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 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.
Most of us are familiar with the story of how God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses, the burning bush, plagues, splitting the sea. There's a lot there. A lot to learn. And as I was recently reading in Exodus 8, something jumped out at me. It was following the curse of the frogs:
Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.”
Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.”
“Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said.
But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.
(Exodus 8:8-10a, 15)
One of those sins that Christians tend to address as "minor," "little," and "unimportant," fear is often deemed unnecessary to address. We don't see it as a big deal, so we just ignore it, hoping it’ll go away. Unfortunately, though, as time goes on, fear not only doesn’t disappear – it actually grows. Before too long, the “little” sin is now the BIG sin that has begun to push us around and is grasping for control over every part of our lives.
I think part of the struggle we have to take fear seriously starts with the fact that fear in and of itself may not be a problem. Fear is a God-given emotion. The danger is found in what we’re fearing and how we respond to that fear.
I am so thankful that God uses people
Our God is a very personal God. He is a relational God. He lives in community, and He designed us to need that community, as well – starting with the fellowship we have through a relationship with Him. But it doesn’t end there – He also created us to need other people. Other Christians. Fellowship and relationships through the local church. Because 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,
God created Eve.
WHEN DAVID WAS RUNNING FOR HIS LIFE,
GOD GAVE HIM JONATHAN.
When Israel cried out for deliverance in Egypt,
God sent Moses.
On the surface, we all know this. But it’s what’s lurking below the surface that’s the most dangerous. It’s those thoughts we don’t even realize we’re thinking. The things we don’t know we’re telling ourselves. The initial fears and doubts that run through our minds so fast that we’ve emotionally and physically reacted before we even realized what was happening.
The more I consider the power of fear in my life and in the lives of those I’ve worked with over the years, the more convinced I am that fear is the single most underestimated tool in the Enemy’s arsenal. I believe that’s why, in Revelation 21:8, the first quality noted of those thrown into the Lake of Fire are the fearful (http://biblehub.com/greek/1169.htm).
When I was younger, my parents taught me a lot about trust. I learned to trust them, to believe them. They also taught me the importance of trusting God. Surrendering. Not having to have it all figured it out. They taught me how to balance caution and planning with my faith in God and the sometimes blind obedience that he requires me.
All of this was tested when God did something totally unexpected and completely beyond my understanding: he took my best friend, mentor, and father to Heaven.
The roller-coaster of emotions I experienced during 2017 is beyond description, and even thinking about what I went through, especially those first few months, exhausts me. I went back and forth between supernatural confidence and faith in God, to crushing fear, anxiety, and an overwhelming, oppressing sense of despair. One moment I had hope; the next I felt like I’d never have hope again.
Why? What was happening? How could I so quickly falter?
1 Corinthians tells us about love, and insert your name. Then ask yourself, is this true of me?
In premarital counseling, it goes further – you insert your fiance’s name, as well, questioning
if he or she is exhibiting that brand of love toward you, as well.
Here’s what mine would look like:
Bethany is patient.
Bethany is kind.
Bethany does not envy.
Bethany does not boast.
Bethany is not proud.
Bethany does not dishonor others.
Bethany is not self-seeking.
Bethany is not easily angered.
Bethany keeps no record of wrongs.
Bethany does not delight in evil.
Bethany rejoices with the truth.
Bethany always protects.
Bethany always trusts.
Bethany always hopes.
Bethany always perseveres.
When I personalize scripture, it makes it much more real, direct, and applicable to my life.
It’s one thing to read about what agape (sacrificial) love looks like; it’s another thing to hold yourself to the standard. As I read through the passage inserting my name, it’s easy to see where I fail and where I need to make adjustments in the way I love the people God has
placed in my life.
In a word: passionate.
About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even
iced skinny soy mochas.