Most of us are familiar with the story of Jonah. The story goes beyond this, but this is where we are in the #StudySeries right now:
Jonah was a minor prophet in Joppa that God called to Nineveh. Nineveh was a wicked, dangerous place about 550 miles from Joppa in need of the message of repentance. Jonah didn’t want to go. Not only did he not want to go, he tried to run from this calling by fleeing to Tarshish, which was 2,500 miles from Joppa. (Note the extra 2,000 miles of travel here.) He ends up on a boat that goes through a storm God sent, gets thrown overboard because they realize the storm was “his God’s” doing as a result of his running and ends up in the belly of a whale.
There are several key themes presented in chapter 1 that are weaved through the remainder of the book, but there is one thing God has had me focused on since I studied Jonah myself.
Jonah was willing to go 2,000 miles out of the way to avoid the temporary discomfort of going to Nineveh and doing what God called him to do. Keep in mind, he wasn’t just called to this, but he was gifted for it. Jonah was a prophet, and preaching the truth of repentance is an awfully large part of being a prophet. The fear, discomfort, potential danger and rejection he would be walking into…they all became a lot bigger in his mind than the fact that he was called and gifted to carry this mission out. He was willing to surrender to the temporary at the expense of the eternal.
Interesting the lengths man will go to sometimes, isn’t it? I’m not just talking about Jonah anymore…
Sometimes the place you and I are called to isn’t a physical destination, but a place inside of ourselves. A place we prefer to keep in the dark; something we don’t want to deal with, or allow to be seen. A place God calls us to so He can shine a light on, heal and restore it.
Fear of rejection. Addiction. Lust. Fear of abandonment. Depression. Anxiety. Fear of intimacy. Arrogance.
It’s not the most comfortable place to go for most of us. It scares us, requires time and sacrifice and temporary discomfort. So...sometimes we run from it.
Our running looks different than Jonah’s. Our running looks more like building an entire life around avoiding ever dealing with this “Nineveh” within us. If you fear intimacy, you build a life that avoids it at all costs. If you struggle with depression, you slap a smile on in the presence of others and embrace darkness behind closed doors so nobody ever knows. If you live in arrogance, you avoid everything that could possibly humble you.
Like Jonah, we’ll run 2,000 miles away in the wrong direction to avoid going the 550 miles it takes to get where God wanted us to go for our own good and the greater good. The place He calls us to may be ugly in itself for the moment, but beauty flows from it. There’s healing there; restoration, fruitful relationships, an abundant life. It’s impact goes beyond the moment.
Also, imagine walking 2,000 miles more than you had to walk. Some of us wonder why we find our lives exhausting… maybe we’re running for Tarshish when we should be walking to Nineveh.
It’s God’s heart to see us restored, living abundantly, free of all this unholy crap we let us weigh us down. I don’t say that dismissively because I know so many of us have experienced real pain as a result of our struggles and strongholds, but sometimes we hold these emotional wounds or fears or struggles on a pedestal and live lives that bow down to them without realizing it. We need to see these things as what they are, which is opposing the life God desires us to have in Him. Anything that leads us 2,000 miles in a direction opposite where God has called us needs to be eradicated from our lives. So, sometimes God sends a whale…
A circumstance or season of life that directs our eyes to no one but Him; to nothing but a life that is in submission to Him and the calling He’s placed on our lives. If God needs to put you in the belly of a whale for 3 days to get your attention - to show you that your fear of intimacy, depression, addiction, arrogance, fear of rejection, insecurity has lead you to the wrong destination - He will. He did it with Jonah, literally, and He's still the same God now as He was then.
And make no mistake about it, that whale of a season or circumstance is the love and mercy of God beautifully displayed in our lives.
What’s your Nineveh? Have you been running 2,000 in the wrong direction to avoid it?
If so, don’t wait for the whale. Turn around, go to Nineveh, let God help you deal with the temporary discomfort of it all and embrace the fruit that flows from it.
Tarshish has nothing for you, my friends. Nothing at all. You've been called higher and deeper than that.
P.s. Looking forward to starting chapter 2 tomorrow!