Growth Through Discomfort: Jonah

Growth Through Discomfort: Jonah

Have you ever tried to run from God? Ever ignored what you knew God was calling on you to do, to go, to say? Ever disobeyed God outright and knowingly? In our culture, it’s easy to make excuses to disobey God when He comes knocking. We want to remain in our comfort zone away from unwanted attention, conflict, conversations, or sacrifices. It feels easier to pretend it wasn’t really God telling us to do what we really don’t want to do.

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because their evil has come up before me.” 3 Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence.

Jonah 1:1-3 CSB

When God told Jonah to do what he didn’t want to do, Jonah ran away. Jonah 1:3 says he “got up to flee”. Jonah’s first reaction was one none of us want to admit is familiar.

When was the last time you fled from God?

What is it that God has called you to do that you are currently running from?

Jonah goes to great lengths and expenses boarding a ship going a totally different direction than where God told him to go. This is exactly what we do when we flee from God’s instruction. When we go the other way and excuse our disobedience we board a ship sailing away from the safety of God’s presence. We are fleeing from Him and the path He has been preparing us for.

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4 But the Lord threw a great wind onto the sea, and such a great storm arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break apart.

Jonah 1:4 CSB

When Jonah boarded the ship, God hit it with a storm that almost destroyed the ship. When Jonah fled from God’s plan, God came knocking again – the first time with His instruction, and this time it was with a warning. God could have destroyed the ship, but v. 4 says the ship “threatened” to break apart. God was getting Jonah’s attention – but where was Jonah? Asleep in the bottom of the ship. The others on the ship found him and woke him up – much as we need at times.

How do you respond when God calls on you?

Sometimes we’re so busy ignoring God’s instructions that we miss the warnings and we need people to come and wake us up and call us out. We need God’s warnings to remind us of what He has called us to do. Sometimes we need to be shaken awake by the reality of our disobedience.

14 So they called out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, don’t let us perish because of this man’s life, and don’t charge us with innocent blood! For you, Lord, have done just as you pleased.” 15 Then they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. 16 The men were seized by great fear of the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. 17 The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah 1:14-17 CSB

How does God respond when we disobey?

One truly interesting thing is that God uses even our blatant disobedience for His glory. Here’s Jonah, running from God’s commands, and these pagan people wake him up, call him out, and you’d think that would be humiliating enough. Jonah then tells them to throw him into the sea to save them and owns up to his defiance against God. What’s astounding is what happens as a result – we probably all know what happens to Jonah – he spent 3 days in the belly of a fish, but don’t miss what happens to the others on the ship.

Verse 16 says “they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.” Because of Jonah’s disobedience, he was in the right place, at the right time, which led to the right circumstances for these men to pledge themselves to the Lord recognizing Him as God. It certainly doesn’t excuse Jonah, but this speaks to God’s power and plans. God knows what we are going to choose, what we will and will not do, and He plans accordingly so that all things will truly work together for good.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28 ESV
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God knows when we are going to run from Him and His instruction

He knows when we will disobey His command, knows when He will need to give us warnings, wake us up and shake us out of our disobedience, and He also knows how to use all circumstances for His glory.

Jonah ended up spending a temporary period of 3 days in the belly of a fish, which reminds me of the temporary period of time I have come out of my own stupor brought on by defiance – you know, that phase where your heart is broken over the realization that you’ve defied God. In that period of time, just like Jonah, we are brought back to our knees and realize how great our God is, how good His commands are, and how much He cares and provides for us. God uses this not just for our own good, but we can’t even fathom the ways He is using these times of discomfort for the salvation of others as well.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

Ecclesiastes 3:14-15 ESV

God is in control

Nothing we do can add to or take away from Him and His works. He knows what is ahead and what is behind. He knows what you are struggling with today, and knows the troubles behind and ahead of you. Whatever it is you are struggling with right now my prayer is that you surrender it to Him and trust Him to restore you and work out all that has been affected by your wandering away from Him. We try to make our plans but rest in the wisdom that God will establish every step according to His will. Let God it, and release your plans to His will for your life, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. His plans are always greater than anything we could even dream of or plan for.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Proverbs 16:9 ESV
Growth Through Discomfort: Joseph

Growth Through Discomfort: Joseph

Have you ever had a fight with your family? Ever had a friend walk away or betray you? These kinds of hurts are a different level of discomfort, yet everyone at some point in their life goes through pain like this.

Growing up I had an extremely rocky relationship with my family and had friends who beat me up on the playground at school. I moved between parents, eventually getting kicked out, then tossed to live with someone I’d once called a friend where I was betrayed in a way that will impact me for the rest of my life. I know the sting of unfathomable family feuds and betrayals from loved ones and friends, the people you trust most.

But would you change any of it if you could? Looking back, do you see nothing but the pain and discomfort, or is there something else there that makes you think twice about changing it all if you could? I asked myself over and over for years. No matter the incredible pain I’d endured for so many years, though, I look back now and don’t long to change it anymore. I did for a long time, not understanding, just hurting and wanting comfort, wanting relief. Sound familiar?

Joseph knew the pain of utter betrayal.

23 When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped off Joseph’s robe, the robe of many colors that he had on. 24 Then they took him and threw him into the pit. The pit was empty, without water. 25 They sat down to eat a meal, and when they looked up, there was a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were carrying aromatic gum, balsam, and resin, going down to Egypt. 26 Judah said to his brothers, “What do we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come on, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay a hand on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh,” and his brothers agreed. 28 When Midianite traders passed by, his brothers pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took Joseph to Egypt. Genesis 37:23-28 CSB

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How could his family do this to him? His own brothers? His own blood? How could they have such hateful hearts? Such evil intentions? Against their brother? How could family treat family this way?

When we are in these moments where the agonizing questions flood our minds and no comforting answers come after them it is certainly an opportunity. In these moments we have a choice. I know, it sure doesn’t feel like it, but we always have a choice.

Choice #1: Let Satan in

In these moments we can let the darkness and the pain consume us. We can let it in, let it take hold, let Satan taunt us with his lies. Satan whispers to us “you’re not good enough”, “you’re unlovable”. He deceives us into believing that we deserve this pain, and he will tell us we’ll never feel anything but pain so we may as well give into it, may as well get used to it, may as well accept it and not fight it.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:44 ESV

Our most tempting choice is to give in, let Satan in, believe his lies, and this is a temptation all of us are familiar with to some degree. After telling the Corinthians of the need for self-discipline in a city wrought with sin and idolatry, flooded with temptations of various kinds, Paul encourages the Corinthians, as well as future generations of Christians, that God will always provide a way out of temptation.

Every temptation we face has an exit ramp.

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

1 John 3:8 ESV
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Choice #2: Let God in

The exit ramp for every temptation is to let God in, to choose God, to trust God’s truth. We cannot fight temptation by our own strength. We cannot fight Satan alone. This is spiritual warfare that requires the spiritual weapons, armor and presence of our Holy God.

11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6:11-13 ESV

In letting God in we let Him take control, let His Spirit indwell, and let His Word speak truth to our soul. Letting God in lets Him refresh, restore and refill us. He is the solution to temptation. It is by His strength, truth and grace we are healed, comforted and saved. He gives us all that we need, which includes His own armor to fight off the schemes of the devil and resist the temptation of sin and the lies Satan wants us to believe; to resist letting Satan in.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5:16-18 ESV

8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8 ESV

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7 ESV

What should we do when life gets uncomfortable?

When we are faced with pain, discomfort, and uncertainty in life, we have a choice. We can choose to believe the lies and let Satan in, let him destroy us from the inside out, or we can choose faith – even faith the size of a mustard seed – fight through each test and trial, resist the schemes and temptations of the devil, and grow through our circumstances like we see Joseph do.

Throughout Genesis 37-50 we see Joseph suffer greatly, but through it all he trusted God. He knew God would provide, and even if he doubted every once in a while as people do he remained diligent in his faith and we later see him rise to a position in which God used him in unimaginable ways.

Joseph went through heartbreaking betrayals and painful circumstances that seemed to make no sense at the time and later in his story we get to look back and see how each step was an opportunity for Joseph to make a choice. God gives us opportunities to trust him, to keep faith in His plan even when we can’t see past our pain, to grow through the discomfort.

You have to get uncomfortable so that you can grow.

No matter the pain you are going through God is not far from you. He sees you, He hears you, He is still providing for you, protecting you, and loving you. God is still good even when our circumstances don’t feel good. Trust in Him to carry you through this and stop trying to do it in your own power, with your own ideas, in your own time. Lift up your worries to the one who will never leave you nor forsake you.

6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV

10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 ESV

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 14:27 ESV

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4 ESV

7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV
Growth Through Discomfort: Paul

Growth Through Discomfort: Paul

What can the Apostle Paul teach me about persecution?

The Apostle Paul is such an interesting historical figure. He became one of the primary people led by the Holy Spirit to write so much of the New Testament. Before this, he was a deadly prosecutor of followers of Jesus. In Acts 9 we read about Jesus blinding Paul and told him to stop persecuting Him. Jesus then sent him on a mission. He had an extremely dramatic conversion to following Jesus and his life certainly never ceased being dramatic.

17 Now from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and summoned the elders of the church. 18 When they came to him, he said to them, “You know, from the first day I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with tears, and during the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. 20 You know that I did not avoid proclaiming to you anything that was profitable or from teaching you publicly and from house to house. 21 I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.

22 “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, compelled by the Spirit, not knowing what I will encounter there, 23 except that in every town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. 24 But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.

Acts 20:17-24 CSB

How does Paul lead by example?

22 I remained personally unknown to the Judean churches that are in Christ. 23 They simply kept hearing, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy.”

Galatians 1:22-23 CSB

Paul is one of my favorite people in scripture. He went boldly wherever the Lord called. The Apostle said what he needed to say, and did the work God led him to do. He was a bit harsh when it was necessary, and gentle in the right moments as well. He learned, by the Holy Spirit, to minister to different people groups in different circumstances. There is so much to learn about how to live as Christ and minister to the world around us. We should never have shame about our faith or the mission we have been given.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.

Romans 1:16 CSB

One of my favorite things is that he led such a life of turmoil but understood that there was a purpose for all of it. Paul understood that his reward was not here, but was awaiting him in Heaven. He understood what it meant to be truly persecuted for the sake of Jesus. Even still, he kept sharing the Gospel and didn’t run from it. He embraced discomfort, pain, imprisonment. Paul kept on in his God-given mission. He kept trusting in the Lord to use his painful circumstances for His glory.

What does Apostle Paul teach us about discomfort

How did Paul respond when life was difficult?

Paul is an incredible example of growing through discomfort. He teaches us so much about placing Jesus as our reason, priority, and mission. He shows us the depths we should be willing to go through, the lengths we should be willing to travel. He exemplifies the pain we should be willing to endure to further the mission and truth of the Gospel. We are called to get uncomfortable so we can grow. That can’t be done if we stay in our little bubble of protection. We cannot grow in faith if we never act in faith, or only leap when it is convenient.

19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

Galatians 2:19-21 CSB

Paul says in Acts 20:24 “I consider my life as no value to myself;” – he understands his life belongs to the Lord. He goes on to say “my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” Friends, fam in Christ, we all share this exact mission. God has given you a mission to testify to the gospel. Our shared mission is to share His Word. We should plant seeds of faith into as many hearts as He gives you the opportunity to. Our lives are not our own.

How can I grow spiritually when life is hard?

My life is the Lord’s. I give myself over to Him every day, moment by moment. It’s a choice to seek His guidance in whatever pains and joys He brings me through. I strive to serve, honor, glorify and testify every chance I get. I don’t always get it right, I never will, but I surrender again and again to His plan. He reminds me that His plans are bigger than me and I am blessed to be a part of them.

14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, 16 by holding firm to the word of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing.

Philippians 2:14-16 CSB
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How can I stop making excuses?

Next time you read Paul’s letters take a look at how he gives his life over to be used for the Lord. Don’t let pain, persecution, difficulty, or discomfort stop you. Don’t put His plans on pause, or make excuses to avoid what God has called him to do.

7 Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap, 8 because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.

Galatians 6:7-10 CSB

Check out our reading plan that walks you through all of the Epistles of Paul. Be encouraged by the lessons we can derive from this collection of letters.

Growth Through Discomfort: Ruth

Growth Through Discomfort: Ruth

Do Christians struggle?

I don’t know about you, but one common misconception I hear about Christianity is that becoming a Christian means life is automatically easier. People seem to believe that it’s like a switch that you flip and the troubles turn off. People often believe that you don’t struggle anymore once you become a Christian. This common worldview is held by so many, but is not Biblical and therefore not true. The story of Ruth tackles this beautifully.

Christians still suffer. We still struggle. We still go through uncomfortable and even painful circumstances. Christianity is a way of life. It’s a belief. Its faith in our Maker and Savior. What we experience is not about us. Our lives are about Jesus. We are called to follow, imitate, grow in relationship with, and likeness of Christ.

For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

1 Peter 2:21 CSB

Why do Christians struggle?

Christ suffered, therefore you can count on suffering as well. Suffering and discomfort are not things to avoid, though. Trials can teach us, grow our faith and reliance on Him, and lead us to become more like Christ all the time. Discomfort and even pain should draw us closer to the throne of God and the way He wants us to live and away from sin and selfish ambition.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV
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The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while.

1 Peter 5:10 CSB

3 And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5:3-5 CSB

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.

Romans 8:18 CSB

Who is Ruth?

Scripture is filled with examples of people, just like you and me, who were plopped right smack into uncomfortable and even painful situations. Two such people were Naomi and Ruth. Naomi had lost her husband then her sons. She was left to fend for herself which was an incredible challenge and danger.

2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

James 1:2-4 CSB

Naomi instructed Orpah and Ruth, her daughters-in-law, to go back home to their families. Ruth and Orpah would be taken care of if they went home to their families. This would leave Naomi completely on her own. Naomi, knowing this, willingly told these women to leave her behind to deal with the struggles of being a woman alone in Biblical times, thinking the Lord had turned against her.

11 But Naomi replied, “Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters. Go on, for I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me to have a husband tonight and to bear sons, 13 would you be willing to wait for them to grow up? Would you restrain yourselves from remarrying? No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me.” Ruth 1:11-13 CSB

Doesn’t that sound so familiar?

How does Ruth encourage us in times of suffering?

It’s easy to feel like God has turned on us when we’re faced with difficult and painful circumstances. This woman had already lost her husband, and now both of her sons are dead as well, and she thinks God has turned on her and becomes bitter. I can think of plenty of times in my life my mind went down this train of thought during a time of despair. It’s easy to be blinded by grief, pain, and discomfort and fall into bitterness.

The beautiful thing, though, is that no matter how we feel or what we think, God’s promises never change, never fail, and God is always faithful. We can rest in God’s truth. God reminds us that we are never alone and that painful circumstances are opportunities.

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How is Ruth an example to us?

Naomi tells Ruth to leave her behind, but Ruth “clung to her” (v. 14). Again, Naomi feels so much like how I would likely respond – she tells her to go again, urging her to go make a better life for herself, but Ruth… Ruth stays. Not only does Ruth stay but she declares something incredible to her mother-in-law.

14 Again they wept loudly, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. Follow your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth replied: Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me. Ruth 1:14-17 CSB

Ruth chooses a life of discomfort. She chooses to declare herself to Naomi, no matter the cost, even until death. Even more incredible, she leaves her people’s religion behind and chooses God, Yahweh, Naomi’s God, our God, the God of Israel. Ruth chose to change her entire life not knowing what may be ahead, but knowing it would be filled with hardship.

Ruth tackles her circumstances head on choosing the more difficult path because she knows it is right. She clearly understands what we miss so often – sometimes the hard thing and the right thing are the same thing. She doesn’t shy away, she heads toward it faithfully, boldly.

What should I do when life hurts?

May we have that kind of faith, that kind of boldness, that kind of dedication to God. May we be so committed to the way of the Lord that we are unafraid, unflinching, and choose to go full steam ahead wherever the Lord is leading. Trust Him to guide, carry, strengthen, provide and grow you through any circumstance. Trust in the Lord to keep His promises and to be with you always.

Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For the Lord your God is the one who will go with you; he will not leave you or abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 CSB

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 CSB

Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 CSB

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