Running from God has landed Jonah in the belly of a big fish. I guess there’s nothing like three days inside a fish to change your perspective. Chapter two finds Jonah running to God and the entire chapter is his prayer which starts by saying, “in my distress I called to the Lord…” Distress as a noun is defined as: 1) suffering; 2) state of danger or great need. It should be noted that the word “stress” is contained in distress. When I was a young engineering student a partner and I designed and built a model bridge out of balsa wood as part of a competition during “engineering week”. The teams would bring their bridge to a lab where a load (stress) was applied to each one until it failed. The winner was obviously the bridge that withstood the greatest load, but it, like all the others was destroyed in the process. I think of stress in our lives the same way; each of us can withstand a load, but at some point the load exceeds our capacity and we crumble (which can manifest itself in many different ways). I think Jonah has reached his point in chapter 2 and so he cries out to God; many of us do the same thing. But I think God would probably like to spend some fun time with us as well; He would like to celebrate our victories and successes and not just be a “fall back” when everything goes wrong. Jonah’s prayer was not to be rescued or forgiven it was a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving. There is no mention of what Jonah’s next step would be other than vs 9 which says, “what I have vowed I will make good”. Some interesting observations from Jonah’s prayer are:
1) If God can hear our prayers from inside a fish in the depths of the sea He is surely everywhere.
2) Sometimes we get into pretty big messes before we learn what God is trying to teach us. I don’t know what the lingering effects of soaking in digestive acids for three days are, but I suspect there were some
3) Our problems don’t originate with God or His call in our lives. They originate in how we choose to respond to His call. If we define sin as “separation from God” it can be a noun or a verb and normally we consider it as a verb; some action that we know displeases God. Neglecting God’s proper place in our lives also separates us from God and would be categorized as sin. When we are separated from God due to our sin we spend time and energy covering our trail, or like Jonah, running away from God. Something usually happens to bring us out of the darkness. It is a cycle that is repeated often in the Bible and most certainly in our lives (see diagram), and it isn’t the “abundant life” that Jesus promised.