Jonah and Me
Every time I read the short little book of Jonah, I find myself caught up in the painful reality that I identify with him and his story. While I’ve yet to be swallowed by a whale or lose my mind over a wilting plant, I’ve often found myself struggling to understand the path God has set me on, and unfortunately, I’ve found myself running the opposite direction more times than I care to admit. Why would I run? Why would anyone run from the voice or the direction of a God who spans the ends of the earth? Someone who sees all and knows the end from the beginning? How do we logic through walking away from the call, the direction, the Word?
These are the questions I’ve been asking myself, seeking to understand the logic behind our desire for self—our desire to control the parts of our lives that lead to dissatisfaction and pain. We see it sprinkled throughout the entire Bible, stories of called individuals choosing self over God-given direction, tossing their lives into tailspins and pouring consequence into their future.
Adam and Eve redirecting their future with the choice of self, impacting the entire world that followed. Cain and his drive to be as much as he could with as little personal sacrifice as possible. Lot and his path of ease, leading to the death of his wife and demise of his family.
The Book of Jonah opens with a word from God. “Get up and go.” God directed Jonah to walk into possibly one of the most uncomfortable situations for this Hebrew man. He had no desire to walk into a city that had harmed the people he loved; a people who wouldn’t listen to him or his message. He had no desire to give them a chance for a clean slate.
He decided he would rather choose a different future, one with less discomfort and less personal sacrifice. So Jonah hopped aboard a ship and took off, sleeping well in peace because he had found an alternative to God’s request.
What would you do in his situation? Have you ever found yourself pushing down that voice that calls you to change some things about yourself or your habits? That voice that prompted you to cut off a relationship He hadn’t blessed? Have you ever felt a nudge to give something a little extra in the offering and justify your way around it?
We all like to think we have nothing to do with Jonah, comparing his story to those who have left the church. But if you were truly honest with yourself, you can probably pinpoint some moments in your life where you told God that your priorities or preferences carried more weight than the purpose He was calling you to.
The amazing thing about God is He loves us enough to send us storms of redirection. Jonah was literally on a boat and sailing along in the opposite direction of his calling, with the clear purpose of hiding from it all when God intervened. God could have raised up another prophet. He did not need Jonah, but He loved him enough to save him from himself and the path he was going down. Eventually Jonah made it to Nineveh and accomplished God’s direction, but he was never willing to buy into the purpose. The story ends with God chastising him for a selfish and immature mindset.
Jonah—called by God to be the one instrumental in turning thousands of hearts toward the Lord. Yet he was willing to let fear, selfishness, and immaturity drive him to a place where the Lord removed the blessing with a worm. My prayer for you and for me is that we will never allow ourselves the right to prioritize our preferences over the call of God, but rather we would set aside the fear and doubt that can blur our vision and cling to the promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Olivia Dummer is a student in Blue Springs, Missouri where Jason Huckaby is her pastor. She writes and keeps an inspirational blog hoping to encourage others and share what she’s learned about God.