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Safe in divine Love’s ‘comfort zone’

From the January 15, 2018 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

How can we be assured of safety? By staying in familiar surroundings with our family or trusted friends, or in our hometown or country? Is God’s care present for those whose circumstances don’t include family, stable government, or the rule of law? Can we really trust God to open our eyes to His presence even when we are out of our “comfort zone”?

We can discover more about God’s ever-present care, even when circumstances separate us from what’s been our most cherished sense of home and safety.

A central message of the Bible is that God cares for all creation, even in the most challenging of situations. In the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul and fellow prisoners were far from home and comfort when imprisoned on a ship, experiencing several days of storms at sea. Paul spoke to those on the ship about his confidence in God’s care: “I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul: … God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you’ ” (Acts 27:22–24, New Revised Standard Version). 

The prisoners narrowly escaped execution onboard and drowning at sea when the ship ran aground and was severely damaged. A little known part of the story is that when they arrived on dry land, the people inhabiting the island “showed us unusual kindness. Since it had begun to rain and was cold, they kindled a fire and welcomed all of us around it” (Acts 28:2, New Revised Standard Version).

Paul and his fellow travelers experienced guidance, protection, and safe haven by prayerfully turning to God in circumstances that were clearly outside of what would be reasonably considered a “comfort zone.” 

Like many of us, they were likely confronted with thoughts of fear and concern for their security when they experienced an unfamiliar environment. However, Paul’s faith in God’s goodness helped assure them that they would be led to safety, and the welcome and care from the islanders were further proof of God’s presence.

A few years ago I had an opportunity to experience God’s protection and care in what first appeared to be a threatening situation. 

I was driving early in the morning, headed to volunteer with a project at a summer camp for young people. As a student of Christian Science, I find it helpful to start the day by studying the weekly Christian Science Bible Lesson. The uplifting message of the audio broadcast of the Bible Lesson was my companion on the drive, giving an assuring message of God’s presence in my travels. 

After a few hours of driving, I pulled over at a fast-food restaurant for a meal. The restaurant was empty except for me and a few workers behind the counter. Soon after I ordered, a loud group of young men, who appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, entered the restaurant. Their words and attitude seemed to convey “we are in charge here, and we will do whatever we want.” I observed that the workers behind the counter looked fearful, and I began to pray. 

Can we really trust God to open our eyes to His presence?

The Bible Lesson I had listened to in the car had given me a sense of God’s love and goodness, and I affirmed that God’s practical care and protection were present in the restaurant. When the Psalmist was confronted with imminent danger, he affirmed that he would live to declare God’s care for him, writing, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord” (Psalms 118:17). The young men who appeared to be threatening when they entered the fast-food restaurant were, in fact, the loved and loving sons of God.

I continued to pray with the realization that God’s love filled the restaurant, and that God’s goodness and man’s spiritual innocence were the true nature of everyone there. I felt at peace. Very soon, one of the young men approached me and said: “I apologize for all the noise. We just got finished with the night shift at the factory. We’re not on our best behavior.” I asked him what he might enjoy doing as a career, if he could do anything he wanted. Soon the rest of the men gathered around to join in a lively conversation about their hopes and dreams. The formerly tense atmosphere was completely replaced with one of camaraderie and good cheer. 

I encouraged the men to do something I’ve done—to pray for God’s direction to find their God-given purpose, which brings happiness. Their smiles and animated stories were wonderful. We parted with well-wishes all around, and I felt overwhelming gratitude for having witnessed the effects of prayer, which replaced fear of strangers with trust and love among fellow children of God.

An hour later I arrived where I’d be volunteering and spent the day with a group of young people at the camp. Throughout the day I noticed that in this setting I felt naturally in my “comfort zone”—safe and familiar, assured that there would be love and receptivity in our work together. Reflecting back on the earlier experience in the restaurant, I was reminded that the sense of peace that my prayer gave me when I was out of my comfort zone in the restaurant had nudged my thought a bit further, to recognize the safety and security that is always present everywhere in God’s kingdom—not because of comfortable circumstances or familiar people, but because of the spiritual fact that God’s love fills all space. 

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, we read, “All the varied expressions of God reflect health, holiness, immortality—infinite Life, Truth, and Love” (p. 518). 

Because God’s love is everywhere, we don’t need to fear that we will find ourselves in a circumstance where we won’t be able to pray and feel the safety of God’s care. We can rest assured that wherever we are, we can never leave the “comfort zone” of God’s ever-present love and protective care.

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