“You need to get out of your comfort zone.”
Have you ever been told this?
This phrase is frequently recited within many Christian circles, and it communicates the idea that God will often ask us to do things that we find uncomfortable or that spiritual growth is a painful process.
This is a misconception that can easily lead to a distorted view of God.
Here’s a verse oft quoted to support the idea that growth in God is uncomfortable: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2).
God cuts stuff off from us. How could that not hurt … right? But if we really want to apply Jesus’ analogy in a literal way we must take another step and ask, do plants feel pain? Nope. Neither should we in our processes of growth.
If God chops anything off from us it is lies we believe about him and ourselves. All the crap that used to be in us was fully dealt with on the cross. Now life in Christ is a process of realizing what he has already accomplished on our behalf. Growth is fun! Acknowledging truth and walking in obedience to it is exciting, not painful.
Let’s look at a Biblical example that relates obedience and comfort.
The Israelites failed to believe God’s good intentions toward them — they thought God had brought them out of Egypt to kill them (Numbers 14:2-3). In response God essentially tells them that he would do to them what they had said about him, namely that they would die in the wilderness without entering the promised land (v. 28). Thus, their unbelief in who God said he was led to their disobedience, which in turn led to the forbiddance of their entering God’s rest (Hebrews 4:3). They were made to restlessly wander in the uncomfortable wilderness.
What does this story teach us? Obedience does not lead to discomfort, disobedience does!
If you have doubts about whether what God said to do is really a good idea or not, you are in unbelief. But that doesn’t change the truth. God is who he is and remains the same, despite the crap we may believe about him. God is always exploding with goodies.
God only desires good for us. This implies that God does not want us to be uncomfortable (there is nothing intrinsically good about such a state). After all, Jesus calls Holy Spirit the comforter (John 14:16; Greek paraklētos).
Being uncomfortable while loving on others isn’t biblical. Feeling discomfort while loving someone and having to force yourself to do it because you think it’s your duty shows that you are striving by your own will power to love. In essence, you have forgotten Christ in you. Ministry should be utterly fun, an overflow of God’s love in you. The apostle Paul couldn’t help but share the gospel because the love of God constrained him to (1 Corinthians 9:16, 2 Corinthians 5:14).
God doesn’t want us out of our comfort zone. Discomfort is not the atmosphere of heaven or a fruit of Holy Spirit. God is the God of all comfort, the source of every consolation. He doesn’t want us to have to do things grudgingly.
Love is intimately connected with our desires. If you can’t love simply because you want to, then you lack revelation on the goodness of the gospel and your relationship with God.
Warning: the solution to a lack of revelation is not to stir up determination and try harder to love. You can’t produce love. Love is a person and he lives in you. The act of loving is only the manifestation of God within you.
The solution is simply to renew your mind. If God has told you to do something and it seems uncomfortable to you, remember his character and his heart toward you. Remind yourself of his goodness and that his commandments are never a burden (1 John 5:3). Consider your old, sinful, apathetic, disobedient self as dead (Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:20).
When we do things outside of our comfort zones we are returning to the Law; we try to accomplish things by our own effort rather than relying on Jesus’ finished work. When faced with an uncomfortable situation you can either tell yourself to “just do it” or you can fix your mindset first. The former leads to striving, the latter to joy.
Discomfort is a sign of misunderstanding and a need for mind-renewing. If you feel discomfort, instead of “doing what you should” and trying to ignore the discomfort, I encourage you to first fix your mindset by acknowledging that obedience is a comfortable thing, and then do it cheerfully.
Sure, God may have you do something you are not used to, like giving a prophetic word to someone or raising a dead person. But that shouldn’t bring discomfort. Rather it should be an adventure.
I am not advocating acting in accordance with your feelings. “I don’t feel comfortable loving this person, so I won’t.” That’s just stupid. What I am advocating is the correction of your misconceptions so that your feelings will line up with God’s feelings. And when misconceptions are corrected, your feelings indeed will line up with God’s feelings. We have the privilege of feeling what he does.
You don’t need to get out of your comfort zone. If anything, you need a new comfort zone, God’s comfort zone.
Allegorically speaking, we are in the promised land, namely Jesus Christ. And I am feeling mighty comfortable in him.
Are you living in spiritual discomfort? I encourage you to enter the comfort zone of Christ.