I said that to God.
And a truth popped into my head almost instantly: there is someone who knows what that feels like.
Jonah was literally swallowed whole… and why?
“‘Go to the great city of Nineveh…'” God had said. “But Jonah ran away from the Lord…”
Yeah, Jonah has always understood me… us…
“Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up… they knew [Jonah] was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so… the sea was getting rougher and rougher…”
Yes, things only go from bad to worse when we’re running away from God.
The Lord caused this storm. He will not hesitate to create storms – “bad things” – to get our attention.
“‘I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you,'” Jonah admitted.
Jonah’s nothing if he isn’t honest.
Am I? Are you?
Are we willing to tell people, “HEY! I AM RUNNING AWAY FROM THE LORD! I KNOW THAT IT IS MY FAULT THAT THIS GREAT STORM HAS COME UPON YOU!”
I don’t read this as Jonah bragging about his disobedience. I don’t think he is wearing it as a badge of honor. I know I’m not. I read Jonah as a guy who is being honest about where his heart is, transparent about his failings. And I hope I’m read the same way…
At his request, the sailors threw Jonah overboard to save themselves from the storm that was threatening their lives – the storm Jonah had caused. The sailors did this reluctantly, fully believing Jonah would die if they put him in that sea. They didn’t do it for Jonah’s good – they did it for themselves – but they were scared to death – scared of death – scared of Jonah’s death.
Yes, we can – we must – look at those we love who are weathering a storm God caused in an effort to get our attention and say, “THROW ME OVERBOARD! SAVE YOURSELVES, AND TRUST GOD TO SAVE ME!”
And they might believe if they do that we will die. They might be scared to death – scared of death – scared of our deaths…
But they needn’t be. Because we know there is more to Jonah’s story – to our stories – than a cold, frightening swim in a swelling sea.
“They took Jonah and they threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.”
God stopped that storm as quickly as He had started it the second Jonah hit the water. He bobbed like a lure, alone, treading water, but he knew – he knew – God was with him. What other explanation was there for a hurricane giving way to tranquility in the blink of an eye?
Can we believe God can do the same for us?
God could have stopped that storm and left it at that. He could have left Jonah in the middle of the calm sea, treading water until his legs cramped and his lungs burned. And then God could have let Jonah silently sink in exhaustion below the surface. He could have let Jonah drown.
But He didn’t.
God caused a life-threatening storm. He allowed Jonah to be thrown overboard. And then, “the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah…”
And the swallowing? It saved Jonah’s life.
“I will let you be swallowed whole,” the Lord tells me, “not because I don’t love you, but because I do. The best thing you can do is what I am telling you to do. And if you have to be swallowed to be saved – swallowed before you’re convinced obeying Me might be a good idea – then that is what I will allow – that is what I will cause.”
It may feel like we are being swallowed alive – and, indeed, we may be – but salvation is in the swallowing.
Lord, help us trust You.