Get comfortable being uncomfortable

Things were quiet. Too quiet.

Image courtesy of iStock photo

I sat in a circle of 10 people who had no idea what to say.  The uneasy silence came during a meeting of our small group that had been together for several months.  Usually we were a talkative bunch. I had to struggle to keep people on topic because we enjoyed each other’s company so much. Right now… not so much.

We had just been reflecting on Biblical passages about servanthood.  The study seemed obvious enough, nothing too revolutionary, just familiar passages about serving the least of these among us.

But now Kathy, a member of the group, was taking things too far.  She was taking the lesson personally.

“You know, I think I’ve been disobedient to God.” She said.

That got our attention. Kathy was the most gracious, meek, and kind person in the group by far. None of us had pictured her as a hardened sinner.  Especially at our weekly potluck dinneres with her green been casserole in hand.

“I’m not sure I’ve been doing what the Bible says.” She was staring at a spot in the wall over our heads, careful not to make eye contact.  “I used to really love to serve other people, but in the last few years, well, I guess ever since the kids were little, it seems like all of my time and attention has gone to my own family. I haven’t really taken time to look around and see how other people are struggling, what their needs are, and how I can help. And now that the kids are grown I haven’t changed that pattern at all.”  She got a little quieter. “I think Jesus is sad. I think he wishes I would look outside myself and stop being so selfish.”

The room was dead quiet.  People were clearly uneasy, shifting around in their seats and glancing at me as the leader of the group, wondering what I would do to fix this awkward moment.

We were uncomfortable with Kathy being uncomfortable.  Finally, someone who couldn’t take it anymore and broke the ice.

“But Kathy, you do so many wonderful things for your own family.”

Another person jumped in:

“I agree! You’re such a loving person, I’m sure Jesus understands that your attention is on the needs in your own family. Just look at what great kids you’ve raised!”

The group was nodding and smiling, reassuring Kathy that she wasn’t a monster, just a stay-at-home mom turned empty-nester with plenty of responsibilities and grandchildren on her plate. Surely she measured higher than we did on the obedience scale – and there was clearly nothing wrong with the rest of us, right?

Surely Jesus didn’t mean she had to look outside of her own family to serve?  Surely he wouldn’t want what she was reading in the Bible to make her uncomfortable?  If it did, surely it was our job to make her comfortable again, right?

Small group FAIL.

What had been a moment of holy discomfort, of true conviction, got turned into an “I’m OK, you’re OK” session in just a few seconds.  God had been speaking to Kathy through those Scriptures, gently convicting her.  He was using His Word to show her an area of her life that he wanted her to change. Once this tiny little flame of conviction got started, she shyly trusted her group, and they poured a big bucket of ice water on it to save her from the burn.  I think that little flame of conviction was about to develop (and I hope it still did) into a calling, a burden, a desire to reach out to someone and serve them in Jesus’ name.

But we silenced it. All in the name of being comfortable.

Why are Christians so uncomfortable with being uncomfortable? Why do we need to reassure each other all the time that we’re just fine the way we are?

When God convicts us, it doesn’t mean He’s squashing our self esteem.  There’s a huge difference between conviction and condemnation.  One is a voice from the Spirit. One is a voice from the serpent.  One voice prods us gently towards the ways God wants to help us change.  The other tells us how worthless we are and that we are incapable of change.
Conviction is the first step of transformation into something better, something more like Jesus.

Transformation often requires that we become so uncomfortable with where we are that we want to move.

But we have to be OK with being uncomfortable first.

Have you ever been in a conversation where an uncomfortable moment leads to a good thing?


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I agree with Veleen! Sometimes we have to feel uncomfortable so that we can figure out what God is calling us to do. Things don’t always feel good. Working through that gets us to the comfortable place. There is nothing wrong with serving our family. I will be an empty nester in the fall and I am wondering what God is calling me to do next. I will pray and listen as time goes by and I hope He leads me to my mission.


Mandi, I’m so excited about your next steps as an empty-nester. I’ve known many people for whom this was the most productive spiritual stage of their life. Have you been on a Walk to Emmaus Retreat? A perfect weekend for the Fall your youngest bird flies out of the nest. 🙂 Let me know if you want more info.


Small groups should help us grow, which requires leaving our comfortable places in search of better places. We should be seeking that holy discomfort instead of pushing our own comfort like the drug it can be.


Thanks for putting up with me during our stint as leaders of that group. I came home most nights more frustrated than filled. You were always so good to listen.


Being vulnerable is hard…. sometimes it takes just one person to put all their marbles on the table before others follow suit. Being honest with ourselves has to happen before we can be honest with God, or with anyone else. I think our society stays so rabidly busy that it’s a challenge for most of us to succeed in being still, self-examining, vulnerable, and honest.


Annette, Sounds like you’ve had some experience getting still and examining life from a quiet place. Your vulnerability (and strength!) are two of the reasons I admire you so much.

K Orr

Searching for homeostasis and comfortableness is futile, and ultimately, I believe, unbiblical. God himself did not destroy chaos at Creation, and thus calls us, in Jesus, to find peace through desperately clinging to Him, in the MIDST of chaos and storm. Discomfort is the “comfortable” way of the Christ-follower. “setting aside,” “laying down,” “picking up,” “surrendering,” “selling all,” etc., etc., Oy! Corollary book: Guard the Chaos: Finding Meaning in Change; Hannah Ward (Author), Jennifer Wild (Author)


Guard the Chaos sounds either like a great book or like the week I just lived. 🙂 I’ll have to pick it up sometime.

Jennifer N

I think it’s our tendency to want to comfort people either when there’s tension, struggles, sadness…we don’t want people to hurt or be uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to be uncomfortable also, but I think it’s also that we care for people and don’t want them to appear to suffer. The problem with that arises when we forget that when we’re struggling is often when God is working his hardest to get us to see something. I think it takes a lot of discernment and an open spirit to notice when we need to step in to comfort and when we need to walk alongside them in their uncomfortableness.


That’s such a hard balance, isn’t it? When to comfort people and when to sit with them in the umcomfortable? Have you found any ways of figuring out when it’s the right moment for one or the other?


Exactly. I like your observation that she was “fishing.” (see picture above!) I think she may have wanted us to confirm God’s words to her, but we missed our chance.

Jennifer N

I wish I was better at it! I have always been one to offer advice…I’d like to think I’m pretty good at it but who knows. So it’s been a life lesson to sometimes just sit back and shut up and really figure out what people are looking for when they open up like that- sometimes they are fishing…for confirmation, advice, strength, you name it…and man does it take a slow tongue to be able to figure that out before just jumping in and trying to help. I’ve notices that God has placed quite a few people in my life lately that are quicker to speak than I am…you know, the ones who never let you finish a thought before interrupting. It’s actually made me more self aware than I already was to let people finish…to let them talk, really hear them, and then think about a response…not formulate it while they’re talking. I took a class in college for group psych that taught me these principles, but I never knew how important they could be to implement until I was the one that felt like I wasn’t being heard.

So to answer your question :), I’m a work in progress!