“And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Jonah 2:10
I suspect there are those who might caution me against talking about vomit this early in my writing career but nonetheless, that’s where we’ve landed today. Our series in church these past several weeks has been over the book of Jonah. Just as a quick recap, Jonah had been living in rebellion to God’s call on his life. God said, “Go to Ninevah.” Jonah’s reply, “Nope, I’m going sailing.” One big fish and three days later Jonah found himself miserable and contrite, begging God for the chance to change. While the whole fish story is always interesting, the part that caught my attention was how and where God chose for Jonah to start his journey of change.
The reality is that God could have teleported Jonah straight out of that fish belly clean as a whistle right on the border of Ninevah. He could have congratulated Jonah on his change of heart, patted him on the back and sent him on his way. Instead, God had Jonah deposited right back where he started, literally covered in the consequences of his choices. I imagine Jonah standing there thinking, “Oh come on God. I made the decision to change, I’m going in the right direction, and I’ve already suffered so much. Couldn’t you make this just a little less messy?”
Sometimes we get ourselves into the mindset that just because God can fix things quickly, it means that He should. We think that because He can make our changes easier, that would be the best, or most loving, choice. Unfortunately, we are the ones who have been seduced into thinking that easier and faster = better. God demonstrates no such rule. If anything, He often chooses the opposite. God seems to make choices that show us that there are gifts in the grind. How might it affect our ability to tolerate the discomfort of change if we learned to think the same way?
Whether making a change away from destructive behavior (i.e. addiction, rebellion) or making a change to enhance our lives (i.e. changing spending habits, working out more) the change process is usually going to be hard at some point. The importance of learning to reframe the hard parts of change is that how we understand pain affects our ability to keep going. As humans, we are biologically programmed to avoid threats, it’s a product of our survival instinct. Thus, if we only spend our time and energy thinking about the discomfort of change we are going to be a) more likely to quit or b) far more miserable along the way.
What if today we take the energy we are spending thinking about how long the change is taking, how hard it is or how the process could be going better and instead, accept the struggle as an inherently valuable part of the process? To be clear, I am not asking us to lie to ourselves. The discomfort of change is, exactly that. Uncomfortable. However, I am asking us to develop a both/and relationship with the discomfort of change, rather than an either/or.
This is hard and I am learning.
This is painful and the end goal is worth it.
This is difficult and I am growing in this.
I am uncomfortable and discomfort is a part of positive change.
It is the and that gives us hope and purpose as we seek to make meaningful positive changes in our lives. Make some room in your head for valuing discomfort and see what you can accomplish!