“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” Jonah 1:1-2
This first verse is where God commands Jonah to go to Nineveh. The next verse should have been what was written.
“3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.” Jonah 3:3
Hopefully you see what I’m doing with this 1, 2, 3 thing. Imagine how different the story could’ve been if this is how Jonah responded to God in the first place. A majority of the first and second chapters of Jonah could have been non-existent.
Pretty simple. But that is not the way it went. Jonah decided that he could run from God, so he went the opposite way of Nineveh. I feel like we all have a tendency to be Jonah sometimes. We know exactly what God wants us to do. We know what He expects of us, but we continually ignore it. Even in the little mundane things. Like maybe that homeless man you always see begging for food. You see him every single day and you choose to ignore him. We know what God calls us to do. We know he is a child of God. We know how God sees Him, but we choose what we want. Just like Jonah chose what he wanted.
Jonah was a prophet so he had the knowledge. But he did not have the compassion for lost people. And ultimately God’s Will, will be done. But Jonah ran away, he was swallowed by this giant fish, repented, and eventually did what God asked. God forgave the Ninevites and Jonah was pretty upset about it (but that’s his own problem and beside the point).
My point is, sometimes God has to put us in a position that we don’t want to be in. It is not just because God wants us to suffer. He isn’t just up there laughing at our failures. We might be where we are because we “ran” from what He called us to do in the first place. We put ourselves in that position by disobeying Him. The only reason Jonah went to Nineveh was because God brought him there, literally. But even the prophet thought He could sneak away from God’s plan. When we disobey what God wants us to do, His Will doesn’t just stop. God does not say “Oh! *insert name here* really doesn’t want to do that, so I think I’ll just have someone else share Jesus with them!” HIS. WILL. BE. DONE. Regardless of our selfish ambitions and sins of omission. And you will never be able to outrun God. That’s probably the biggest impact Jonah’s story has had on my life. It is like a race. Maybe it’s a 10k or something. But I have two options:
- I can try to beat God and outrun Him – which won’t happen because God is God and I hate running.
- I can run with God and He can carry me when I can’t do it anymore (so like mile two).
So here’s a crazy thought…maybe we should be more obedient to God in the first place? If I live to serve and honor God, doesn’t that include doing what He says? We should desire to obey God. That is a huge part of worshiping Him. Worship is not merely when you sing some catchy Hillsong songs on Sundays. It is living it out. It is worshipping Him by showing obedience to Him. Obeying God even when we want to be Jonah. Regardless of what your Nineveh is or who your Ninevites are, you should listen to what God is telling you. And it is not always going to be easy. But if we genuinely listen to God and pray for direction, it will be provided. Sometimes we just have to stop blabbing on and listen. And I am definitely guilty of this! My prayers often sound like a quick voicemail opposed to an actual conversation. I talk and talk and tell God what I want, thank Him, and put down the phone.
It should not take God forcing us to get where He wants us to be. The funny part is, we are the ones that make it that way. So maybe right now it feels like you’re in the belly of the whale. And you should not feel discouraged if that is what is happening. You should feel liberated. God is a God of second chances. He is not going to give up on you, or else you probably wouldn’t be where you are now. God is with you, He is shaping and directing you in this process. Jonah didn’t get swallowed by a whale just so kids could do an art project about it at AWANA. God wouldn’t put him through all of that without reason. Just like He hasn’t put you where you are in life just because. Maybe I haven’t learned much in my eighteen years, but I do know that God is never random.
Even if it feels like God has placed you in a position that you don’t want to be in, you can still worship Him. You can still follow Him. You can push aside your Jonah mindset and choose to serve Him. You can still grow in obedience to Him and learn from your mistakes. He still loves imperfect people. But maybe one day you will see what God was doing and praise Him for it. And maybe next time you won’t have to go through all the trouble of trying to escape God. Maybe you will know and listen. Maybe next time instead of trying to run, you can choose to follow.