I was sat comfortably, as it happened, in my economy seat onboard the British Airways aircraft that would take me back to Germany after a fortnight of reunions and precious time with family in Aberdeen over the Christmas period. The flight roster was quiet, gifting me an entire row of seats to myself.
The safety video full of famous British faces had ended and the lights dimmed as we prepared for take-off. I had shortly before been sent on my way by 75% of my immediate family and had had no trouble putting on a brave face as we said our goodbyes. I rarely get teary at farewells, instead typically approaching the occasion all too matter-of-factly, and eager to get on my way. But as the plane sped along the runway and the nose lifted off the ground, I was overwhelmed with a flood of emotions and they began leaking down my face.
As the granite city grew ever smaller below me, I stared purposefully out of the window. The winter sun bounced off the fluffy clouds surrounding the plane as I reflected on the incredible time I had spent in my homeland; of the valuable time I had had with so many special friends; of the quality time enjoyed with my extended family; of the ease of spending two weeks at my family home where food and electricity and transport was not my concern. I reflected on two incredible weeks; two weeks spent entirely within my Comfort Zone.
I had never really considered my life to have been lived in my Comfort Zone before, but from the moment I stepped foot in Germany it became glaringly obvious that I had left it far behind me. It had been my choice to respond positively to God’s call, and one that I would not change for the world, but it has been a journey full of challenge, and earnest prayers in the face of great fear. Back in April 2017, I boarded my one-way flight with great excitement and intrigue, expecting adventure and opportunity for the miraculous. And it has been all those things. But having settled comfortably for two weeks back into very little worry or concern or responsibility, the reality of what I was returning to in this second instance was viewed with stark clarity. I had pushed all German matters comfortably to the back of my mind and left them there for 14 days of bliss. But as I started the return journey, I could ignore them no longer.
I remembered that I had big decisions to make upon my return.
I remembered that the ease with which I had enjoyed relationships in Scotland was not yet available across the language barrier.
I remembered that I was returning to face huge financial challenges.
I remembered the great unknown that 2018 held.
I remembered that every day would be a test of my faith. But that it was sure to bring even greater testimony.
As the plane flew south over snow-capped hills and winding rivers, I grieved the life I was once again leaving behind. I silently handed all my friends and family members over to God for His safe-keeping. As we crossed the border and entered English airspace, I declared all the concerns and fears that I knew I would face upon my return, but recognising that my God, who had been faithful throughout 2017, was the same God who returned with me as I looked ahead into 2018.
It was not until I stepped out of my Comfort Zone that I recognised just how comfortable I had become living inside of it. Yet the growth and development of my faith that I saw in 2017 would not have been possible if I had remained there. The miracles I have witnessed and the characteristics of God that I had only ever read about became a reality for me when I left comfort behind. The God I have come to know and the closeness I have experienced with Him was previously hindered by my comfy, cosy Comfort Zone.
As I consider 2018 and all that this new year will bring, I recognise that the concerns, responsibilities and fear that I carry may be great, but my God is far greater! The challenges I face only set the stage for God to accomplish infinitely more than I could ever ask or imagine! And knowing Him and experiencing Him in new ways every single day is a far more exciting and rewarding way to live than settling for comfort and ease.
Though I more reluctantly left my Comfort Zone this time around, the truth is that our Comfort Zone is where our faith becomes stagnant. If we have all that (we think) we need, we have no reason to engage our faith and to trust God for His guidance and provision. Are we not all guilty of drifting a little from God when things are going well? Yet when circumstances around us get tough, we draw close to Him again and ask for His intervention in matters we cannot ‘fix’ ourselves, do we not? Instead, let us seek to continually draw close to God this year, no matter what we face. Let us endeavour to remain just as close to Him through the good times as we do through the struggles. May our faith in the Almighty God be where we find our greatest comfort.
I have been back in Germany for just under two weeks now and God has overwhelmed me with His goodness once again. His presence brings me peace, and the evidence of His hand in the detail of my life never eases to amaze me and bring me to tears of pure joy! Thank God for His personalised love and interest in each one of our lives! His love reaches far beyond our realms of understanding; so far, in fact, that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to carry the punishment for our sins and die in place of us. That is real love!
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16 (NLT)
So let’s not remain in our comfy armchairs, watching life go by. Let’s live the full and abundant life that Jesus bought for us on the cross! I would encourage us all to push forward in this new year into all that God has for us. His purposes will always take us outside of our Comfort Zone and require us to lean more heavily on Him, but the reward of knowing Him more intimately, experiencing His miracles first hand, and receiving the freedom and peace that He brings far outweighs anything we leave behind.
How about we just start small: what is it that God is asking you to do today? Perhaps, like me, the problem is not figuring out what that is, but simply having the courage to do it! I spent hours yesterday arguing with God over an issue that was settled weeks ago, but in my fear I sought to make excuses and delay my obedience. Yet as I surrendered to His plan, mustered up the courage and acted in faith, He met me exactly where I was and led me graciously, step-by-step. In just a few short hours, I am already a witness to His blessing, for when we act in obedience, blessing will always follow.
I hope that 2018 will be a year full of surprises, opportunities, miracles, and fresh encounters with God for each of us. Together, let’s leave behind what is comfortable and put on a brave face, stepping boldly into the fullness of what God wants to do in us and through us this year.