The Comfort Zone is the Danger Zone (Part One)

(Written with Brenda Brown)

The “boiling frog syndrome” describes how a frog dropped into a kettle of boiling water will jump out immediately in reaction to the pain.  On the other hand, if the frog is placed in water that begins at room temperature but is slowly heated, the frog will remain in the kettle and eventually cook to death.  The cozy amphibian is unable to perceive the danger as it adapts to the gradual rise in temperature.  The analogy alerts us to our response to a comfortable, slowly changing, but potentially threatening environment.

Our western society is captivated with comfort.  The cultural “kettle” in which most of us live promotes and normalizes the call to a cozy life.  We pay extra and even boast excitedly about our comfortable homes, cars, shoes, beds, and vacations.  Our “creature comforts” have slowly lulled even devoted Christ-followers into being creatures of comfort.

Whether it’s a bigger home, a second boat, a third wife, a fourth car, or our fifth vacation in a year, many westerners are on an obsessive quest for an easy, self-serving lifestyle.  Even for the believer with simpler tastes and a limited budget, it is easy to become so accustomed to comfort that the temperature in our kettle could be rising without our notice.  In light of the call to Christ-like discipleship it could be that we are thoughtlessly embracing a dangerous reality. 

An Extraordinary Example

Self-sacrifice and surrender are always distinguishing characteristics of those who choose to live outside the comfort zone.  The ultimate example of One who left comfort in order to sacrifice for others is Jesus.  Even though He was God, Christ “did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, but stripped Himself of all privileges and rightful dignity, so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave).”  The Bible says, “He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!” (Philippians 4:6-8 – Amplified)

Imagine the dramatic reality shift in choosing to exit the center stage of heaven’s worship to enter the vulnerable obscurity of a young virgin’s womb.  Mull over the simplicity and indignity of a smelly, straw-filled stall as the birthing room for the King of Kings.  Consider the discomfort of launching one’s ministry with 40 days in the wilderness.  No running water.  No electricity.  No roof over your head and no food.  Think about the conviction of a “quality of life” described as not having a rock on which to lay your head, let alone a Select Comfort bed.  Try to fathom the choice of the most excruciating and humiliating death for the sake of others. 

The comfortable “kettle” was not behind doors one, two, or three in Jesus’ array of choices.  For our Lord, the comfort zone was irrelevant – an obstruction to His purposes. 

A Pattern from Paul

Writing from a Roman prison, Paul celebrated his significant discomfort that served an even greater purpose.  Because of Paul’s imprisonment, the entire Palace Guard had been made aware of the cause of Christ.  Additionally, believers in Rome gained confidence to boldly share their faith thanks to Paul’s chains.  Seeing the incredible results of his imprisonment, Paul wrestled with the conflicting desires within his heart.  He recognized that his life provided fruitful work for the cause of Christ, while his martyrdom would bring him into the presence of his Savior.  He concluded that it was better for the church if he continued to live, though the cost to him personally would be a huge sacrifice of comfort (Philippians 1:20-22).  Later in that same letter, he confirmed that all the trappings of his formerly comfortable and respectable life had been classified as “dung” in contrast to knowing and following Christ (Philippians 3:7-10).

Marching toward another Holy Spirit-predicted imprisonment, including chains and beatings, Paul told his concerned and empathetic co-leaders, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).  For Paul, the comfort zone was the danger zone.

Embracing a Life of Faith

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews describes many men and women who were willing to sacrifice comfort in order to serve God.  Noah faced the discomfort of ridicule as he faithfully built an ark.  Abraham and Sarah embraced the discomfort of uncertainty in God’s leading, “not knowing where they were going” while traveling in a foreign land, living in a tent.  Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and Gideon all embraced the discomfort of self-sacrifice and surrender in order to be obedient to God. 

The comfort zone is the danger zone because it is very difficult to live by this kind of faith while chasing after and cuddling into a life of comfort.  With little warning, we might find ourselves immersed in a boiling cauldron that extinguishes a life of authentic faith.  As Hebrews 11:6 warns, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  Impossible.  Here’s an extreme word that demands our most intense consideration and lifestyle evaluation.  Here’s a sure promise that some rewards far exceed the temporary creature comforts of this life, if we are courageous enough to seek this supreme certainty.

In his book, Radical – Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, Pastor David Platt describes his journey that led to a drastic reevaluation of the commonly-embraced Christian lifestyle and a passionate embrace of the mission of Christ.  He writes, “I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what was radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.” [i] He continues, “Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world.  Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things.  But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ.  And he is more than enough for us.” [ii]

In Part Two of this devotion we will look at how the “comfort zone” can quench our love, stunt our maturity, and dilute our worship.  Let’s keep stepping forward in the calling to an uncomfortable faith.

Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.

[i] Platt, David (2010-04-17). Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (p. 7). Random House, Inc. Kindle Edition.

[ii] Platt, David (2010-04-17). Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (p. 182). Random House, Inc. Kindle Edition.