Discomfort and reward are not always exclusive. Discomfort sometimes accompanies me when I write. The blank page that must be filled and a prayer that I’ll somehow, some way have something worthy to say is behind every sentence, every semicolon, every period. But great reward always replaces discomfort once the puzzle pieces of thoughts and ideas fit into a harmonious outcome. Then when the last period is put on a page that moves me, a deep satisfaction resonates inside my soul.
This is what I was made for.
I sense God’s pleasure and His delight because I am fulfilling His aim for my life; but I would never know this satisfaction without discomfort.
Why do we insist on reward without discomfort? Why do we believe that life and our God-given aim should be easy before we pursue it? Why do we hide behind security , responsibility and what’s “safe”?
Why do we refuse to risk?
One day as I sat in the airport waiting to board my flight, I spoke with a young woman, a graduate student studying medicine at John Hopkins University. “If there was one thing you could do with your life, what would that one thing be?” I asked. “I’d have my own overseas medical lab,” she said. “But I don’t think that will ever happen,” she said. “That’s just too big of a risk and there’s too much to lose.”
I took a second look at her. She was beautiful, articulate, young and intelligent. What do you have to lose? I thought. More than you can imagine.
When we insist on ease, when we demand that God’s plan for our life be comfortable, when we want reward and satisfaction without the difficulty of the unknown, we lose more than we imagined.
We lose our very life because killing our dreams kills our hearts.
The greatest saints of the Bible didn’t experience reward without discomfort or callings without chaos. Moses was mocked and scorned by those he wanted to rescue; Joseph was abused and ridiculed by his brothers, and every one of the disciples was persecuted for their faith. Even Christ was crucified.
Should we expect success without discomfort?
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Ah ha! That’s exactly why I’m not going after my calling! Look at Jesus! He followed God’s will and they killed him.” If so, you have missed the point. Jesus endured the pain, the discomfort and the torture of taking on the entire sin of the world because he knew there was “joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV). He knew that the punctuation on his page of pain would be turned to exclamation points of joy.
Imagine that you are on your death bed. Your best friend comes in the room and asks you, “What do you wish you would have done with your life?” Would you say that you wish you would have colored inside the lines a little more, lived life more carefully? If you’re like most people, you would feel that you should have lived with a little more reckless abandon. Loved more. Dreamed more. Adventured more. Most of us live life far too carefully. God places dreams in our hearts and we find every reason under the sun why we can’t accomplish them. He nudges us to act and we run. Yes, we risk far too little and so unlike Jesus, we experience little joy.
This is the value of discomfort and the redemptive value of pain. When it’s waded through with God, because He is calling you to something new, there will always be a reward on the other side, just like there is deep satisfaction on the other side of the page when I finish writing.
God’s calling is never be comfortable, but you will never experience deep satisfaction without stepping out into the unknown. Will you risk discomfort to experience the joy of knowing you are in the center of His will?
One of the most well known Scriptures in the Bible is Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)
One of the greatest fears we have when we risk is that we do it alone, and that rather than have straight paths, that ours will be crooked, a messed up life that can never be fixed. A closer look at this Scripture provides hope for these concerns.
In this passage, God says that risk (or any decision we make) is not to be made independent of Him. Instead, we are to trust Him and acknowledge Him. According to the original Hebrew language in the Old Testament, the word for trust is the word batach and it means to “rely on.” The word acknowledge means more than just glancing God’s way as if to say, “I see you there.” Instead, this acknowledgement is about knowing God within the context of relationship the way you know a good friend. God is saying that when you risk, rely on Him, be dependent on Him and you will experience the straight paths Proverbs 3:5-6 describes.
What absolute joy for the person who wants to take a risk! In the end of life they will be able to say, “I would have done it all over again because I did it with God.” When you risk with God you are never alone. God is in your risk with you.
In his book, "Soul Cravings," Erwin Raphael McManus writes, “The maddening reality is that each and every one of us has been created with a soul craving to become—to become something—something better, something different, something special, something unique, something admired, something valued, something more than we are.”
No matter how much we wish it was otherwise, the “something” that McManus describes never happens outside the context of risk, but it always happens within the context of passion. When you discover where your passion or “something” is, you will discover where you should risk. This place of passion will also make you feel terrified to do it. Why? Because it’s where your heart is the most vulnerable; it’s where you have the most emotionally invested; it’s what you want most.
It’s like desperately wanting a romantic relationship with a particular young man or woman, and because it’s where you feel most passionately, it’s also where you can feel the most afraid.
In this fear you can find comfort in God if you go to Him and ask you to meet you in your passion and the fear it brings. Ask Him to help you overcome your fear. And He will, because He has given you your passions.
Are you ready to take the risk?