When was the last time you stepped outside of your comfort zone? Was it something simple, like trying a new hairstyle or going to the mall without wearing any makeup? Or was it something more profound, such as taking a trip into the mission field or witnessing to a homeless person on the street? Sometimes, the things that make us the most uneasy can be the most memorable. God often uses these uncomfortable experiences to serve as defining moments in our lives. Sometimes, all it takes is a step outside of your comfort zone to find that you have an even great purpose on this earth than you could have ever imagined. So don’t stand there stagnant, get on the move and jump out of your comfort zone!
When I think of being outside of one’s comfort zone, I am immediately reminded of Jonah. God called Jonah to preach to the Ninevites. But one of the last things Jonah wanted to do was to go to Ninevah and speak to them. Instead of stepping outside of his comfort zone, he attempted to hide from God. Jonah ran away, thinking that he could avoid this uncomfortable situation entirely. He didn’t want anything to do with these people and he was not going to obey the Lord’s command. Jonah wanted to do what Jonah wanted to do. So, he did what people commonly do in uneasy circumstances. He fled the scene.
But God had placed a calling on his life. It wasn’t a feeling or an emotion either. God literally spoke to Jonah. Jonah 1:2-3 (NIV) says, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’” The Bible says that “the word of the Lord came to Jonah.” It doesn’t say that someone prophesied and said that this is what he ought to do. It doesn’t say that he had a dream or saw a great flash of light. It says that the Lord Himself called Jonah to this ministry. Jonah was called to be a preacher, a missionary to the city of Ninevah.
Jonah has this amazing calling on his life. Yet the next words in the book of Jonah read, “But Jonah ran away from the Lord” (Jonah 1:3). Isn’t that just the way we often react to unsettling situations? God may call us to do something, but we are often afraid to walk through the door that He has opened. Instead of walking through this door, Jonah attempts to run away. Still, God knew where Jonah was headed before he even took his first step toward the ship in Joppa. And God knew that He was going to have to take some drastic measures in order to get Jonah out of his comfort zone.
Shortly after he had been on the ship, the Lord sends a violent storm upon them. Jonah tells the sailors that he is running from the Lord. He also knows that this is no ordinary storm and that it is meant to get his attention. He tells the men to throw him into the sea, so that the seas will become calm and spare their lives. He says, “‘I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you’” (Jonah 1:12 NIV). You see, Jonah knew that God had called him to do something important and instead of embracing this challenge, he tries to avoid God. When you try to get away from God, though, He is still standing right beside you, every step of the way. Jonah began to realize the error of his ways right here, which is why he told them to cast his body into the sea. Of course, Jonah likely thought that this would result in his death, meaning that he could still find a way out of this call on His life.
Nevertheless, God had other plans. God sends a huge fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah spends three days and three nights in the belly of a whale. Jonah didn’t want to go preach to other human beings, so God puts him inside of a sea creature instead. Talk about being outside of your comfort zone! God knew that Jonah needed a wakeup call. He knew that it would take drastic measures to get through to this individual who was supposed to be traveling to Ninevah, instead of sailing on a ship toward Tarshish. During the time inside the whale, Jonah realized his mistake. He called out to the Lord. He said, “‘What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, Salvation comes from the Lord’” (Jonah 2:9 NIV).
After spending three days and three nights far outside of his comfort zone, Jonah tells the Lord that he will make things right. The Lord commands the fish to spit Jonah out onto dry land and then He calls Jonah to Ninevah a second time. This time, Jonah obeyed the Lord, despite his apprehension. I’m sure he realized that God could place him in more anxiety-ridden places than he had ever dreamed, so he knew the best course of action was to do what he should have done in the beginning: obey the Lord’s command.
What about you? Has God called you to step outside your comfort zone? If He has, have you responded with a resounding “yes,” or have you tried to hide from God? Often times, we may try to run from God because we feel inadequate. While our first inclination may be to insert a “But” after God asks us to do something, we need to trust Him to work out all of the details. We all have doubts and fears. But we cannot let these shortcomings prevent us from living in the perfect will of God. God doesn’t tell us that we have to be everything and have everything. He just calls us to be willing vessels. Whatever we need, He will provide. Even if it means providing a fish to swallow us first in order to convince us that we need to step outside of our comfort zone!
God can use us to change lives, if we are only willing to follow the path that He has set before us. Jonah’s ministry saved the city of Ninevah from complete and utter destruction. If Jonah had said no a second time, thousands of people would possibly have perished without knowing the saving grace of Jesus Christ. When God calls you to tell someone about Jesus, don’t run away. Follow His leading and answer the call. You may be the willing vessel He needs to share the love of Jesus with someone who is broken, hurting, or lost. Don’t wait for the whale to swallow you whole. Step outside your comfort zone today and stand amazed as God uses you in ways beyond your imagination!
In Christ’s Love,