Yesterday when I asked the question “How do you respond to the worst possible day in your life?” let me clarify what I meant by your worst day ever. I wasn’t referring to a time when situations were out of your control, as in the day a loved one passed on from this earth – that surely would be the worst possible day for you and Jonah’s situation really doesn’t apply. What I’m talking about is the I’m gonna do it my way, nope not gonna do what God wants me to do, so now I’ve made a big mess, uh oh now other people are suffering because of my decisions worst day of your life.
That’s what I meant by the worst possible day – the day you created when you ran from God’s will.
So Jonah is now deep in the belly of a huge whale. (Ew, gross.) Isn’t exactly where he thought he’d be when he stepped on that ship, attempting to run from God. So what did Jonah do to fix his situation?
First – he prayed. “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: ‘In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.’” (Jonah 2:1-2) Jonah recognized that his first move should be prayer because truly no one on earth could help him in his current situation. Sometimes we are brought to our knees to recognize that only God will be able to deliver us from the horrible place in which we find ourselves. We have to be stripped of all of our comforts, our friends, our families before we earnestly trust God. Oh if we would just do what God asked us to do the first time! So much discomfort, so many problems could be avoided.
But it’s important to know that while praying Jonah didn’t just ask God for help – that’s easy to do in a time of crisis – he also praised God in his worst moment: “Those clinging to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:8-9) Jonah, Paul and others in the Bible were able to praise God in their most horrific circumstances. Are we able to praise God in our worst moments or do we blame God in our worst moments???
Upon hearing Jonah’s prayer the Lord commanded the great fish to vomit him onto dry land. (Probably not the most pleasant experience, but at least he’s out of the whale belly!) So prayer moved him from a horrible place to a better place, which is one of the best gifts of an answered prayer.
Jonah may have thought God was through with him, that surely God wouldn’t want to use him now or no way would God tell him to go to Nineveh. Wrong. God commanded him a second time to go to Nineveh and preach to that godless city. So what step did Jonah take so that he wouldn’t repeat the same mistake? “Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.” (Jonah 3:3) He didn’t run, make excuses or ignore God this time. No, he obeyed God, which is the second step when you are trying to fix the mess you made.
Jonah went to Nineveh and warned the city of the impending destruction. The Ninevites repented and “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.” (Jonah 3:10) Jonah was able to have a great impact on those around him because he was obedient to what God wanted him to do. He saved thousands of people from eternal death because he delivered God’s message to the city of Nineveh. Jonah had to go through his worst possible day before he could be obedient to God’s will, but that experience changed Jonah – and the Ninevites – forever.
The big lesson Jonah’s story taught me is to listen to God the first time and avoid the “belly of the whale” moments. But when I do things my own way and create a mess, this story teaches me to pray first – pray with thanksgiving and asking God for help – and then listen to what God wants me to do, be obedient and do it.
The last chapter of Jonah cracks me up – it’s so real life. We’ll look at Jonah’s response to God’s sparing the Ninevites next time.
Blessings for a wonderful weekend!