By Beverly Ward
April 24, 2022
From Science: We have probably all heard the admonition, 'get out of your comfort zone', if nothing else, Nike has been telling us for decades to 'Just Do It'. In behavioral science, a comfort zone is considered a psychological place of security, familiarity, and perceived safety; a place free of significant risk or challenge, a place in which we can dwell with relative ease. Like most things in life, comfort zones have advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes, it is a place within which we function well and experience needed calm and mental rest. When we become stagnant, or when we have a strong desire for something we can not accomplish within our comfort zone, the time might be right to push the boundaries. The benefits of stepping outside of our comfort zone (at the right times and for the right reasons) are many, including: enabling accomplishments not otherwise possible, gaining confidence and experience, developing new skills, and preventing boredom and burnout.
When we are feeling stuck, bored, stifled, and unmotivated, making small, low-risk changes can provide a lift to our mood, add a spark to our creativity, and strengthen our 'mental muscles' to equip us for facing bigger challenges. Some things we might try are: taking a different route on a routine drive to work, trying a new, unusual food, and rearranging our furniture. When a challenge is more significant, it can be helpful to approach it in small steps, this usually gets us to the goal just as effectively as a leap would, but minimizes risk and reduces fear. Sometimes, when a challenge does call for a leap, we have to push past fear in the midst of uncertainty. A good way to navigate this is to consider our values and aspirations and then do what we believe.
From Scripture: Let's talk about Simon Peter, famously known for momentarily walking on water. Here's what happened: Jesus had just performed a public miracle by taking a small basket of bread and a few fish and multiplying them into enough food to feed 5,000 people. After feeding the crowd, Christ was ready for a retreat and withdrew to a mountain for some quite time with God; the disciples set out for Capernaum, crossing the Sea of Galilee by boat. Shortly before dawn, the disciples found themselves battteling a storm, and, as they strained against the oars, they saw a figure coming toward them walking on the water. Thinking it was a ghost, they became terrified and cried out in fear. Jesus called to them "take courage, it is I, do not be afraid" (Matthew 14:27) and He called Peter to come to Him. Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on water, but when he turned to look at the storm and became afraid, Pete began to sink. Jesus reached out His hand and caught Peter and they both climbed into the boat.
Stepping out of a perfectly good boat into a storming sea breaks all the rules of reasonable risk taking. What must it have been like for Peter when Jesus called to him to get out of the boat? I wonder, what were Peter's automatic thoughts and what core beliefs were activated? We know that, when Peter looked away from Jesus and at the storm, he began to sink. It appears that, as his eyes lost sight of Christ, his mind reverted to fear-based thinking. Keep in mind that Peter had just seen Jesus feed 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and a few fish. He knew that Jesus could do the impossible, yet Pete sank. His fear-based thinking won out over his faith. He forgot what he knew to be True, or, speaking scientifically, an unhelpful core belief was activated and negative automatic thoughts ensued, Peter responded emotionally with fear and behaviorally with a turn of the head toward the object of his fear and away from that which held him atop the water.
Peter finally did get it right, after sinking on the sea, falling asleep when Jesus asked him to pray, and denying that he ever knew Christ, Peter finally found his strength, his voice, and double portion of courage. Scripture does not tell us how Peter died, but historic records establish that he died a martyr's death and, in it, displayed breathtaking courage. Peter learned of the Romans' plans to crucify him, and, feeling unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ, he requested and received a more gruesome death by being crucified upside down. I believe that only faith can account for this incomprehensible bravery. Peter must have believed, above all other things, the Truth that God would sustain him in what he would have to endure. Sinking Pete grew into St. Peter, a man whose influence is among the greatest in human history. He won not only a battel for faith over fear, but also the war.
Action Plan: Give some thought to where you are in relation to your comfort zone. Are you in a season of thriving and holding steady within it? Are you in a time of hiding in your comfort zone in avoidance? Are you at a place of having the courage to step out of the boat even though your mental muscles might not be mature enough to keep you atop the water? Wherever you are, think about Peter, the fearful disciple in the gospels who became the founder of our Church and a man of stunning courage. Whatever you are challenged to do, so long as you are moving in the direction of Christ, believe that Jesus is extending His hand saying “take courage, it is I, do not be afraid".
Hillsong United performing "Oceans" in Israel by the Sea of Galilee