What is the Comfort Zone?
The “Comfort Zone” is any situation you find yourself in that gives you a sense of satisfaction; or where the energy to move on is non-existent. It is a condition of the mind. People who accept to be in their comfort zones usually lack the stamina to move on further in their lives. This can be in their spiritual lives, educational lives, career aspirations, marriages, etc. There are people who believe that have attained such a spiritual height that they do not need to move on again. Others believe that in their families, they are the only ones who have university degrees so they have done enough. Others are also content with just being Certificate “A” teachers because their salaries are adequate to take care of themselves and their kids. There are also other people who tell themselves that their ambition is to just get married immediately they graduate from the training college. They therefore do not even want to make an attempt to add any value to their lives. At the institutional level, some churches are fixated on their dogma, to the detriment of the gospel. Comfort zone is usually not perceived to be a negative condition. Sometimes, it could be a situation of comfort. But it becomes undesirable because it gives us a false sense of accomplishment that there is nothing to live for anymore.
Why can it be harmful?
- Because God wants us to move on in life. Stagnation is not something he wanted us to do. When the Israelites got to the Mount of Horeb, God told them to move on. This was an area where God had fed them with manna and quails. They were therefore lulled into a false sense of security to think that all was well with them. This situation is similar to undertaking a journey to Accra from Obuasi. When you get to Mankessim Junction, there is a rest stop there. You can get any refreshment you need over there. You can eat fufu, banku, kenkey and fried fish, fried rice, canned drinks, etc. Much as it is good to refresh yourself, there is also a real need for you to be mindful of the ultimate journey ahead of you. You do not have to eat so much and forget that you are still not in Accra. That is the situation some of us find ourselves in. We had wonderful goals as young people. Then for some reason, we diverted and got ourselves involved in something else. But rather than moving on, we have accepted the situation as it is and refused to pursue our original goal.
- It limits the ability of God to take you to higher places. God is a God of possibilities. He says there is NOTHING too difficult for Him. He also asks “Is there anything too hard for me?” Whatever He has planned for your life is capable of being achieved. It only takes a determination on our part to pursue it. If we accept our condition as it is, then we are only succeeding in limiting the Hand of God in our lives. When the Israelites panicked at the sight of the marauding Egyptians, they were sending a subtle message to God that His powers had reached its limit (Exodus 14).
- It breeds mediocrity. An acceptance of a comfort zone phenomenon is an acceptance of mediocrity. Mediocrity is a state of poor performance. The interesting thing about the mediocre life is the glorification of poor performance. A very sub-standard and weak performance tends to be accepted as the norm, and receives rave reviews from people who are themselves not given to any spirit of excellence. When you get into a comfort zone phenomenon, you tend to use that as a standard of measurement of performance and that becomes dangerous. It gets worse if you are a role model. Then you succeed in limiting the ability of your followers to achieve optimum results in their lives. A life of mediocrity is not what God intended for you. He says “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my thoughts HIGHER than your thoughts”.
How to deal with the Comfort Zone: Bible Case Studies
- Develop an attitude of restlessness : In other words, reject your current situation. The story of Esau (Gen. 27). Isaac told Esau that he would live by his sword. He accepted the challenge and went on to become a very successful businessman, even though he lost the inheritance. The story of Esau is one of the most unreported in the Bible. If you were born into a poor home, you don’t accept the situation and say that you can do nothing about it. It takes extraordinary steps to move out of a comfort zone situation. It takes extraordinary effort to break a curse. This curse could be a social curse like poor educational record of the family. Maybe in your home nobody has gone to university before. It takes something more than the ordinary for you to be the first person to breakthrough. Esau lived by the sword. What is your sword?
- Despise the public shame and embarrassment:The woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:24b-34). She lived in a situation of shame. She had moved from doctor to doctor for twelve years without any cure. She took an extraordinary move. She told herself “if only I can touch the hem of his garments”. We must put the situation in context. Here are thousands of people following Jesus; each jostling to catch his attention. Then this poor, stinking woman moves through the crowd, being shoved here and there. But she is not perturbed. She moves on. Some in the crowd can smell the putrefying stench and probably pushed her down. She would get up, and still aim at her target: the hem of the master’s garments. Eventually, she touches it; and what a relief! The blood flow ceases! Jesus turns round and asks the disciples: “who touched me?” This question may have sounded foolish because there were probably thousands of people following him. It takes a touch of faith and determination to get the Master’s attention. Are we prepared to despise the shame, the public ridicule, the incessant failures, people’s negative verdict, etc and reach our goal?
- Ignore public prejudices and stereotypes: Blind Bartimaeus (Luke 18:35-43; Mark 10:46-52). He has been consigned by society to be a beggar because of his physical disability. Society decrees that because he is blind, he should be a beggar and a scum of the earth. Unfortunately, we live in a society where even the slightest abnormality about our lives becomes a basis for consigning ourselves to begging on the streets. So Bartimaeus was in the very comfort zone society had prescribed for him: begging. He has been begging all his life and that is what he has accepted. One day he hears a general commotion. What is happening? Jesus, Son of David is passing by. According to the Bible, he throws away his begging bowl and cloak that has become symbols of society’s scorn and follows the sound of the commotion. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus does not allow the perceptions and prejudices of his society to impede his miracle. Some of the greatest people of the world have been people with one disability or the other. Franklin Delano Roosevelt spent most of his presidency of the United States in a wheelchair. Helen Keller was born blind but became one of the prolific writers of her time. The author of great hymns like “Blessed Assurance”, “To God Be The Glory” etc was also born blind. But she did not accept her condition and went on to compose these great hymns which we still enjoy. A disability is not an inability.
- Stop complaining about your situation and act: The man at the Pool of Bethesda, (John 5:1-8). One major characteristic of people in a comfort zone phenomenon is that they complain a lot. They find fault with everything. They blame everybody for their situation except themselves. They believe that someone is responsible for their predicament. They believe if their parents had sent them to school, they would have become the medical doctors, journalists, lecturers, teachers, engineers, etc that they dreamt of becoming as children. They forget that they are also partly to blame for their circumstances since at a point in time they accepted the verdict that their parents passed on them. The man at the Pool of Bethesda had been lying there for 38 years waiting for his miracle before his encounter with Jesus. He waited for the stirring of the water so that he could jump in. Unfortunately, due to his paralysis, someone stronger always went ahead of him. Then the Master Healer appeared by his bedside. Because of his indolence, and perhaps his sense of dejection, he did not even notice it. He complained that all his colleagues were better off than he was. He complained that all his colleagues had gotten married. He complained that all his colleagues had good jobs. And yet, he still waited for the stirring of the water. Interestingly, when Jesus asked a harmless question: “do you want to be made whole?” he still goes on and on about his problems blaming the strong guys who always go ahead of him. There comes a time when you have to stop the blame game and take your destiny in your hands. When we get too preoccupied with blaming others for our woes, we lose the brightest opportunity to have the problems resolved. You can always have people to complain to. They will have time to listen to your blame game sermon. But not all of them will help you scale over the problem.
- Embrace your fear: The story of the lepers, (2Kings 7:3-11). The best way to deal with a situation you fear is to confront it. Fear fizzles when it is confronted. Most of the times, what we fear is nothing more than a psychological inhibition to move on. The moment that psychological barrier is broken, fear vanishes. The four lepers lived at a difficult period in the history of Israel. There was intense famine in the city as a result of a siege of the city by the Aramean army. The famine was so severe that parents were eating their children to survive. Outside the city walls, the powerful and fearful Aramean army was there. The four lepers were therefore left in a delicate situation. “If we go into the city, famine will kill us. If we stay here, we die”. So between these two “fears”, they chose the most promising fear: confront the Aramean army. If they decided to go into the city, they would be sure to die of hunger, more so when they were lepers and were not allowed to mingle with the normal people because they were considered unclean. On the other hand, it was much more promising to get out of the city and meet the Arameans, because here, there was a possibility of they being saved. God had prepared a great salvation for His people so when they entered the Aramean camp, there was not even a single soul. The four lepers could have starved to death because of these two fearful situations they faced. They could have consigned themselves to their comfort zone. But they decided to confront their fear, and that became their salvation and that of the Israelites.