He was the Old Testament prophet who tried to run away from God, ended up getting thrown out of a ship and swallowed by a whale, then was spewed out of the whale onto dry land before heading off to do exactly what the Lord had called him to in the first place.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Jonah.
About how he ran, about how God found him, and about those three days he spent in the belly of a whale.
Prior to those three days, Jonah had been attempting to run in the opposite direction of the will of God. God had called him to go minister to the people of the city of Ninevah — a people known for their wickedness — and instead Jonah boarded a ship bound for a distant port. He tried to run fast and far in another direction. But as always happens when we try to subvert God’s will, God subdued Jonah. He sent a storm that could only be quelled by the ship’s sailors throwing Jonah overboard, and when they threw him overboard, the Lord provided a great fish to swallow him.
“…and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)
Why was Jonah inside that fish?
What was the purpose of those three days?
I think — and what was a suggested to me by a friend — was that the belly of that whale was the safest place for Jonah to be for those days. Because it was in the belly of that whale that Jonah was forced to get real with God, to cry out to Him. To be humbled. To see where he had erred. To receive direction for where he was to go next. And when Jonah realized his mistakes, when he humbled his spirit before the Lord, when he cried out to the Lord in deep distress, God answered. God met with him. God spoke. God gave him another chance. And after those three days, when the whale spit him out onto dry land, Jonah was able to enter into the Lord’s will and go to Ninevah, ultimately leading its people to salvation.
Jonah ran, God found him, and the Lord’s kingdom was advanced.
There are times in my life where I, like Jonah, try dodge the Lord’s will. There are times where my own ideas and desires cloud my ability to obey His will. There are times when I just simply don’t want to do what He asks of me. I run and the Lord needs to find me. He needs to subdue me.
He needs to send a storm and throw me overboard and put me in the belly of a whale.
And in the belly of the whale, I cry out to Him and He answers.
He provides direction.
He humbles me.
He meets with me.
He holds me safe in an unlikely place — a place I wouldn’t have ever imagined I would be — but He knows what He is doing.
In some ways, I feel like I’m in the belly of a whale right now. In a period of waiting. A period of being held safe, of being humbled, of needing to listen to the Lord’s voice. It’s a period of being prepared for what will come next. It is an unlikely place. Its’s not a place I ever would’ve expected to be.
But it is right.
It is the safest place for me to be.
And I can sense what it is preparing me for, and I can begin to understand its purpose. And I know its end will signify a new beginning, the beginning of a purpose completely designed by the One who created the fish of the sea and controls the raging waters and winds.
So I, like Jonah, wait. I stop trying to pursue my own worldly goals and walk in the direction He shows me. I seek the Lord and obey the small things He asks of me every day. I try to listen and I practice contentment and I wait in breathless, hopeful expectation. And I know my time in the belly of the whale has a purpose, and I know that I, like Jonah, am safe.
I am safe.