In my house I have chair and a matching foot rest. It is not fancy, and if I’m just being honest, it isn’t really all that pretty. It was literally purchased off the side of the road, where someone had piled furniture with a sign that said, “Stop and ask about prices!” True story. I did stop and ask about prices, and I bought this ugly brown chair, to my children’s great irritation. Our mini- van was already pretty full that day with the five of us, but everyone squished together and I got the chair and the foot rest wedged in.
The chair came home, I set it up in the corner of my living room, where I have a great view of the tv, both air vents would blow my way and I had a handy side table on each side of me. I sat down in this chair and a love affair was born.
This is my chair. This is my spot. After a long day of work, homeschooling and mothering, at the end of the day all I want in the entire world is to get in that chair. In fact, the chair is so powerful, that I’ve started making an announcement to my children, before I get in the chair.
“Hope yall don’t need anything else this evening, I’m heading to my chair.” Sometimes they just roll their eyes at me, I’ve got a few teenagers, but my younger children will sort of scramble around with their last few requests of the day. Warm chocolate milk, please. A snack, please. They know that once I get in the chair my day is over, and if it requires getting out of the chair it probably isn’t happening.
Needless to say, this chair is literally my comfort zone.
Comfort Zones for Better and Worse
Comfort zones are often spoken of in a negative way. People are always encouraging us to “get out of our comfort zone.” But as with most things in life, balance is the key to comfort zones. But we humans do not excel at balance.
Is there anything wrong with a tired mama wanting to relax in her chair after a long day? Of course not. But that same mama, who is usually just getting in the chair to take a hard earned rest at the end of the day, has also gotten into that chair in the middle of the day when she’s feeling depressed. She’s wrapped up in a blanket there, turned on the t.v. and became emotionally, and physically unavailable to her kids.
It is when we use comfort zones this way that they become a bad thing in our life. It is when we begin to use our comfort zones to avoid life, responsibilities and tasks set out to us by God that our comfort zones begin to hinder us spiritually.
Does the Bible Talk About Comfort Zones?
The term comfort zone is not used in the Bible, but the idea of pushing into uncharted territory is certainly a Biblical idea. When I think of someone getting out of their comfort zone, I am always drawn to Abraham’s story in Genesis 12.
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee. (Genesis 12:1)
Talk about moving out into the unknown! To truly understand the magnitude of what God told Abraham to do, you should realize that during this time in history, and in this part of the world, families did not split up. Kids did not move away from home. Families were clans and tribes of multiple families all living and working together. A city or a village was simply a few interconnected families that stuck together. Why? Because it was literally the only way to survive at the time. So, when God told Abraham to get out of his country, and leave his family it was no small matter.
Why did God want Abraham to do this? We find the answer in verse 2 and 3.
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
There were spiritual and practical things that God wanted to accomplish in Abraham’s life that could not be accomplished while he was inside his comfort zone. God could not have educated Abraham the way He wanted to if he was surrounded by his family. God could not have multiplied Abraham the way He wanted to if he was already part of a larger community. God had some big plans for Abraham, and He needed room to accomplish those things in his life.
The thing about comfort zones is that they are confining. My physical comfort zone I was describing earlier, is literally one corner of a living room. I’m pretty limited in what I can do for anyone from this tiny corner. Which is why the younger children scramble to get their last few requests in for the day before I sit down.
So, when confronted with the idea of leaving his comfort zone, what did Abraham do?
4 So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.
If Abraham had doubts, or if he argued with God it isn’t recorded here. If we take these scriptures at face value then we see that Abraham simply obeyed.
Comfort Zones and Our Practical Life
Still considering Abraham’s story, let’s look at some of the practical ways that using comfort zones in an imbalanced way can hinder our practical life.
We see in verse 6 and 7 that God intended to expand Abraham far beyond what he was, who he was in his homeland.
6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. 7 And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land:
God intended to give to Abraham an entirely new land. It is estimated that Abraham traveled approximately 600 miles to get from Haran, his homeland, to Canaan. Abraham could not know how God was going to expand his family and his wealth. Abraham had no way of knowing that when God said He would make of him a great nation, just how huge and far reaching that would be. He could not have known that God was going to make of him 12 massive tribes of people.
The amount of faith it would take to remove your family and travel this distance is astounding. It is even more astounding when you consider the time in history and how unheard of it would have been for one person, not even the leader of his community, to take his family and leave.
When an act of faith feels really huge, it is because the work that God wants to accomplish through this act of faith is also proportionately huge.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
When God begins to nudge us out of a comfort zone in our practical life, it is because He wants to expand us beyond what we currently are. This can apply to our health, our finances, our relationships, our business endeavors, our careers, our education, and many other areas. Only you know the area in which expansion is needed.
Do you need to get healthier, but you are scared to go to the gym, or scared to start eating better? Do you need to start investing for retirement, but you are hesitant because it is something you’ve never done before? Do you need to further your education so that you can pursue a better career, but you think you are not smart enough?
In all of these scenarios and in thousands more, we put ourselves into a tiny corner, hedged in by our supposed limitations and fears. We feel comfortable in this little corner because we are not attempting anything bigger. We feel safe because we know that we can handle everything in this corner. We have pulled around us things we think we can’t fail at and so we feel comfortable.
The problem with this is that God often has so much more in store for us. Just like He had plans for Abraham, He has plans for us as well.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)
God’s plans for us are not limited to, “Go to church. Tithe your money. Be a good Christian.” God has plans for us in all areas of our lives. When the Holy Spirit is nudging us out of our comfort zone, it is for a distinct reason. God has something He wants to accomplish in this area for you, and the current comfort zone you are in cannot hold the amazing blessing He has in store for you.
Comfort Zones and Our Relationships
People do not usually consider their relationships an area that can be affected by comfort zones, but they most certainly can. It is important to explore how comfort zones affect our relationships, because it is in this area that comfort zones can be the most destructive.
Just with anything else in our life, we can get into a certain routine of habits that feel comfortable and safe with our relationships. The problem is that sometimes these routines, and these behaviors are not good for our relationships. In fact, these routines and behaviors could actually be damaging the relationship. Let’s look at a few examples of ways this can happen.
Habits- Take some time to consider what pushes the buttons of your loved ones. Most people do not enjoy this exercise, but it is beneficial if you want to improve relationships and get out of destructive comfort zones. Really consider what triggers most of the conflicts in any of your relationships.
Conflicts with your spouse, your children, your co-workers, your parents, your friends or whoever it may be are always the result of a trigger. Now consider if this trigger is a habit which can be traced back to you. This takes a great deal of personal honesty with yourself.
You continue this habit because you are accustomed to it. Even something bad can start to feel very comfortable to us and it will become the zone in which we want to stay. It is more comfortable to stay the same than to change.
Selfishness- Another thing that keeps up firmly grounded in our destructive comfort zones is selfishness. Selfishness is also a habit, but it is so destructive I feel it warrants some special attention. Selfishness is a practice just like gratitude, service, exercise, and healthy eating. It is something that gets stronger and stronger the more you practice it.
The more you practice gratitude the more grateful you become. The more you practice service to others the more service minded you become. The more you practice exercise and healthy eating habits the more healthy you become. And the more you practice selfishness the more selfish you become and the more comfortable you will be with being this way.
You can start to identify your selfishness by doing a Self Fast for one day. It only takes one day to see how much you put your own self first as opposed to putting others first. A Self Fast is much like a food fast, but instead of giving up food for the day, you will give up yourself. As you move throughout your day and encounter choices, people and tasks, in each thing you will consciously, purposely put yourself at the bottom of the list. This can apply to very small things or very big things.
You see the last cookie in the jar. Would you normally think, “Aha! I get the last cookie. Yes!” During a Self Fast you would leave the cookie there for the next person. Were you looking forward to a quiet evening watching a movie, only to find out a friend is moving that same evening. They haven’t asked you to help them move. Would you normally think, “Whew! Glad they didn’t ask me to help.” During a Self Fast you would pass up your quiet evening and offer to help.
Please note: I am not saying you should necessarily do this every day and in every situation, but rather just as an experiment, this exercise can help you see how much putting yourself before others is your natural habit.
We do this because it is comfortable. We do this because making sure we get what we want or need first feels safe. The human brain is wired for survival, and we think that if we don’t get what we need first we just won’t make it.
Once you begin to evaluate how much you put yourself first, then you can begin to move out of this comfort zone. The effects that this can have on your relationships will be astounding. People respond to selflessness. In most cases the people around you, especially those in your most intimate relationships, will respond by being less selfish too. When we see someone being generous to us, it makes us want to be generous back.
Comfort Zones and Our Spirituality
If there is any area in our lives where comfort zones can really have a negative effect on us, it is in our spiritual lives. Here is the place where other people cannot see. Our spiritual lives do not normally affect others as much as our practical lives and our outward relationships do, or at least that is what we like to think. The truth is, our spiritual lives is what is affecting everything else. We think no one is affected by our spirituality or lack of spirituality because it is all an invisible process taking place deep inside our own souls.
Comfort zones affect our spirituality more than anything else because our spirituality is the foundation of who we are, how we deal with people, how we deal with the world, and really how we deal with ourselves.
Comfort zones can get in the way of our spirituality because deep within ourselves we have created comfy little places where we do not need to really face the facts of who we are. True spiritual practices will make you confront these places. You must confront these places and make choices about who you really want to be.
If this is sounding a little confusing, let’s look at the Word of God for clarification.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12: 1-2)
These two verses perfectly sum up the spiritual path. Willingly submitting yourself to God as a sacrifice. In the Old Testament a sacrifice was presented so that it could die. But in these verses God says He wants a living sacrifice. So how can we die and live at the same time? We can do this by the conscious, daily, moment by moment act of dying to self.
Our Self is our biggest enemy standing between us and true spirituality. The first step to dying to Self is to get tuned into the Holy Spirit. How do we do that? If you have read any of my articles, you probably already know the answer to this. Personal Quiet Time! Daily, personal quiet time is the only path to spirituality.
Even this for many people requires a conscious effort to get outside the comfort zone. The comfort zone of extra sleep is a literal comfort zone that will hinder your spirituality. The best time of day for personal quiet time is early morning for most people. The time of day is not as important as the being alone. It is very, very important that you have a time of day in which you can be alone for a good chunk of time. If that is morning great, if another time, great.
Another comfort zone that people must struggle with in order to make this personal quiet time happen is to sit alone with yourself. In this day of technology people simply do not do this anymore.
When I was a child I remember any time I spent with any of my grandparents always had something in common. Keep in mind I spent time with a biological maternal grandmother, a biological paternal grandmother, and a step grandmother and grandfather. These four people were vastly different from each other, and only one of the grandmothers went to church regularly, but they all had something in common. When I was a child, if I got up very early at any of their homes, I would find them sitting somewhere, usually on the porch or on the back steps, maybe just at the kitchen table, alone, just sitting there. They were not reading the newspaper. They were not talking on the phone. They were doing nothing. Just sitting. I’d often find my paternal grandmother just walking the yard or sitting with the dog.
People of their generation were okay with sitting with themselves, doing nothing for a bit before their day started. Our generation does not do that, and my children’s generation really does not do that. Because this is a slightly strange practice for our society now, it will take some real effort to carve out this quiet time and actually sit with yourself. No screen. You will feel uncomfortable. Of all of the comfort zones you must leave, this is the most important one. Your path to spirituality is paved with every personal quiet time you embrace.
Let’s revisit another comfort zone, which I mentioned earlier while talking about relationships. This comfort zone warrants being mentioned twice because it can have such a strong, destructive spiritual effect on us. I am talking about the comfort zone of selfishness. Selfishness is comfortable because when we put ourselves last we feel out of control. Our survival instinct tells us to put ourselves first. Even in silly, non-consequential ways that really have nothing to do with survival, our very lowest self says, “Me first! Me first!”
We must make a very conscious effort to not put ourselves first if we hope to leave our comfort zones and become more spiritual. I mentioned doing a Self Fast, but another way to squash selfishness is to be on the look out for defensiveness. We humans are very quick to defend ourselves, even in situations, again that are silly and inconsequential.
If you really want to kill selfishness refuse to defend yourself for a week, even just a few days. No matter what the issue. When you feel the inclination to defend yourself verbally against something, just be quiet instead. Or if you really want to take the path of highest spirituality, take the wrong.
Taking the wrong is a scriptural principal that is all but nonexistent in most of our lives. 1 Peter 2:19-20 addresses this.
19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
This is a very foreign idea to our human way of thinking. Our human way of thinking says that everyone needs to know we are right. Our choice was right. Our action was right. Refuse to do this even for one day, and you will begin to leave this comfort zone of defensiveness.
Note: I am not suggesting you do not defend yourself physically if you are in an unsafe situation, I am only speaking of day to day common occurrences.
Conclusion: But I’m Scared!
Why do we cuddle up in our comfort zones in the first place? To feel safe. So, it makes perfect sense that the idea of coming out of the comfort zone feels scary. For many people it is so scary that they never accomplish it. If you want to become a spiritual Christian, leaving the comfort zones is very, very important.
If you are not sure, then just try some of these methods for one week. Can you handle it? Do you like the results? It’s actually not so bad out here beyond the comfort zone.