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When familiar becomes a trap

Winter colored the Sunday sky gray and gloomy and put a nip in the wind’s tail. So I curled up all comfy-cozy like with a good book and a steamy cup of tea. Call it a mini-retreat from the cold and dingy world.

We are such creatures of comfort, aren’t we? Even if the familiar is dangerous and harmful, it can still feel “safe and secure.”

Humans tend to have a flawed sense of security.

I’ve heard stories of foster children who long for home, even if it was scene to abuse and neglect. Even though home poses a threat to their well-being, it’s what they know. It’s familiar.

Just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it’s good.

A person can get stuck in all kinds of familiar.

I know.

I’ve stayed in unhealthy environments in the past . . . because I was afraid of the unknown. The what if.

Fear of the unfamiliar kept me in the familiar—which was far more fearful for me.

Familiar became a trap.

And yet for some, though freed, they can long to return.

Why, look at the Hebrew slaves. They wanted to return to Egypt, the place where they were unjustly treated and held captive. When faced with the challenges of a foreign land (Nu 14:3) they looked back . . . at the familiar.

Jesus found his 11 disciples back tending their nets, after the kingdom of God seemingly failed (Jn 21:1-3). They returned to what they knew.

Knowing the flaws in our natural human tendencies, God instructed through Paul that, in Christ, we are intentionally to put off our old self and put on the new (Eph 4:22-24). Dying to our old self, and old habits, and owning the new creation graced in Christ by our merciful Father, is an unfamiliar change we need not fear. That mystery is certain hope.

How easy it can be to doubt God’s goodness when we aren’t coasting in wide open spaces beneath blue skies. Doubts give way to fear and the pit looks inviting . . . because it’s a place known to us. Then, we must remind ourselves of the reality of the pit He rescued us from.

God’s been known to call people out of their comfort zones—into the unknown and unfamiliar—but He can be trusted. He doesn’t just call and leave. He leads. And He will not lead into a place where darkness prevails. He is our sheltering place wherever we may go.

God leads us ever onward and upward, into the unknown, asking us to follow. The more times we run to Him when jitters jolt, and fall head-long into faithful arms, we wear a familiar path to the truest refuge.

I curled up in my sanctuary, sensing the familiar grace of God in my Sabbath rest—preparing me to face the all-too familiar chaos the world has in store.


God of all comfort, I praise You for Your faithfulness. Only You can calm my anxious spirit and drive out all fear. Forgive me when I turn to other things or visit old habits when I feel rattled and frayed. Retrain my feet to tread the path to You—in trust and faith.


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