“Then Jonah paid the fare and went on board, joining those going to Tarshish— as far away from God as he could get.” Jonah 1:3
Sometimes when God calls us, we are terrified. We are broken and unqualified, so we run. Advent can feel like salt in the wound, like all of our sorrows are piling up and mocking us. Everywhere we look, we see happy families and perfect endings. And it just doesn’t seem fair. So we run and hide.
Ann Voskamp says, “You aren’t equipped for life until you realize you aren’t equipped for life. You aren’t equipped for life until you’re in need of grace.”
Jonah had been called by God to warn the people of Ninevah, but he allowed fear to rule him. So he sailed away in the opposite direction, determined to make his own plans instead of being obedient.
Once, when Kate was little, but old enough to know better, I put her in a time out for something I can’t remember now. I instructed her to pray while she was alone in her room and make things right between her and God. I’m not sure what I expected, but if there’s anything I know about Kate, it’s that she never does what I expect.
I ventured into her room a few minutes later and sat with her on the floor, face-to-face. We were going to have a holy moment together, whether she wanted it or not. “Tell me what you prayed,” I said. She looked at me with a scowl and replied, “I just told him bad words.”
Running from God. No one has to teach it… it’s just in us.
But God has a way of calling us back to him, in ways we cannot anticipate. It’s why Jonah tried to go to sleep in the bottom of the boat while the storm raged. It’s why he found himself in the belly of a whale for three days. We think the whale was a punishment, but have you ever considered that perhaps it also rescued him? He would have drowned if if it weren’t for the belly of that whale— a place for Jonah to work some things out before he was vomited out onto shore.
It’s because of those dark, dank days in the belly that he turned in repentance. He turned back to God, back to obedience. Then he promptly sailed to Ninevah to relay the message God had asked him to deliver. He pled with Ninevah to turn back to God before it was too late.
Because it’s never too late for repentance.
Almost 800 years later, there would be another storm and another man in the bottom of the boat sleeping. His name was Jesus. The disciples were terrified, and they rushed to wake Jesus. “Master! Master, we’re going to drown!” they yelled above the crash of the waves.
Jesus responded with a rebuke to the raging waters and suddenly all was calm. He calmed that storm and He calms the storms in our lives. Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights… just as Jesus was on the cross and rose again in three days, to pay the penalty for our sins.
Jesus does not abandon you in your storm, both the one that you are in right now and the ultimate battle for your soul.
I don’t know what’s raging around you. I don’t know what wakes you up at night and what holds you captive. But I know Jesus longs to calm the storm of your soul. He is not afraid of what rages around you, He sees what you are so afraid to reveal.
He binds the broken and raises the dead. He feeds the hungry and touches the sick.
Just this moment as I type these words, Eliza is on the computer. Her headphones are in and she’s singing at the top of her lungs, “It’s the most wonderful time of the yearrrrr!” But you know how it sounds when kids have the headphones on. It’s always slightly off key.
I’m smiling because it seems so appropriate. The most wonderful time of the year can be overshadowed by our own sorrow and the sorrow we carry for others. The storm rages around us and we are afraid. It’s all slightly off key.
Listen to Jesus whisper, “One greater than Jonah is here.” His words bring light to our weary souls.
In those times of waiting, claim these verses in Romans 8:22-28:
“All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become and the more joyful our expectancy.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
Hear Him call you by name. He is near to you this very moment. Peace, be still.