Confronting your Ninevah
I had wondered what my first blog post would be, and I love that this is it. Really, Jonah? is a devotion I wrote before I had been given any idea of Apollos Consulting. It was before I knew my Bible study would look at Jonah this year, bringing me back to the painful, powerful, and necessary lessons God taught me. It was before I knew that today, God would remind me that He is preparing us for a “future that only He can see” (ten Boom, 2000, p. 12). “For I know the plans I have for you…” Jeremiah 29:11-14
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
My daughter kept picking the story of Jonah and the whale for us to read day after day. A two-year-old stuck in repeat...not unusual! However, this felt like God trying to teach me something. God gave Jonah a mission and with all his might, Jonah was avoiding it. My mind went straight to fear. What scary mission might God be calling me to? Who are the people I would want to run from? What am I wanting to avoid that God is wanting me to face? My mind did not need any help coming up with a multitude of desperate situations.
But then I started looking at Jonah’s story through the lens of who God is and I saw it differently. God already told Jonah what his mission was; the “what” of the mission wasn’t in question. What God asked of Jonah was obedience. Like Jonah, we are instructed to “not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves,” but to “do what it says.” (James 1:22 NIV) Jonah, showing our human nature, decided God’s calling was too much for him. He needed to run. He needed to control. How often is this my human response to God? “Lord, I hear you calling me, I feel you putting this on my heart, but that seems beyond me.”
When it’s someone else’s story, like Jonah’s, I can so quickly judge their disobedience and lack of faith. Really, Jonah? You thought you could outrun God? When it is my story, however, I can be all too blinded by my own emotions, insecurities, and doubts. I can get so focused on projecting a false future that I’m not being obedient to what God asks in the present.
It took Jonah three days in the belly of a beast to see the truth. It was dark, it was scary, it was beyond his understanding, but it was exactly what he needed to learn obedience. When we find ourselves in this same belly, we can be encouraged that God is not punishing us, but is instead teaching and saving us from ourselves. If left on our own, like Jonah, we would miss out on being part of God’s greater story. But God, in his love and mercy, does the hard work of teaching obedience. He frees us from the suffocating cycle of trying to fill our own desires and secure our own safety.
Obedience is a choice but it can also be a process; a continual positioning and repositioning of our heart to trusting surrender. Every choice brings with it the opportunity to be obedient because God is faithful, or to be disobedient and doubt his ability and plan. I can find hope in choosing beyond my human nature in that “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26 NIV). Obedience is what is asked of me, the rest of the story is up to God.
What is your Nineveh today?
James 1:22 (NIV)