“Through discomfort, I’ve learned to depend on God when my natural instinct is to rely on my own skills and talents.” — Seth Barnes, Kingdom Journeys
My greatest lessons in life have been learned through discomfort. This is an example that we see throughout the Bible : no one grows as much during periods of comfort and prosperity, but they grow exponentially through times of adversity and trials. Look at Moses, Abraham, Joseph and David, to name a few. The lives of these men did not go as they had anticipated, but they ended up being used by God in extraordinary ways because of their obedience and willingness to journey without a map in front of them.
“In the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine–and before we know it, our lives are gone.” — Seth Barnes, Kingdom Journeys
In 2007 I began to pray what many considered to be a “crazy” prayer but it is the prayer that has shaped me to this day in ways I could not have imagined. I prayed that God would make me uncomfortable. I was in a spiritual valley/rut and I saw no escape. I began to see a pattern in the Bible of growth following discomfort, so I boldly asked God for the same blessing. Had I known what was to come I might not have prayed so boldly.
“You can’t be remade until you first allow yourself to be unmade.” — Seth Barnes, Kingdom Journeys
2007-2008 brought so much change in my life. On top of the external change, I also developed pneumonia that I unknowingly (I was told it was just severe allergies at first) battled for 13 weeks. I was so sick and lost the ability to sing during that time because my throat was so raw and my lungs were so weak. Singing is possibly my greatest God-given talent, so to have it taken away was most definitely uncomfortable. In addition to sickness, He also began to shift relationships in my life and began paving the way for a greater future than I had imagined. In many ways, I felt broken inside. But I was open to whatever He had for me.
God began to break me so that I could be remade, and it came in ways I never would have anticipated…like moving across the country with no job, only two friends in the area, and a lot of unknowns.
The move began to take shape in October 2007, during a two-week visit to Pennsylvania. I flew out to sing at a friend’s wedding and to attend another friend’s wedding the week after. I decided to take a road trip around Pennsylvania to see some of the “kids” who were in my youth group in Williamsport (when I served as a summer missionary in 2002-2003) at their respective colleges. As I drove back to Williamsport after spending a few days in Pittsburgh, I was enamored with the fall foliage and the beauty that surrounded me. It hit me that I did not want to return to Southern California.
I’m a California Girl, through and through: I lived in Northern California until I turned 18, and I then moved to Southern California for college at Azusa Pacific University. By this point, I had already been there two years longer than I had expected (i.e. I had planned to move right after college) and I felt dread at the thought of returning. So, on that beautiful fall day in Central Pennsylvania, I began to pray that God would let me move to Pennsylvania. I prayed and prayed…and during the next six months I watched God in amazement as He prepared the way for the biggest move of my life.
Church became uncomfortable in many ways. I had been serving as the “Missions Coordinator” at my church and had been met with road blocks to a few projects that God had laid on my heart–and the road block was the pastor. No church is perfect, and no person is perfect, but this pastor in particular seemed to fight any idea that was new or that would change things at the church at all. The church council loved my idea: I had proposed a detailed plan to have it ready and operating before I moved, AND I had ways to have it completely funded. Road block. This only furthered my frustration and cemented the realization that it was time to pray about leaving the church (and the people I so dearly loved) to find a place to further God’s Kingdom in our community and to be obedient to Him and the ideas He had given me.
Our housing situation became uncomfortable. Very long story short, there were five girls altogether renting a house in a “gated community”, and the self-proclaimed leaders of the Home-Owners Association didn’t want us there. They wouldn’t even let us use the pool. The battle was long and so irrational, as we were quiet, respectful tenants who truly did not deserve this treatment.
Work became uncomfortable. I had been interviewing for a promotion and it seemed like it was “in the bag”–we all knew I was going to get it. But, I didn’t. Someone opted to take a step down (including a pay cut) from a supervisor position to the team leader position that I had worked so hard to achieve. That doesn’t just happen. I kept praying.
“People need pain to grow. So much of spiritual maturity has to do with how we process pain. Discipline entails embracing the painful or unpleasant in the short-term in order to realize long-term gains.”– Seth Barnes, Kingdom Journeys
I was preparing to spend a month in New Orleans with the mission team that I was co-leading from Azusa Pacific University, and my company informed me in early March that I would not be allowed to take the time off (even though they had previously approved it). I kept praying, but I knew that this was a CLEAR sign. He had led me to co-lead this team and He had orchestrated everything (including all of our funding). I knew New Orleans had to happen, and I knew that I would have to quit my job in order to go. And quitting my job meant that I was free to leave Southern California.
On March 18th, 2008, God gave me permission to move to Pennsylvania. I was praying as I walked around my neighborhood and I finally got my “verbal” (as opposed to circumstantial) answer: go or stay. He made it clear that He would use me in Southern California and He would use me in Pennsylvania–it was my decision to make.
“We can’t be fully transformed in our own backyard. We need to journey.” — Seth Barnes, Kingdom Journeys
Not only did the summer of 2008 involve a move across the country, it also involved a month-long “Kingdom Journey” in New Orleans, Louisiana, assisting with the continued clean-up in the city. I am still learning lessons from that trip–ones that are uncomfortable. God revealed so much to me about myself during that trip, and I still have a lot of growing to do.
Two weeks after we returned to Southern California from New Orleans, I set out on the biggest adventure of my life thus far. On July 15th, 2008, my mom and I left Glendora, CA and began our drive eastward, having no idea what God really had in store. And the adventure continues, five years later.
“A Kingdom Journey is most effective when we abandon what we think we cannot abandon. With less, we discover the core of who we are.” — Seth Barnes, Kingdom Journeys