“In my distress I called to the Lord , and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. Jonah 2:2-3
There have been plenty of times in my life where I felt like I’d been swallowed up, trapped in chaos, utterly overwhelmed, just like Jonah when he was swallowed up at sea. Nine years ago I moved across the country with my then fiance. I was a few weeks pregnant, in completely new territory, experienced massive culture shock, had none of my family or friends, and was completely isolated. We had not even settled in before he started working long, crazy hours and I was left home where it was unsafe for me to walk the neighborhood alone, cooped up in the heat and humidity, where I was required to cook and clean all day for my fiance, his uncle, and his teenage cousin. After only about six weeks of this, I found myself in such excruciating pain I was brought to the emergency room where I discovered I was no longer expecting a child.
I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord , and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Jonah 2:4-7
I felt like Jonah; banished from God’s sight, engulfed, drowning, and utterly consumed and strangled by darkness. I fell into complete despair and as I cried to God I felt like He was surely not going to help me out of the deep, monstrous cavern I’d fallen into. I remember crying night and day, praying for God to change what had happened, to heal me, and to take me out of what turned into an absolutely horrendous experience after an already horrible loss. Not only had I lost the baby, but the man I thought loved me more than anything quickly began to hate me more than anything. While enduring every kind of abuse I kept pleading for God to bring me out of my terrible fate. I didn’t want to lose faith, and He was the only thing I could hold onto anymore.
“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord .’ ” And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.' Jonah 2:8-10
After a couple of months a light finally shone on my darkness. My family was flying me home. I was leaving this place I’d only experienced immeasurable pain. I was terrified but so relieved to leave. The pain was not over, but God had delivered me, moving me forward, providing an escape and refuge, and reminding me there is reason to hope and trust Him.
God, in His time, in His way, provided me with knowledge and experience that changed everything about who I was, and a way out of the sinful, hateful, painful existence I’d been living in. God vomited me out onto dry land like Jonah from the belly of the fish.
"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26
Life was not immediately easier, nor was it pain free. I have been through countless struggles even since then, but with each struggle comes another lesson of faith. During every experience of suffering I come even closer to understanding what salvation means; what it means to be saved.
This Prayer of Salvation is a beautiful prayer to thank God because, even when we are suffering, even when we are lost and hurting, even though we are so incredibly sinful and undeserving, He loves us anyway. He loves us enough to sacrifice His son, Jesus Christ, to save us from a damnation of eternal pain and separation from His mercy and love. Even though we screw up, reject Him, walk away, curse Him, live in utter sin, and disrespect everything that He has done for us He loves us enough to chase after us and pull us out of the deepest depths of darkness and into impossible peace. Because of His salvation I know that my faith in God is good and right, and that I can depend on Him to pick me up and deliver me to His kingdom when He says it is time. Every trial we face here on earth is another stepping stone toward God and His promise of salvation.
Don’t forget to thank God today, especially while life is especially difficult. It will change your life.