I was about 13 when I first remember hearing the call to “step out of my comfort zone.” I was at a church chapel, and a visiting missionary was urging the students of my Christian school to consider signing up for a summer mission trip. Since then, I’ve heard that phrase hundreds of times, in both churches and secular environments; and it usually seems like a timely reminder to step into the adventures that God has to offer. Yet in the last few months, I’ve begun to wonder if stepping outside your comfort zone is necessarily a good idea.
I mean, does God actually want us to step out of our comfort zones? Is it inherently a good thing to be doing? Our generation has fully embraced this cultural narrative of embracing the new. Increasingly the young adults of our world are looking to stay more flexible in their careers, avoid attachments or long-term commitments, travel around the world and try new things. When troubles come, we’re more likely to bail out of a situation or look for alternatives rather than stay to fix it.
As someone who lives abroad, I think this has great benefits for young people. We’re certainly a lot more open-minded as a result. In the process of adjusting to so many new cultures, careers and new ways of thinking, we can incorporate different strategies to overcome a greater variety of problems. However, our online and mobile culture also runs the risk of becoming increasingly shallow, with an inability to invest in the blessing, opportunities and people we have in our lives now.
With that in mind, what if the solution to a failing marriage isn’t a new spouse, but a deeper self-sacrifice within your current relationship? What if you worked to change the problems in your existing church instead of trying to find a new one? What if you stuck it out with your overbearing boss and work environment instead of looking for a new job?
Here’s a thought: What if truly “stepping outside your comfort zone” means sticking around to deal with issues rather than packing up and leaving? What if it means investing deeper into relationships rather than keeping them at the surface level because it feels a little awkward?
You know, when Jesus was on earth, He wasn’t always diving into dramatic and new experiences. Yes, when faced with excruciating death and emotional agony, He certainly stepped out of His comfort zone, and we’re eternally grateful that He did. But for the previous three years of His life, He mostly hung out with the same group of friends, lived in the same small country, and taught roughly the same message.
In short, stepping out of our comfort zone can be a very powerful thing at the right time, but it shouldn’t be a cry for always trying new things. Sometimes staying right where we are and planting a few more roots can be the most revolutionary thing you can do.