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by Ian Rea

Motivational speakers are always quick to point out that we grow when we are forced out of our comfort zone. I agree.

In April, we went on a holiday that took me so far out of my comfort zone that it looked like a ship disappearing over the horizon.

It all began when Gail and I decided that we wanted to have a wild and memorable holiday before our daughter left home. So we set our sights on Zanzibar and started praying and planning. We soon realised that to make the holiday affordable, we would have to travel most of the way by train. To be precise, 3720 km from Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia to Dar es Salaam and back. It sounded wild and memorable, so why not?

On the second day of the train trip, the railway line was blocked by a derailed goods train. So we had to get off our train, carry our luggage past the derailed train and climb onto another train which had been sent from Dar to collect us. As we walked past the derailment, I began to feel afraid that the same thing could happen to our train. I noticed how poorly maintained the railway track was. I imagined passengers entangled in the twisted metal of the wreck. An hour later, whilst a chicken skulked under the seat of our third class carriage, I determined that we would fly back from Dar to Lusaka. Perhaps I was being a bit chicken myself.

As the holiday progressed, I counted up all the money we had managed to save because of Gail’s awesome haggling skills. But by the end of the holiday, I realised that we could not afford to fly home. On top of this, two members of the family were sick – we learned later – with a mild dose of typhoid! That was when the fear really started to grow. My comfort zone had disappeared over the horizon.

So there I was sitting with my family in a guesthouse in Stone Town, feeling very insecure and fearful.

Yes, it is true to say that being out of your comfort zone can stimulate growth. But sometimes it feels like one is being pulled up by the roots!

Be that as it may, like a good pastor, I decided that we should have a little service together since it was Sunday. I don’t remember how, but the Lord led me to read from Psalm 62, and in verse 11, God provided me with a sword with which to kill fear and insecurity.

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. (Psalm 62:11)

I have realised that I feel fearful and insecure when I doubt God’s love for me, when I fail to trust that He has my family’s back. This verse teaches that 1) God loves me and 2) He is strong, which means that His love will be effective. Nobody wants the love of a weak god. Such a god would be pathetic and sentimental. Nobody wants the attention of a powerful but unloving god. Such a god would be a monster. But our Lord is loving AND strong.

Yet I find it sobering that when I felt insecure and fearful on the train, I defaulted to trust in money. If I have the money, I duped myself into believing, then I can control the situation, and I won’t have to trust God. I wonder how often we end up trusting money and the security we think it buys rather than God? Why is it that we feel happy and secure when we have money in our wallets? But as soon as we run out or face a challenge or hardship that breaks the budget, we feel depressed and fearful. Is it because we trust money more than God?

Perhaps you do not turn to money when you feel insecure and out of your comfort zone. Maybe you turn to something else. It could be alcohol, a relationship, pornography, another business deal, another app, another laptop or another desktop, another dress, another life or another wife, a
holiday or perhaps a run-away. Truth is none of these things will replace the security we can ONLY find in the love of God. We were designed by God to have our need for love met in Him. If anything replaces Him as a source of love or security, it is an idol. An idol is something we depend on so that we do not need to depend on God.

If you struggle to feel secure, there is an invitation for you from God in Isaiah. It goes like this:

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. (Isaiah 55:1-3)

What is the solution to thirst, hunger and bankruptcy? It is a covenant of everlasting love! In the words of Piper, “This means that when you come to God, he binds himself by an unbreakable oath to pursue you with goodness and mercy all your days right into eternity”.

So it is true that we grow when we are forced out of our comfort zone. And believe me when I say that God is in the business of making us uncomfortable, especially when we are depending on the wrong things for love and security. He does not want you to build on a collapsible foundation. So when you feel insecure and fearful, forsake the idols of false security and love and put your trust in Him who is loving and strong. I did. We got home safely. And I have grown!