For some reason, the story of Jonah and his three days and three nights inside a great big fish inspired some comparisons with life circumstances today. Hmm! Does that sound odd? Let’s think about it.
My husband and I have been somewhat quarantined in our house since last March. Yes, we go out for a few errands now and then, but most of our time is spent inside the belly of our house. So far, we have been safe from the COVID virus waves. Praise God, who has blessed us with resources, retirement, health, and stability.
I went to the Bible and reread the Book of Jonah and found a great deal to consider. Whether we believe that this account is just a teaching story or a description of a truly interesting miracle, the reread was worth the time. Allow me to share.
In these few pages, we read about wickedness, disobedience to God, fear, safety, blame, guilt, repentance, forgiveness, anger, questioning of who and what is valuable, second chances, and lesson-teaching. Whew! All those topics could be considered during our country’s recent political events too, but let’s not go there now. Instead, let us consider the positive everyday lessons we might ask the Lord to help us implement in our lives.
First of all, may we be more obedient to God’s direction. How do we know those directions? We need to be open to his word and keep an open relationship with him.
We can be consoled by knowing that God, our Father, is ready to forgive our sins and give us even more than second chances to repent and try again. The people of Nineveh saw the evil of their ways and changed. Remember that we can change for the better; if we have little sinful habits, we can retrain ourselves. Maybe we don’t need to make excuses. The Holy Spirit is ready to give us perseverance. Watch out for too much unnecessary drama! Try to keep a level head.
Be happy for others’ good fortune. We can pray for others, not as a last resort, but as a first resort. We should look for various ways to assist individuals we know who are coping with big or small storms in their lives. Perhaps we can swallow them up with compassion and understanding.
While Jonah was still inside the big fish, and, as yet, did not know the final outcome for the people of Nineveh, he prayed a prayer of thanksgiving. He was grateful that the Lord was attentive to him. He realized what great dangers—-physical and spiritual—-had been all around him. He now calls the Lord my God and recalls that he should be loyal to Him.
Thanksgiving is so important. I think of how many times I have prayed to God for a special intention, and when my prayers were answered favorably, did I spend the same amount of time in thanksgiving?
After Jonah was spewed back onto land, he got his act together and did his job of admonition. However, he did not live happily ever after. As we leave him in the story, he still has to learn generosity and to realign his vision with that of God. May we always be teachable and temper even righteous anger with forgiveness.
Image: Jonah and the Whale, Peter Lastman, 1621
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.