Has God ever asked you to forgive someone who injured you? And you did because Jesus died on the cross for your sins. Has God ever asked you to forgive your abusive father, your ex, or your best friend who had an affair with your husband? You know, forgive someone who broke your heart and hurt your soul? You may have thought I don’t want them in heaven with me. They should be punished. Yet, after much soul searching, arguing with yourself and reading your Bible maybe you forgave them. Or is that where you are in your walk with Christ?
Imagine the worst people in the world; biggest mass killings in history. Stalin, Mao Zedong. Me, I grew up just after the time of Nazi Germany (I know I’m old). Imagine you are a Rabbi and God asked you to go to Nazi Germany and preach repentance. Historians estimate Jonah lived approximately 900 years before Christ died and rose again. Would you go or run away?
I have run from God for a lot less.
I have jumped on a ship titled ‘Not Trusting God with My Future.’
Or the ship ‘You Can’t Want Me To Do That.’
Or ‘This is Too Hard.’
Or ‘It’s Not My gift.’
So many ships with so many excuses.
But in the belly of the whale, there is only darkness. Darkness doesn’t care about my tantrums and pleadings. In the darkness, there is no God, no light. For Jonah, it took three days and nights. For me, it has taken a lot longer. Darkness requires surrender, but my fear and stubbornness determine my length of stay.
The opposite of fear is trust. I learned I can’t outrun God. His pursuing affection for me is too great.
God goes after those who run away.
The storm wasn’t punishment, it was an intervention.
So Jonah redirects and heads to Nineveh and the people repent! And Jonah is livid. Jonah sounds like a toddler angry because his brother didn’t get punished adequately. Temper tantrum. Have I ever had a temper tantrum with God? Yes, I have.
The God of the Universe has compassion with Jonah.
God finds Jonah selfishly weeping over a plant; his heart was for a plant. While the God of the Universe weeps over people, breaks for people, and looks out for others.
And the story ends. Does Jonah get it? We don’t know.
Jonah keeps screwing up and God keeps loving him (Just Like me). I must never stop asking myself, where’s my heart? I have to keep telling myself, the God of the Universe won’t give up on me.
I’ve learned through Jonah: I am inadequate and depend on God. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I’ve learned I never walk alone, the God of the Universe walks with me, equipping me, protecting me, and enabling me. Probably the greatest thing I’ve learned is when God asks me to restore someone, forgive someone, or help someone, the story of Jonah revealed much about the heart of God. If God rescued Jonah from the belly of the whale, then God can get you out of whatever you’re facing right now.
—Shirley Hartnett, Co-coordinator, North Syracuse Chapter