In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
Oh, disobedient, Jonah! What a beginning to a story. God wants to send Jonah somewhere he doesn’t want to go, so instead of following God’s plan, he jumps on the next ship heading the opposite direction. Storms happen. He realizes that he is causing serious harm to the people around him. He is thrown into the sea, swallowed by a big fish whole and left to contemplate his decisions thus far.
It’s eerie how much his story sounds like our own sometimes, isn’t it? Sure, we’ve never been swallowed whole by a large mammal. We’ve never sat in the belly of a fish, surrounded by stink, and left to think about what we’ve done. Have we? Now that I think about it, maybe it’s a little more familiar than I’d like to admit.
God asks me to do something.
Maybe it’s go on a mission trip. Maybe it’s applying for a job. Maybe it’s talking to the person I don’t know that just sat down next to me in church. Maybe it’s something else entirely. But, it’s definitely something that makes me a little uncomfortable and something that makes me feel like I’m not qualified to do it.
I don’t want to do it.
It’s not in my plan for my life. I don’t want to do it. It makes me uncomfortable. It’s a risk I don’t want to take. I don’t want to try to do it, because what if it doesn’t work out? What if I fail?
I run away.
I pretend I don’t hear the calling on my heart. I pretend I don’t see the proverbial writing on the wall. I turn my back on the good stuff God has planned for me and I run away. I do what I think is best, as if I know the world better than the One who created it.
Running away hurts myself and others.
Invariably, running away makes a bigger mess than just doing what God wanted ever could have. I make a mess of my life. I make a mess of the lives of the people around me who are trying to protect me and trying to watch out for me. I make a mess of my faith because I put myself where God should have been.
I’m stuck in the belly of my own sin.
Sure, it may not be a whale, but there I am, stuck in a place I should never have been. It smells. It’s rotten. It’s dark and dank and there is nothing to do there but think about the big fat mess I’ve made of my own life.
I call out for forgiveness.
It doesn’t really take all that long to realize what a mess I’ve made of my life. I know that I shouldn’t risk doing it on my own. I should have listened better. I should have listened at all. I should have trusted that God wouldn’t ask me to go somewhere without a plan to get me through whatever scared me. I realize that I do nothing but make a mess of my own life. I call out to God. I ask Him to forgive my ridiculous and wandering heart.
God is faithful. Always faithful.
Because God is good and God is faithful, He answers. He redeems. He forgives. Every time. Even when the cycle repeats and I try and take over my life. He still forgives. He still allows me to start over. He allows me to make my mistakes. And He listens when I call.