I have a very clearly defined comfort zone. It involves being surrounded by family; living in the “sunshine state” of Florida; and playing competitive tennis, a sport I’ve played since I was a toddler. But this past February, I left all that behind to move 2,000 miles from home to northern Indiana where I knew only one, single person and my job did not involve hitting a fuzzy yellow ball over a net.
For me, this move was a step into murky waters — I was unsure of whether I would even like this new stage in my life. It was a true leap of faith as I had to completely trust that I’d find what I’d need here. In the process, I have found that it wasn’t foolish to trust the voice that was calling me outside of my comfort zone.
Prior to this new chapter, I lived in a comfortable bubble. Like everyone, I went through big life changes — graduation, moving, loss, relationship struggles, and the like — but I was never truly uncomfortable. Something deep within me wanted to explore something different — to know what else is out there — but I was afraid.
I loved playing professional tennis. I excelled at it, and the sport has always been there for me. I also loved Florida, the place where I grew up and where my large and close-knit family lives. What if I gave all of it up and moved somewhere new to a new job, new city, and made new friends — only to discover I hated it? Would I have regrets?
These thoughts swirled through my head as I discerned ending my professional tennis career last winter. But through much prayer and time in silence, I heard a clear call to trust God.
I came to understand that I didn’t need to have everything planned. It was okay to be scared of the unknown and uncertainty that comes along with change. But I did need to listen to the stirrings of my heart. I knew true joy came from following the path God has for me — not by staying complacent in my life circumstances just because they are comfortable and familiar.
While tennis brought great joy to my life for many years, it’s also all I knew. I felt God asking more of me. The persistent stirring in my heart was calling me to leave familiarity behind and take a job in an uncomfortable place. Upon testing that stirring through prayer and reflection, I received a profound sense of peace, so I leapt.
This life change has been the most daunting, intimidating, and difficult experience of my life — and yet it’s also been the most liberating. Leaving familiarity behind and setting out with nothing but complete trust in God has given me the freedom to say yes to whatever He asks of me and discover who I’m truly meant to be.
It’s definitely not a comfortable or easy path, but stepping out in faith has allowed me to learn important lessons that I wouldn’t have learned any other way:
1. Stepping outside of your comfort zone forces you to grow.
We cling to what we know. Comfort zones make it easy for us to grip onto things around us in difficult times. That can be a source of support when we need it, but it can also limit our development.
The best — and hardest — part about entering a life phase that was so uncomfortable was that I no longer had a familiar context that I could rely on to make my bad days better and my good days even more joyful. My family, friends, warm weather, and tennis career were 2,000 miles away. The only thing familiar thing I had here was God. So I clung to Him, and I’ve grown a ton in the process.
When you leave your comfort zone, you place yourself in a position to rely on God because you soon realize you can’t do it on your own. Growing in that trust grounds you in joy and helps you take more steps toward the person you’re meant to be.
2. Discomfort doesn’t last forever.
I freaked out when I realized how far away from family I was and how I eventually wanted to be back near them. I know I probably won’t be here for the rest of my life, but that’s okay. I am here now, and I know that joyfully embracing the growth I am experiencing in the present moment will better prepare me for my future.
God leads us through different seasons of life for a reason. If He’s asking you to leave your comfort zone behind, the discomfort won’t last forever. I’ve learned that God’s voice is nothing to fear — in fact, it’s precisely what will lead you to find joy because you’ll be growing into the person you were created to be.
3. You’ll never know unless you try.
No one wants to live with regret. Nothing would have been wrong if I stayed in Florida and pursued professional tennis for three or four more years. But I realized that if I did that, I would have always wondered what it was like to live a “normal” life with a regular job and the ability to have stability and community around me. Tennis was all I had known, and I had this ache to discover what else was out there. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t find out.
We all have our comfort zones — the places that make us feel at home, whether it’s people we’re around, where we live, or things we do. While these comfort zones aren’t a bad thing, sometimes they can make us complacent. Sometimes they hold us back from doing the things we’re called to do out of fear of uncertainty, and an unwillingness to part from things that bring us comfort. We are fearful to take a leap of faith into the unknown.
Trying new things helps us learn about ourselves — what we like, what we don’t like, and what sets our souls on fire. If you feel a deep longing, pay attention to it, even (or especially) if it means being open to taking risks and stepping out in faith.
When we become aware of our deepest desires and convictions and where they are leading us, we are listening to God’s voice in our lives. When I made room to listen to that voice and follow it in faith, I discovered that it was trustworthy — and I also found that I wasn’t alone.