The Lord sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah,
and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish for three days and three nights.
When was your last time out? Oh, I’m sure you have had them from time to time. You’ve gotten out of control and God sends you to your room. I can almost hear the words, “Don’t come out until you can be reasonable.”
Jonah was in that place. He was acting irrationally for a man who knew God and His ways. It was time for a little intervention. Jonah needed some ‘alone time’ to get his head straight and remember what was important.
Suffering really does that for us. We tend to be focused on ourselves when suffering happens. Like Jonah in chapter one, we may even think that death would be preferable. Would somebody please put us out of our misery.
Then, we begin to remember God. We have gone as low as we can go and there He is, waiting. Our distress and self-focus had grown so large it had blocked our view of Him. But we surrender ourselves into His hands, and rebirth begins. Light comes to our eyes as we squint at the One who delivered us.
Those who worship worthless idols forfeit the mercy that could be theirs. Jonah 2:8
It’s interesting that Jonah’s first thought when coming out of his tantrum was mercy. His little trip in the wrong direction had revealed a trait that God freely offered. It was the first thing he would see as he turned back in the right direction. Perhaps God hoped a little would find a place in Jonah’s heart.
Unfortunately, as we see the entire story play out, this was a momentary revelation. Jonah would not be changed. Jonah would still choose the ‘worthless idol’ of self. Even though God would accomplish the mission of saving thousands, Jonah would remain trapped in his bitterness and disappointment. Jonah would need another time out and a good scolding. We don’t know the end of his story, but we do know God’s. He used Jonah then, and He continues to use him now.
So, what is our take away here?
Self-focused tantrum—Time out—Revelation—Praise—then, return to another fit?
I don’t know about you, but I am not into suffering that comes with having my way. I must admit though, I have been in this cycle, and occasionally revisit it. It’s never fun, but each time when I am done wallowing in a great, big puddle of pity, light begins to come into view, and God gently brings me once more to a better understanding of who He is.
When you pass through the waters, I am with you; when you pass through the streams, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not harm you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your deliverer.