. When we get comfortable, we tend to become self-centered. We take things and people for granted. We stop giving. We start taking. We become proud. And God's not a fan of our stagnation, and He tends to only let us stay comfortable for so long before He begins to create some friction in our lives. Gently, at first, and then with increasingly more force as we stubbornly hold on to what we believe we need and have a right to - whether that's a certain emotional state of being, a particular relationship, an orderly set of circumstances, or even a way of thought and belief that is comfortable to us.
Our response to these disruptions reveals our heart. The right response is surrender to what God doing, trusting Him, and being obedient even in the hard things. When we surrender, we grow. We change. We become strengthened emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.
But often we respond negatively, with anger, resentment, and a stubborn refusal to change. That's when things tend to get bad, because God often has to use pain to motivate us to change, as most of refuse to budge until the pain of staying the way we are is greater than the pain of change.
Jonah is an example of someone who had a very clear comfort zone in life, and when God began to challenge him, he responded in anger. His desperation to maintain control over his life and choices made him emotionally unstable and ultimately estranged from God.
I'm excited to share this study on Jonah with you. it's one of my favorite lessons to teach. And yes, I know, I'm breaking the cardinal rule of blogging by publishing an article that's over 1,300 words - but I felt like it would be worth it.
I recommend you pull your Bible out and follow along. For the sake of time and space, I'll only be including key verses as we go through. Start with reading the book (it's just 4 chapters) to familiarize yourself with the story.
I think it’s safe to say that we all know of an area in our lives that God is calling us to surrender to Him. And we all believe surrender is worth it. At least, we want to believe that. But still, we struggle. Surrender requires faith, and faith has to be exercised to grow. And so when the extra strain is placed on our faith, we can often falter, wrestle, and be tempted to collapse under the pressure.
And on top of the pressure we feel from the feeling of losing control, the fear of the unknown, and the struggle of wrestling with what we really believe about God’s nature and character is the horrible feeling of isolation and loneliness.
I have a feeling you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I love mysteries!
And I hate mysteries.
And if I had to guess, I’d venture to say you’re in the same boat with me.
Allow me to explain.
My favorite genre of fiction happens to be suspense/mystery. I love them. Mysteries are a perfect escape from reality for me. I like not knowing what's going to happen next, and I love trying to figure out what happens next anyway, and of course, trying to guess "whodunit." Maybe reading isn’t your thing – but perhaps crime dramas are a go-to for you. I think media trends to show that we, the people, love mysteries.
In real life, however, I have a much harder time getting excited about not knowing what's around the bend. It's far too easy for me to find myself anxious, and often fearful, about anything from what's going to happen when I call this person, to what's going to happen over the course of the year – or beyond. When I don't have a grasp on what to expect or what's going to happen, it doesn't matter how big or small the situation is, I just plain don't like it.
Until my own recent struggle, I don’t think I realized just how far-reaching fear can become, not only personally, but how my internal fears can begin to affect my relationships in significant ways. I think we’re all guilty of acting in fear in our relationships – I just think we don’t generally notice until it becomes out of control and is seen more in the results of deep depression, desperate behavior, and a pattern of broken relationships.
It’s often not too difficult to look back and see where we did things the wrong way, acted in fear, and where things got off track. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to fix the problems when we’ve reached that point. It is not, however, impossible. It simply requires much humility and a determination to let God become our focus rather than people, and let love control our actions, not fear.
I am so thankful that God uses people
We need encouragement. We need help. We need hope.
When we’re overwhelmed, frustrated, tired, and broken, we are tempted to isolate. But it’s in those broken moments that we most need each other. We benefit the most from our relationships when it’s the hardest – when we’re most tempted to give up, close up, or shut down. When we’re vulnerable. When we’re scared. When we’re desperate.
The pattern in scripture is that when people (or even the nation of Israel) were desperate, they cried out to God. And God sent a man. God sent a woman. God sent a person. And He used that person to help, encourage, and bring about deliverance, both personally and corporately.
When Adam was alone and needed a helper,
I’m not one to keep a diary or journal. I’ve found that it’s too easy for me to slip in to negativity, so I avoid writing regularly unless it’s in a very disciplined format. For example, writing about what God is speaking to me about through my blog. I also have a 5-year Q&A a day journal that’s been a lot of fun to use.
I don’t remember a lot of the details, but I do remember that 2014 had a lot of ups and downs, as tends to happen in life. But as I flipped through this notebook, all I saw were the highlights; and all I remembered was the closeness I had with the Lord during that time; the answers to prayer I was receiving; the joy and the peace I felt. It was my gratitude notebook.
to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Oh, to find escape! Escape doesn’t have to be drunkenness; it could be blowing all your money shopping, or destructive eating habits, or any other excessive behavior we indulge in hoping
to numb ourselves. I understand the temptation to run, to hide. To give in to life.
But we who know and love Christ don’t have to hide anymore. He has given us everything
we need through our relationship with him to overcome whatever life may throw at us.
We just need to be focused on him, not the problems. We do this by submitting to authority,
by being thankful to God, talking about spiritual things, and singing to the Lord. These are all things that are challenging to us because they go against our flesh and what feels good in the moment; rather, they require us to choose faith, choose delayed gratification, and deny our flesh. The result is wonderful; I can’t explain it to you, though. You’ll have to try it for yourself.
You can’t give in to doubt and fear when you’re praising God and being thankful. Music was
one of the most powerful tools in my life over this past year to help me to focus on God instead of my problems, on His power instead of my weakness.
The hurt and pain of the past year is still very real and present in my life. I don’t intend to go
in-depth with the trials of this year. However, I thought I’d share some of the pivotal moments
in my life over the past year and the songs that helped me to stay thankful, stay focused,
and stay the course.
I have had to rely on everything I’ve learned and been taught in my life; things that I have known since I was a child, yet, up until this year, had little opportunity to put in to practice.
Were it not for the grace of God, I would not be writing this.
I would not be at peace.
I would not have joy.
I would not be okay.
But God is gracious.
He gives us so many great gifts to help us in our times of need and struggle in life.
In a word: passionate.
About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even
iced skinny soy mochas.