I really like Jonah. He seems so real to me. There are so many people in the Old Testament who when God calls to them they say right away “Here I am” and get right to what God is asking them to do. This is so not like me, and I suspect a lot of people. Many people might think “Oh no! I’m hearing a voice in my head! I must be crazy!” Or if they do realize it is the voice of God, they think “Really? Now? I’m really getting comfortable here, God. Can’t this wait until after the game/my children have grown up/ I’ve retired?” We are forever putting off what we are called to do. Yet we forget that is why we are here – we are part of God’s plan. We are part of creation, and we are co-creators with God. He works through and with us to bring about His will.
Jonah is like us. He hears the voice of God, telling him to go to Ninevah and tell them they are screwing up and to repent. Did he go to Ninevah? Oh gosh no. He heads off in completely the opposite direction. A lot of other cool things happen – a storm, lots are cast and it is discovered Jonah is the reason for the storm, Jonah fesses up, the shipmates are impressed by how powerful the God of the Jews is. Jonah asks to be thrown overboard. He has no idea that God has arranged for a huge whale to swallow him up. He just knows that he has messed up and it is time to pay for his error. Perhaps he hopes he can finally get out of having to go to Ninevah.
But God rescues him. He is in the belly of the whale for three days. I can’t even imagine liking being in a whale’s gut for three minutes, much less three days. It had to be dark. It had to be smelly. No sound other than the gurgle of the whale’s organs and the sea outside. Fish bits floating around. Warmth? I doubt it.
Yet here is the amazing thing. Jonah didn’t raise his fist against God in that time. He praised God. Praised Him! How many of us have the fortitude to say “Thanks! You are an awesome God!” while in the middle of our own personal whales? We all get swallowed up by whales – divorce, disease, disaster. All those huge life events that can either make us turn away from God (How dare you do this to me…) or turn towards God (Hey, can you do me a favor…) No. Jonah sang God’s praises.
In the middle of tragedy, there are still things to be thankful for. Look for those things. Give thanks for them. And, like Jonah, may you be delivered safely upon the shore after you give thanks.
(Originally posted on FB on 11-13-12)