The story of Jonah and the big fish is perhaps one of the most well-known stories in the Bible. Ask any Christian what it means, and you will hear something about how obedience to God is important, how we can’t run from God, etc.
As I was praying for direction that morning, God directed me to go to this little book. I was a bit puzzled at first. The problem I was seeking guidance for was not something that was in any way my fault. In fact, my husband and I are mere victims in a world-wide scandal involving a big-ticket item we had purchased in good faith. With the company having given us a few options, I was asking God to show us which of our three options was right for us…Why was God guiding me to a book about someone running away from Him?
Despite my doubts, I paged through my Bible to the story, and as I began to read, the words jumped out at me: “But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.” (Jonah 1:4 NLT).
Let’s remember that Jonah wasn’t the only person on board. If the ship truly broke apart, the crew, as well as any other passengers, would all lose their lives. None of them had done anything wrong. Why were they being punished for Jonah’s sin?
Wait a minute. This was my situation, wasn’t it? I had done nothing wrong in purchasing this item. The current “storm” was completely caused by wrong choices made by the manufacturer, and I, like the crew aboard Jonah’s ship was nothing but an innocent bystander who had been “swept” into the problems!
Is this your situation as well? You didn’t do anything wrong to merit that cancer diagnosis. You are completely innocent in the affair that tore your marriage apart. You did nothing wrong in your parenting, and your teenager had no reason to go off the deep end. You’ve always been honest and supportive at work, yet you are still being fired. You are in the midst of a terrible financial battle, despite the fact that you’ve always been faithful with your offerings…Just like the sailors aboard that ship bound for Joppa, the fact that we find ourselves immersed in trials does not necessarily mean we are at fault. Oh, God does use our trials to teach us things; but that isn’t necessarily the reason they come upon us. Sometimes, just like those sailors, just like my husband and I in the midst of this scandal, just like you in the middle of your current trials, we are nothing but innocent bystanders, caught up in the fallout of someone else’s poor decisions.
So what do we do?
We do what the sailor’s did: “Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.” (Jonah 1:5a NLT). We seek God, and we search our hearts for any “dross” that God may be hoping to clean out through this situation.
One more interesting fact caught and held my attention as I read Jonah 1 that morning. It was the reaction of the sailors afterthey had thrown Jonah into the sea… “The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.” (Jonah 1:15 NLT). It wasn’t about the sailors, it was about Jonah; yet God turned the situation for His glory by bringing these same sailors to a knowledge of the One True God.
This shouldn’t surprise us, should it? For we know that: “…God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Rom. 8:28 NLT)
Remember this as you go through your present set of circumstances. God isn’t angry at you. He isn’t punishing you. You’ve just gotten caught up in the trouble caused by sin in this world. Seek God, search your heart for anything God may be using the situation to clear out of your life, and hold on to the promise that He will work everything out for good.
Oh, and isn’t it interesting to see that in the story of Jonah, the “cause” of the problem was thrown into the sea? Was this the guidance God is giving me about what to do in my situation? God would later confirmed that it was, and needless to say, I no longer have this particular big-ticket item…
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, andScriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, withAnswers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.