Growth Through Discomfort: Jonah

growing spiritually through uncomfortable circumstances

Have you ever tried to run from God? Ever ignored what you knew God was calling on you to do, to go, to say? Ever disobeyed God outright and knowingly? In our culture today it is very easy to make excuses not to obey God when He comes knocking so we can remain in our comfort zone away from unwanted attention, conflict, conversations, or sacrifices. It feels so much easier in the moment to selfishly stay in our bubble and pretend it wasn't really God whispering to our hearts to do what it is we really don't want to do.

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because their evil has come up before me.” 3 Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence. Jonah 1:1-3 CSB

When the Lord called on Jonah to go to a place he didn't want to go and do something Jonah really didn't want to do, Jonah ran away. Jonah 1:3 says he "got up to flee". According to scripture, Jonah's first reaction was one none of us want to admit is all too familiar to us, but if we're honest - it is probably very familiar.

When was the last time you fled from God? What is it that God has called you to do that you are currently running from? Jonah goes to great lengths and expense boarding a ship going a totally different direction than where God told him to go, which is exactly what we do when we flee from God's instruction. When we turn the other cheek, look the other way, excuse our disobedience, we are boarding a ship sailing away from the safety of God's presence, fleeing from Him and the path He has been preparing us for.

tips for when you don't want to do what God commands
4 But the Lord threw a great wind onto the sea, and such a great storm arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break apart. Jonah 1:4 CSB

When Jonah boarded the ship, God hit it with a storm that almost destroyed the ship. When Jonah fled from God's plan, God came knocking again - the first time with His instruction, and this time it was with a warning. God could have destroyed the ship, but v. 4 says the ship "threatened" to break apart. God was getting Jonah's attention - but where was Jonah? Asleep in the bottom of the ship. The others on the ship found him and woke him up - much as we need at times.

Sometimes we're so busy ignoring God's instructions that we miss the warnings and we need people to come and wake us up and call us out. Sometimes we need God's warnings to remind us of what He has called us to do. Sometimes we need to be shaken awake by the reality of our disobedience.

14 So they called out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, don’t let us perish because of this man’s life, and don’t charge us with innocent blood! For you, Lord, have done just as you pleased.” 15 Then they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. 16 The men were seized by great fear of the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. 17 The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:14-17 CSB

One truly interesting thing is that God uses even our blatant disobedience for His glory. Here's Jonah, running from God's commands, and these pagan people wake him up, call him out, and you'd think that would be humiliating enough. Jonah then tells them to throw him into the sea to save them and owns up to his defiance against God. What's astounding is what happens as a result - we probably all know what happens to Jonah - he spent 3 days in the belly of a fish, but don't miss what happens to the others on the ship.

Verse 16 says "they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows." Because of Jonah's disobedience, he was in the right place, at the right time, which led to the right circumstances for these men to pledge themselves to the Lord recognizing Him as God. It certainly doesn't excuse Jonah, but this speaks to God's power and plans. God knows what we are going to choose, what we will and will not do, and He plans accordingly so that all things will truly work together for good.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 ESV
what do you do when you don't like God's plans?

God knows when we are going to run from Him and His instruction. He knows when we will disobey His command, knows when He will need to give us warnings, wake us up and shake us out of our disobedience, and He also knows how to use all circumstances for His glory.

Jonah ended up spending a temporary period of 3 days in the belly of a fish, which reminds me of the temporary period of time I have come out of my own stupor brought on by defiance - you know, that phase where your heart is broken over the realization that you've defied God. In that period of time, just like Jonah, we are brought back to our knees and realize how great our God is, how good His commands are, and how much He cares and provides for us. God uses this not just for our own good, but we can't even fathom the ways He is using these times of discomfort for the salvation of others as well.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away. Ecclesiastes 3:14-15 ESV

God is in control. Nothing we do can add to or take away from Him and His works. He knows what is ahead and what is behind. He knows what you are struggling with today, and knows the troubles behind and ahead of you. Whatever it is you are struggling with right now my prayer is that you surrender it to Him and trust Him to restore you and work out all that has been affected by your wandering away from Him. We try to make our plans but rest in the wisdom that God will establish every step according to His will. Let God it, and release your plans to His will for your life, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. His plans are always greater than anything we could even dream of or plan for.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9 ESV

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