Jonah’s Displeasure

In our Wednesday night Bible Study our Pastor observed ‘That we invite God into our story rather than accepting His invitation to  live in His story.”  “Lord, bless my plans,” we might pray without a pause to consider that His plan may be different from ours. When we find ourselves in circumstances that are not to our liking we may question, grumble, even grow embittered. I have known more than a few people who walked away from God and faith because of disappointment that morphed into anger with the Almighty.

Jonah heard the call of God, ran off rather than obey, found grace and restoration, and finally went to preach to Nineveh. He had great success!  The city, from the king to the slaves, repented of their sin and prayed to the God of Heaven that Jonah served. The king’s proclamation said  “Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.”  (Jonah 3:8)

What preacher wouldn’t be joyful in that kind of response to his sermons? Jonah was one.  He thought he would preach to Nineveh and then, after they were fairly warned, God would destroy these enemies of Israel. But, God had a different plan, a story in which Jonah, once again, choose not to participate.    

Here is the description of the petulant prophet’s actions. “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “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 4:1-3, NIV)  After all he had been through and after his own experience of God’s amazing grace, he is still a willful, selfish man.  Even though he knows the Lord is “gracious and compassionate”  he does not think that the people of Nineveh deserve to know that grace.

God was displeased with the preacher’s attitude and gave him yet another lesson.  I love the drama in it. “Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.” (Jonah 4:5-9, NIV)  

With a vine, a worm, the hot sun the Lord reminded Jonah that He was God and that He was ‘in charge’ of life, from great to small.  The great tragedy of the little story of Jonah is that he never reconciled himself to God, at least as far as we know. He let anger cut him off from his best Resource, the grace of God.

Ah, my friend, this is so human, so common to all of us.
Do you love God better when He acts in ways that you like?
Do you consider that only the things that happen in the way you desire to be answered prayer?
When life grows hard, when disappointment comes do you humbly pray for greater faith or complain?

Please don’t hear me saying that we cannot ask God boldly, that bringing our petitions to Him in confidence, is wrong. We are invited to pray about everything and all the time. However, the best prayer is grounded in deep faith that recognizes that He is God, that ‘His ways are higher,’  that there will be times when life is a complete mystery and He is silent.

Christians are prone to want to wrap the hardships and disappointments in neat little packages, tied up with a summary verse that ‘explains’ it all.  I cannot begin to tell you how hard it was to be patient with well-meaning people who attempted to comfort me when Bev died by giving me platitudes and assurances. “Everything happens for a reason” I was told. It might have been true, but I did not want to hear that at the moment. “God will use your pain for greater purposes,” some said.  Again, perhaps true, but it was cold comfort.

I choose to trust Him, while living in the mystery. I still don’t know “why” He chose to allow Bev to die. But, I choose to love and trust Him.  Are you dealing with disappointment? Are God’s ways frustrating you, hidden from you, or beyond the scope of your prayers?  Don’t be a Jonah. Instead, find a place alone with Him. Weep! He understands. Tell him your heart! He is “gracious and compassionate.”  Then, humbly give yourself to Him irrevocably. It’s the best choice you’ll ever make.

Here is the word from the Word. “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NLT)  Lord may it be true of me, today. Amen.

_________________

Blessings

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace comfort for family
Protection while we sleep
We pray for healing for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand
To ease our suffering
And all the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness
We doubt Your love
As if ev’ry promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while You hear each desp’rate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not this is not our home

It’s not our home

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is a revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain the storms the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Laura Story

© 2011 Laura Stories (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

New Spring (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

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