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Running from Nineveh

Allysen Kerr, Editor

Sometimes I feel like I’m in the belly of a whale.

That’s right. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the belly of a whale. If you’ve ever read or heard of the story of Jonah, you would understand what I mean. But let me explain.

Jonah was a prophet from the Old Testament portion of the Bible.  You’ll find his story hidden somewhere between Isaiah and all the other ‘-ahs.’ God told him to go to the city of Nineveh and basically call out the people for their sins. But Jonah refused. Instead Jonah runs off to another city in attempt to escape God’s will. Big mistake.

While on a ship toward Tarshish, a level-5 tropical storm comes out of nowhere and everyone on the ship starts to panic. Where’s Jonah? Sleeping. Yep, and not just casually napping, the Bible says Jonah was knocked out (Jonah 1:5). The crew wakes him up and starts interrogating him. You see, while the crewmembers didn’t follow the Lord as their god, they worshipped idols believed to have the power to strike down man at will. As such, every man starts praying to their own god and they ask Jonah to do the same. On top of that, they “casts lots” to figure out which person on board had brought on this disaster. Of course, the lot fell on Jonah (he probably knew that was going to happen and he still tried to play it off!).

Now the crew was scared out of their minds! They were like, “Jonah, what did you do”? The Bible even goes as far to say that they already knew the answer: Jonah was running away from the Lord. The solution: remove the problem.

So Jonah tells them to throw him over board and they do.

In my head, I’m thinking, ‘Why would tell them to through you over board? Where were you planning to go’? But I think Jonah was just trying to escape God in another way: death. I think he thought if he was completely removed from the picture that he wouldn’t have to deal with God or Nineveh ever again. Unfortunately for Jonah, the Lord had other plans in the form of a whale.

Yes, a whale. Why a whale? I have no idea! The Lord could have chosen anything He wanted and He picks Moby Dick. So not only is Jonah not dead, he’s also not escaping. But even worse, he’s stuck in the belly of a whale for not a few hours or even a day but three whole days and nights. That’s just gross.

But in spite of Jonah’s now dismal predicament, he still finds a way to see the Lord’s hand at work. Check out chapter 2. Jonah says, “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.”

Come again?

How on earth is Jonah able to find hope in the midst of this seemingly hopeless situation?

Lately I’ve felt the same way. That’s what I meant when I wrote, “Sometimes I feel like I’m in the belly of a whale.” I find myself somewhere in between where I want to and where God wants me to be. Somewhere between Tarshish and Nineveh.

Unlike Jonah, I’m not exactly sure what my Nineveh is supposed to be but I know that I’m still in the whale. But instead of being encircled by tons of whale fat and stomach fluids, my whale looks more like challenges at work, anxiety, deaths and illness in my family and so much more. Over the last few months, I’ve found myself completely surrounded by seemingly hopeless situations and yet in the midst of it, Jonah 2 seems to be my response: “God, regardless of the circumstances, I know you hear me. I know you see me. I know you won’t leave me.” I don’t even know how He does it but somehow God’s peace always completely overrides how I’m feeling at that moment. It’s amazing.

Maybe you’re going through something similar. Maybe you’ve gone through a dry spell spiritually, maybe you lost someone really close to you. Your whale could take on any form: failed opportunities, lost relationships, loneliness, anxiety, depression, or family issues. Whatever your “whale” looks like know that God is really using that situation to get your where you need to be.

As followers of Christ, we all have a profound calling (Ephesians 2:10) on our lives. For one reason or another some of us seem to take a little longer than others to truly respond to that call. I’m not talking about simply saying ‘yes’ with our mouth, I’m talking about saying ‘yes’ with everything in us; with reckless abandon leaving everything (Tarshish) behind. If we’ve tried to run away from our true calling (Nineveh) sometimes God will allow our lives to get turned upside down and then send a whale.

Laura Story’s “Blessings” pretty much sums this up. The chorus says, “Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if trials of this night, are Your mercies in disguise?”

Being in the belly of a whale for three days was probably the hardest thing Jonah ever encountered, but it prepared him for Nineveh. If you don’t already know, I would strongly encourage you to identify three things in your life: 1. Tarshish 2. The Whale and 3. Nineveh. Why? Because knowing where you’re at right now will help you get where you’re going.

 

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