I’ve always loved my comfort zone. As a baby, I stubbornly clung to my comfort zone and refused to arrive on time. My poor mother had to be induced twice before I entered the world. As a child, I dragged my feet in whatever way I could when it came to something new. Learn to read? Why? I’d rather be read to. Tie my shoes? I’ll just stick with slip-ons. What’s that? You want to go on a roller coaster? #Nope. I could go on, but you get the picture.
One of the best things my parents did for me was push me beyond that comfort zone to try or to learn something new, even if it was uncomfortable. Not everything that I tried became a favorite (I still don’t like roller coasters), but I discovered many things that I actually enjoyed, such as reading. By the time I was a teenager, I always carried a book with me and easily read several each week.
I’d like to say that I’ve grown into an adventurous adult who enjoys stepping out of my comfort zone, but I can barely even type that without laughing. Those who know me best know that’s not the case and probably never will be. I’m still prone to anxiety about the unknown, still withdraw from things that are uncomfortable, and many times cherish my comfort zone perhaps a bit too much.
Thankfully, my husband and my mom recognize these things about me and still encourage me to take those scary first steps of something new or unknown, picking up where my dad left off and often using his (or my own!) words against me when it comes to change.
My dad recognized the resistance I had toward change at a young age, and refused to let me get away with it in very practical ways, as I mentioned above. However, he also was wise to recognize how it would affect my relationship with God as I grew older.
If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time, you know that God does not like to leave us in our comfort zones. And this was a hard lesson for me to learn.
Out of all of the lessons my dad taught me, the one that has stuck with me the most and still comes to mind often is the idea of surrendered calling.
I’m the type of person (control lover) who would be perfectly content to come up with my own ideas of how God will work in my life, what His calling for me is, and how it’ll play out in the future. But God doesn’t work that way. In fact, my dad often said that if you’ve figured out what God is going to do or how he’s going to use you, you’ve got it wrong. Not you might have it wrong. You have it wrong. God doesn’t work the way we expect, and his ways often don’t make sense to us. That’s why surrender is so important.
Comfort zones are danger zones.
Ouch. That hurt to write.
But it’s true.
When we’re in our comfort zone, we’re walking by sight. We stick with what’s easy, safe, and predictable. And in the process, we miss out on experiencing God in our lives. When we do what we can do, we get what we can do.
But when we learn to step outside of our comfort zone, by having the faith that if God calls us to it, he will equip us for it, then we begin to experience God in a way we never could in our comfort zone, because we’re experiencing what God can do instead of what we can do.
Consider Abraham. God called him out of his comfort zone over and over again (and Abraham failed over and over again) until Abraham learned to trust God’s provision for the calling.
Or what about Moses, whom God told to go back to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and rescue the Israelites after Moses had been pursued for killing a man? Moses argued with God quite a bit on that one.
I think also about Mary, whom God called to carry Jesus. I can tell you 100% that was not in her comfort zone.
Each of these people, and countless more in scripture, were called by God to step out of their comfort zone to experience God’s grace and power in their lives and the lives of those around them. Each of them had to choose between faith (God can carry me through this) and fear (it’s too scary, I’ll stay where I feel safe).
The sad truth is, if we’re in a relationship with God, we have to recognize that he loves us too much to let us play in the shallow end, and he’s going to call us into the deep end where we can trust him more and know him more as we’re fully dependent on his ability to keep us safe.
You Want Me To Do What?
When I was 13, our church was small. I was the only teen, and the closest kids to my age were two 4-year-olds, followed by one baby in the nursery. Sunday School became a struggle – one class for one student, and another for two. Should I go to an adult class instead? Should I tag along with the kids? After praying for a time about the best way to handle the situation, my dad approached me with an idea: I should begin teaching the 4-year-olds class.
I was shocked. No way. That’s scary. What if I mess it up? What if I teach them the wrong thing? What if I can’t do it?
My dad told me that if I really didn’t want to do it, he wouldn’t force me, but that he thought I was capable and it would be good for me. He asked me to try it, even if only once, just to see how it went, and then I could decide.
I found a curriculum book that had some fun activities for their age, including a craft and some games, and I picked out a lesson to use. Before I knew it, the day arrived. And I was terrified. Of two 4-year-olds.
My dad encouraged me and prayed with me, and then sent me into the room, which was connected to the nursery in case I needed help.
I’d be lying if I said it was a fun and easy class. However, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d told myself it would be. I agreed to do it again. Before I knew it, I was enjoying teaching the kids. And not only was I teaching them, but I was learning much more myself than I ever got out of my own class.
Years passed and I developed skills and abilities with a variety of ages, and eventually reached a point where I was able to write my own curriculum. I loved children’s ministry, and I was so thankful that God used my dad to push me outside of my comfort zone. I not only gained practical experience and skills, but I grew exponentially in my relationship with God as I had to depend on his grace to accomplish what he had called me to do.
Fear. Faith. Victory. Repeat.
This may have been the first major area in which I had to step outside of my comfort zone in my relationship with God, but it was certainly not the last.
As I look back on my life, I can see that every major area of growth took place the same way.
I was afraid, and stuck in my comfort zone.
God began to convict me, challenge me, and call me to step out in faith.
I struggled. I wrestled. And I eventually took a step.
And then another step. And another. And another.
Until I was victorious over my comfort zone and able to experience God working in me in a new way.
God used each of those crises of belief to make me into the person I am today, and to give me the passion and heart for ministry that I carry.
Stop Trying To Figure It oUT
By the time I was 17, I was convinced that my calling was children’s ministry. Maybe through the church, or maybe even ministry to children in crisis. Children were my new comfort zone, and I was sure that my future would center around them.
However, God soon began to stir my heart in a different direction, and I decided to pursue Biblical counseling. I spent more than two years studying, learning, and apprenticing in Nouthetic counseling, and over that time, I began to feel more and more drawn toward ministry to women in crisis.
And it scared me.
Kids were safe. Adults were not.
I was barely an adult myself!
I wrestled for some time with this desire, and eventually brought it to my dad. Our church already had an in-house men’s discipleship program, and I wanted to be part of helping open a women’s home. But I was terrified. And I told him that, along with all my reasons why and all the ways I’d told myself it wouldn’t/couldn’t work.
Thankfully, my dad didn’t listen to my excuses. He prayed about it, and then he reminded me of the promise in 2 Corinthians 9:8 – And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
We soon began working toward opening a women’s home, with the goal of me being able to learn the ropes and begin putting my counseling training into practice with the clients we’d help. I was still nervous, but I was also excited.
As soon as I began to feel settled with the plan, the plan changed. We needed a night supervisor to stay with the women that would be in the program. As the deadline approached without someone to fill that role, God began to nudge, and then kick, and then shove me into stepping up.
I was even more terrified, but also very sure that it was what God wanted me to do, so at 20-years-old I became the night supervisor of 5 women who struggled with drugs, alcohol, mental health issues, or were coming out of incarceration.
I’m pretty sure I cried on the phone to my dad every night for the first three months.
I can’t do this. What if I mess it up? What do I say? What do I do? How do I know if I’m doing okay?
And every night, my dad patiently reminded me that comfort zones are danger zones, and that I was in the perfect place to trust God and his promises. God would give me what to say. God would show me what was right. God would give me courage, God would give me peace. But I had to stop making the calling about me.
I was in that role for almost four years, and I learned so much, I can’t even begin to tell you. I learned about grace, and relying on God’s power. I learned that it’s okay to not know. I learned how to listen. I learned how to encourage. I learned how to confront. I learned how to apply the Truth to a hurting soul, and I saw transformation firsthand. I wouldn’t trade my experience there for anything.
Don't Get Comfortable
I could go on forever with similar experiences. The pattern of my life is that when I get comfortable with where I am, sure of what my path is, and confident of my calling, God calls me out of my comfort zone, changes my plans, and sets me in a different direction than I expected.
And it’s scary.
But you know what?
Comfort zones are danger zones.
God's Will For Your Life
I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t struggled with purpose, with their “calling,” and with God’s will for their life. And by default, we all assume that it’s something we’re supposed to figure out for ourselves. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The key to finding your calling is not found in yourself, but in God. It is only through surrender that God is able to work in and through us to accomplish His will, which will in turn enrich our lives and the lives of those around us.
If you really want to experience God in your life, I want to challenge you to surrender your comfort zone, surrender your plans, surrender your calling, and trust that God’s plan is better than your own.
It may be scary. And you may only be able to take the first step. But God’s grace will meet you there, and I promise you that he will carry you the rest of the way.
I’m so glad my life didn’t go the way I planned: safe, predictable, and comfortable. Rather, there have been many times I’ve experienced danger, unpredictability, and discomfort – but in the process, I’ve come to know God, and I’ve been able to experience greater joy, peace, and confidence than was ever found within my comfort zone.
And you can, too.
In a word: passionate.