I love the story of Jonah so much. It simultaneously gives me hope for my petty self, a challenge for obedience, a glorious picture of God, and some laughs. It’s a classic.
The lesson for today relates to God’s faithfulness in the midst of our timidness. It’s most clear in Jonah’s angry tirade against God after God doesn’t destroy the city:
“O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” -Jonah 4:2b-3
This is speculation, but my sense from this passage is that Jonah might have been doubting that he actually heard God correctly in the first place. It’s almost as if he’s saying “Gaaah, I knew God wouldn’t have actually told me that He was going to destroy a city! Did I just make that up? Was it just all in my head? I knew God is better than that.” Then, embarrassed, disappointed in himself, and confused about his own ability to communicate with God, he just wants to die.
Now, that take on things could just be a projection of my own experience. I’m not doubting that Jonah did accurately receive a message from God. Just the opposite, in fact. This story helps me understand that even though I can’t always have clear direction from God–even though I sometimes think I’ve deceived myself–it isn’t the end of the world, whether I have or not. It’s okay to risk being wrong as you try to follow the Lord.
The important thing is to try.
In the end, even though Jonah wanted to die, the city was saved. And even though Jonah responded so terribly to it all, God had compassion on him, too. He still took the time to explain things to Jonah (see 4:10-11).
God works things out. He’s bigger than our mistakes, and He’s bigger than our contributions. So we just need to try, and leave the rest to Him.
In my paraphrased words of, I think, Pete Greig–in the most inspirational video of my freshman year at Andrews–“live as if it all depends on us, and pray as if it all depends on Him.”