A couple of weeks ago, I read that when infants are born, they have an innate need to store memories where they feel safe and loved. Their first experience on this earth is one of trauma because they’re removed from the warm, dark place they knew for nine months. After being placed in a bright, cold and unfamiliar environment, they need to know they are still secure. As they build these safe and loved memories, they gradually can recall them during moments when they’re not being held, rocked or coddled.
When I read about this process, I thought about our faith walk and how it follows the same pattern. We first receive the gospel message as “infants,” the apostle Paul says. We live on milk, and often aren’t ready to receive the meatier, heavier aspects of the Word yet. The Spirit knows this, which is why the process of sanctification is not instantaneous. It takes an entire lifetime as we grow and become more like Jesus.
But eventually, God wants us to leave what’s safe and comfortable. He wants us to experience the full adventure of life he has for us, and we can’t do this if we remain stuck in the same place. The book of Acts is filled when men and women who took risks for the sake of spreading God’s love, and many came to know him as a result of their bravery and their refusal to be silenced because of the fear of the Roman empire.
Their stories may seem otherworldly, but the same God who led them continues to lead his people today. However, stepping outside of what feels safe and comfortable may seem difficult or even impossible. After all, what could be more important than our safety and comfort?
There are many things more important, but we’re going to examine three of them. Here are three things God cares about more than our safety and comfort:
1. Running Our Unique Race
In 1st Corinthians, Paul equates our spiritual walk with a race. In other words, it is not stationary.
“Do you not know that in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run is such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will no last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV
The same Spirit that lived in the first believers lives in us, and he wants us to move with him. As we do, we become living testimonies of God’s love and grace in our stories. We leave a trail for others to follow, and they are inspired to take a step of faith, to leave their past behind, and trust God to guide them.
If we refuse to run because we value our own safety over Christ’s call on our lives, we send a message to others as well. We tell them comfort is more important than sharing the love of the gospel. We tell them the life of the follower is stagnant instead of mobile and alive.
2. Growing to Know God More and More Deeply
Just as our spiritual walk moves forward, our relationship with God does also, if we nurture it. The more time we spend with him, the deeper we can know him and sense his leading in our lives. But sometimes, we misconceive knowing God with living a life where we do not experience trouble, pain, or inconvenience. We may even equate suffering with a sign that God has left us altogether, or doesn’t hear our prayers. This way of thinking can cause years of grief and heartache for a believer, and cause us to turn our backs on God.
However, scripture doesn’t tell us the live of the Christ-follower will be pain-free. As a matter of fact, Jesus guarantees trouble will come in the gospel of John. (John 16:33) But after stating this, he reminds us where our peace and our hope come from: him alone. Hardship may come, but he will be there with us and walk with us through it. Not only that, but he has already overcome our enemy and every difficulty we face in this life, and one day he will redeem what was lost here on earth.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV
Instead of only turning to him only for safety and comfort, God longs for us to invite him into every aspect of our lives so that we may know him more deeply. And the more we know him, the more the worries of this world fade. Not because the circumstances change, but because our perspective shifts from short-term fixes to the long-term hope Jesus offers us.
3. Sharing Who God Is With Others
Several years ago, my husband shared a conversation with a young man who didn’t grow up in a Christian home. My husband was talking to him about a prayer God answered, and after listening to the story, the man said, “You can talk to God like that?” He was in complete disbelief over what he’d just heard. He didn’t realize that once we are in Christ, we can approach God as a confidant and a friend, and God cares for our individual needs. But if my husband hadn’t taken a risk, this conversation never would’ve happened. He risked being laughed at, ridiculed, and rejected, but these possibilities weren’t as important to him as sharing the truth of who God was.
There are many people who, like this young man, don’t know what it means to have a personal relationship with the One who gave his life for us. They are searching for answers, and they may never step foot in a church. We might be the only way they see who Jesus is, and what they see matters.
“You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 NIV
But if we’re going to share with them, we have to put our doubts and worries aside. We have to remember the life Jesus offers is far more valuable than any temporary misunderstanding we might face.
When Jesus walked the earth with the first disciples, he told them they would accomplish even greater things than he did during his ministry. (John 14:12) That’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? As we read about all the miracles and healings, Jesus’ promise might seem like something out of a fairy tale or science fiction novel. But it wasn’t, and he meant it. If we continue reading about the things that happened after he ascended into heaven, we see this promise unfolding before his followers’ eyes.
To take hold this life Jesus told us about, we have to leave the infancy of our faith.
We have to take him at his word, and step into the unknown. We can start following the same pattern as those babies who’ve just left the womb. By recalling all those moments when Jesus comforted us and was faithful during our time of need. By remembering his provision and the ways he showed up during moments we doubted.
After collecting those memories, we will have renewed confidence for the journey. We can leave the comfort of our stuck places. And when we do, he will be there to meet us and show us the what’s next. He will not leave us fumbling around in the dark.
Let’s shift our focus from where we’ve been to where he’s taking us.
If we want to see God in the midst of our struggles, we have to change the way we look for him. My book, Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God, is filled with practical tools and insights to help you do so.
Here’s what one reader said after reading it:
“I really appreciated Abby’s transparent, insightful story-telling abilities as she reveals and weaves together; God’s genuine love for us, His relentless pursuit of a relationship with us, and how He never leaves us. She shows us the power of a shift in perspective. We learn about the importance of seeing ourselves through God’s lens and speaking His truth into our lives… rather than through the lens of the world and the lies the world wants us to believe. I encourage you to read Shift. This is a great book to read for a book club or discussion starter while gathered around the table drinking coffee together.” -Susan
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