“Should I step out of my comfort zone?” This is a question many of us regularly ask ourselves. Let’s look at why this concept is so popular and specific times when it’s not necessary.
For the past few years I’ve heard a lot about the idea of “getting outside of your comfort zone” in sermons, classes, social media, etc. Spiritual growth is vitally important to every Christian. Our Lord tells us to “…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).
Visuals like this help us feel the pressure to push ourselves (Image via The Start of Happiness). While we must make an effort to grow our faith, sometimes I believe we are a bit misguided when we declare that it must always be uncomfortable to do so. The sentiment is, “If you are comfortable, your faith is not growing. You need to step out of your comfort zone.” But I would like to offer a different perspective you may not have thought of.
For a little background, you should know that this post is coming from a girl who has asked “Should I step out of my comfort zone?” on various occasions. I share these examples not to brag, but to explain that I have pushed myself in areas that are very uncomfortable for me personally, and see great benefits from doing so.
I’m a homebody who moved to a foreign country to do mission work with my husband. I’ve door-knocked homes where residents loathed the very idea of God, and I’ve been yelled at and kicked out of said homes. I’ve taught teenage girls difficult topics that I didn’t really know how to answer. I spoke for a Ladies’ Day when I was 6 months pregnant – and I hate public speaking.
Honestly, I dislike writing out this list of so-called “accomplishments” because really, they’re not. I’m simply a servant (as we all are) and was only doing my duty. At the time I did these things, I genuinely LOVED the privilege of serving. Stepping out of my comfort zone was a great blessing.
But then came a difficult time in my life. I got really sick and was under a huge amount of stress, and was unable to do these things anymore. I so desperately needed to be in a comfortable place. I needed a comfort zone to nestle into during a hard time in my life. But I often felt guilty, wondering “why” I wasn’t doing all the things I used to do.
Before I get into the reasons why you don’t need to get outside your comfort zone, let me mention a few caveats as to what I’m NOT saying:
- I’m not saying spiritual growth is a trivial matter.
- I’m not saying you should stop serving others in ways that make you uncomfortable.
- I’m not saying you should stop trying new things.
- I’m not saying you should stay in your comfort ALL the time.
- I’m not saying that obeying God is negotiable. We should always do what He says, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us!
Ok, now that we have that clear, let’s look at a few reasons why you may not need to get outside your comfort zone.
Should I Step Out of My Comfort Zone? 3 Reasons You Don’t Necessarily Need To
1. Your gifts and talents are already there.
You may be an amazing cook, and whipping up 5 dishes for a grieving family is nothing. But the very thought of teaching a bible class sends you running for the hills.
You may be an incredible public speaker, but have no idea what to say to that person who is sitting in the corner crying.
My husband is a natural-born evangelist. He will talk to a stranger for 3 hours and make a lifelong connection with them. Me? I’m a little more shy but I have other areas of strength that he struggles with.
If people do what they are good at and what they love, Kingdom work is going to get done more quickly, efficiently, and joyfully! Yes, we can serve in ways that make us extremely uncomfortable, and sometimes that is necessary. But we can also serve God in ways that bring us excitement!
Just because a certain talent doesn’t come naturally to you, doesn’t mean you are less important as a Christian. Using the gifts and talents God has given you feels, well… comfortable. It feels right. It’s not an crazy stretch of the imagination to use these gifts, it just happens.
If there is one particular thing you are not doing, it doesn’t mean you’re sinning or being a lazy Christian. The important thing is that you are doing something to serve the Lord. Working within your comfort zone is sometimes where you can help the most people and get the most done!
God has given us all special abilities and talents that we can use for the kingdom. What’s cool about these talents is it doesn’t take much effort for us to use them. They simply flow out of us. Many times, these talents are right smack-dab in the center of our comfort zone.
2. You may need a time of refreshment or relief.
In order to give fully of yourself, you have to fill your own cup first. It’s common wisdom to put on your own air mask before helping the person next to you in a flight emergency. The same is true in our spiritual lives.
It’s okay to take time to fill yourself up once in awhile in your comfort zone. To do what feels good for you. To nourish your soul and spirit.
Maybe that looks like taking a break from teaching Bible classes so you can gain spiritual renewal as a student. Or spending a quiet weekend with your family when you could be doing yet another activity.
It’s okay to take care of yourself. Don’t feel guilty for meeting your own needs – whether it be rest, spiritual refreshment, or fun. If you don’t do these things on a regular basis, you may experience burnout.
Jesus often went off by himself to pray and recharge. This time was necessary for him, and it is necessary for all of us.
3. You may be going through a difficult time.
Finally, staying in your comfort zone may be the only way you hang onto your faith during a storm.
When Job was going through all of his hardships, do you think he was “out there” in the world, stretching his limits, working hard to serve other people? No.
Job was a leader in his community and normally sat with the leaders at the gate. But when he was in the middle of grief, he sat in the ashes. He was hanging on for dear life, trying to figure out what had happened to him and why God had not rescued him. He was simply trying to stay afloat and keep his faith in tact! His faith was being stretched to the limit without his consent. He was outside of his comfort zone without doing a single thing.
What’s worse, his wife told him to curse God and die, and his friends told him it must have been his own fault. They totally didn’t get it.
If you’re going through a trial, whether physical or spiritual, you might have a season where you have to cut out all the “extras.” You might not be able to go to all the church events and head up service projects and mission trips. It might take every ounce of your strength just to make it through those doors on Sunday morning.
If you’ve never been in that place, I know it’s hard to understand. I used to see people who were uninvolved or doing the bare minimum and mentally judge them. “They should be doing more,” I thought.
Now, when I see this happening, I simply think, “I wonder what that person is going through.” Many times, you’ll find that a lack of faith-stretching calisthenics in others is not laziness – it’s simply survival. And their comfort zone is actually not as comfortable as you might think.
Also, I’ve noticed (at least for me) that comfort zones ebb and flow. At one time in
my life, I relished the challenge of mission work in a foreign land. But then at another time, my mind couldn’t even fathom the thought.
I think a lot of it has to do with what we are physically capable of at any given moment. If we are healthy, well rested, and all our spiritual needs are met, we will be up for a lot more challenges and faith-stretching opportunities!
I share this post for two purposes:
1. To reassure those who are feeling guilty for not doing as much as they “ought” but want to do more – it’s okay. You’re doing what you can, and you will be able to do more of the hard things during another life season.
2. To raise awareness if you may have inadvertently judged another person’s heart or motives. Things aren’t always what they seem. Even if you’ve known a person your whole life, you can’t read their thoughts. If someone isn’t very involved or seems complacent, there may be underlying reasons you don’t know about. Reach out to that person. Love that person.
Am I saying there are no Christians out there who are simply coasting? Pew-warmers who only want to do the bare minimum to get by? Yes, there are. But I have a feeling if you are still reading this post, it probably isn’t you.
The greatest comfort of all is that God knows your heart. He knows if you desire to serve him but don’t have the energy or resources. He also knows what each person is capable of handling at different times in their life (1 Cor 10:13). Also remember 1 Samuel 16:7: “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
Sometimes, stepping out of your comfort zone is good. It encourages you to grow and learn. But other times, your comfort zone can be a place of blessing and much needed relief.
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Do you agree or disagree? Can staying in your comfort zone be a good thing?