Topsy-turvy situations in life include the biblical paradox: where we come before the living God in our weakness we redeem strength for the moment.
Jonah, the Minor Prophet, had such a difficult time of it obeying God’s call to proclaim impending judgment to the Ninevites; he can be seen, through the text, battling four types of emotion.
These reveal four weaknesses that we, too, battle with. It depends on how we battle as to whether (or not) we draw on the Lord’s strength in getting through.
Jonah 1 – Fear
Chapter 1 of Jonah hits the ground running; the prophet runs from God in fear. Perhaps it was mortal fear for his life to preach before the heathen of Nineveh; or maybe it was religious indifference, or a lack of faith. Whatever it was, it was fear that drove him the other way.
The Lord’s calling of Jonah is plain enough; he must go immediately (verse 2). But just as immediately, Jonah sprints in the opposite direction boarding a ship from Joppa bound for Tarshish. His fearful, disobedient reaction is ‘rewarded’ by a peril worse than he can imagine—death lies there, imminent.
Jonah’s mistake was to run in fear. We make the same mistake; the instinct is to run when staying put and considering what is before us, and what God is saying, is usually the wiser choice. Obeying God is often about moving beyond the reptilian instinct, where that instinct is based in fear.
Jonah 2 – Failure
The sweetest Scripture of this short book is saved for a psalm of thanksgiving.
Within the thread of Jonah’s gratitude for the provision of a great fish, is the lament for his failure, realising how dire the circumstance was; that his disobedience almost led to his death. Whilst he is ashamed of his failure, he is thankful for the having been saved. It is impetus for obedience, leading into chapter 3.
Just as easily we, too, can reflect over our failures, utilising them as platforms for learning and future obedience.
Jonah 3 – Feelings
When the time comes to perform, we often go to water, experiencing fight or flight—the nuances of adrenaline pumping through our bodies, impacting us emotionally.
We could imagine going to a city, known for its revelry, like preaching before the mafia or the KKK; Jonah is faced with preaching an insultingly laughable message—how would they react?
Feelings-from-head-to-toe would be us if we were placed in such an intolerable situation. How do we communicate what God has laid tremulously on our hearts, but by faith?
Faith alone remits courage to do only what God can empower us to do.
Jonah 4 – Frustration
Notwithstanding the miracle of the Ninevites turning back to God in chapter 3, Jonah is found irreconcilable within a fit of anger. Preaching to the Ninevites has meant his own goals went unmet.
When we obey God, at times our needs and goals will go unmet, and we can expect feelings of frustration. Equally, though, we can expect God to reprove us, as he did Jonah, if our frustration is selfishly poised.
Jonah experienced the weaknesses of fear, failure, feelings, and frustration. We do too. We can learn a lot from, and be encouraged by, Jonah’s humanity. Be balanced in fear. Accept failure and move on. Perform despite feelings. Patiently endure frustrations.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.