From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said, “In my distress I called to the LORD, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help and You listened to my cry.” Jonah 2:1-2 NIV
It’s a dark, stinking, terrifying, horrible situation. Death is certainly imminent yet, somehow, he’s still alive. Sick, scared, totally alone, floating inside a huge fish. He told the sailors to throw him overboard. He was running from God. In total disobedience from what God asked of him. Go to Nineveh and preach against their wickedness. Tell them God sees them. He despised the Ninevites and wasn’t about to give them a warning and a chance to repent. He knew the kind of God he served. He knew that a warning could lead to repentance and repentance to forgiveness.
He went in the opposite direction. He chartered a ship and found himself sick and terrified in the middle of a gnarly storm. To be thrown overboard in a raging sea will certainly drown a man and bring him death. But God wasn’t finished, and Jonah still had a job. Death would not come. God would spare his life. It’s an act of mercy by a God who is long-suffering. Jonah was going to be given a second chance to walk in obedience. The Ninevites were going to get a fair warning before God brought serious consequences upon them.
Suddenly sitting in the belly of a fish is an act of mercy. When death would almost be better than your current situation God intervenes. Pressed in, perplexed, confused, alone – God isn’t finished. I have found myself in some dark, deep pits of despair. I have cried out to God in anger, in hurt, and in fear. It’s one thing to find yourself in a situation that is not your fault. Sometimes life brings harsh blows and we anchor down and hang on tight. However, it’s a whole different scenario when you know that the pit you find yourself in is because of your own disobedience. It’s harsh and gut-wrenching. There is no one else to blame. It’s just you and God, and still He offers you the mercy of forgiveness. That is true love.
Jonah saw his situation for what it was and he did the right thing. He released his anger and his pride. he called out to the Lord from the darkest place of his life. He was a broken man and God listened to his cry. With mercy and love, God forgave him, commanded the fish to release him, and told him once again to go to the city of Nineveh and give them God’s message. This time, Jonah obeyed and did exactly as God asked.
When you feel “swallowed” up by the things of this world, when you find yourself in a pit where you never intended to be, when you know that you are running in the opposite direction of God – there He is. Waiting to deliver us from ourselves. Our hearts are a funny thing. We tend to gloss over and justify our sin through blame, self-righteousness, and finger-pointing. But God cuts straight to our hearts like no one else and draws us back to Him. You may feel pressed in, crushed, confused, and angry, but you are NOT defeated. God’s spirit breathes life in you through the saving grace of his Son Jesus Christ. Death has already been defeated through Christ’s death on the cross and nothing else that you find yourself facing can take that away.
My prayer is that we give up our guilt, pride, hurt, or anger and walk in obedience with God. He is long-suffering, forgiving, merciful, and full of goodness. He loves you and he loves me and nothing will ever separate us from that love. When we would rather die than face the circumstances before us, there He is. Watching, waiting, and ready to offer us forgiveness and another chance.
Dear Heavenly Father, I do not know in what situations those who are reading this today may find themselves, but I do know that You are a great and loving God who never sends judgement without offering us a chance for repentance and forgiveness first. May we run hard towards You and fall at Your feet of mercy. May we throw off the shame and sin that entangles us and walk in freedom of Your love and forgiveness. There is so much life in us through Your Holy Spirit. Let us not walk in a spirit of fear and defeat but in a Spirit of freedom because of the mercy You pour out on us. Let us find ourselves praising Your name even in the pit, because You hear our cry and You deliver us from ourselves. Thank You God for Your mercy, grace, and love. There is nothing sweeter than to know we are loved, forgiven and walking in obedience towards You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.