The call to get out of the comfort zone has been trumpeted at many a Christian conference in recent years. Oddly enough the get out of the comfort zone call has been paralleled with the offer of prayer for freedom from anxiety.
I say odd because leaving the comfort zone results in increased anxiety! One business author writing in 1995 described the comfort zone as “a behavioural state where a person operates in an anxiety-neutral position”. Leaving the comfort zone means entering the discomfort zone.
That might sound like some sort of theoretical play on words. And I suppose without thinking what that looks like in the real world, it is just that – a play on words.
Jesus knew all about the discomfort zone. His whole earthly existence was lived in the discomfort zone. From his incarnation as the son of Mary to His cruel death on the cross, Jesus experience of life was lived in a spectrum of discomfort.
One aspect of discomfort that might not always be as evident as the circumstances surrounding His birth or His agonising death, is His relationship with the region where He spent His formative years.
Jesus grew up in Nazareth in Galilee. Some of His most notable miracles were performed in the towns and villages of Galilee. And yet there were good reasons for Jesus to have cut His ties with Galilee altogether.
Galilee, as a region, had a chequered history. Its spiritual and ethnic pedigree was always considered just a little dubious. It was border territory, interfacing with the gentile world. It certainly didn’t have the status of Jerusalem or Judea. Upwardly mobile would-be messiahs would not want to associate too closely with Galilee.
Then of course there was its history. 1 Kings 9 records that Solomon decided to pay off his debts to Hiram, King of Tyre by giving him a collection of towns in Galilee. Hiram clearly was not very pleased and expressed his displeasure in the name he gave to his new territory – Kabul – meaning “good for nothing”. One can imagine how that impacted on the collective psyche of the Galileans.
Jesus knew that Galilee would not be easy territory for Him. He acknowledged that prophets aren’t honoured in their own backyard (John 4.43-45). And there was the popular prejudice that “prophets don’t come from Galilee” (John 7.52)
And yet Jesus made Galilee the centre of His world. He chose His disciples there (see Luke 5). He performed His first miracle there (John 2). And when He commissioned His disciples to go and change the world, He chose Galilee as the location for the commissioning service.
Galilee, the discomfort zone, was the place where Jesus chose to reveal His glory. It was the scene of incredible healings and miracles. And it became the launch pad for the great commission. In short, a place that was rejected, overlooked, looked down upon. A place considered to have a hostile spiritual climate became a place of incredible fruitfulness and a place where God’s glory broke into the world.
What’s your Galilee? What areas of your life seem the least spiritually promising? Where do you think God is least likely to be at work? Perhaps it is time to reconsider. Perhaps those places have unknown potential for a move of God.
And all that is needed is a willingness to enter the discomfort zone.