I can think of about four times in my life when I felt the world closing in on me. I can remember how everything on the peripheral seemed to become fuzzy and there was an intense focus on the person giving me bad news. Each time I felt completely out of control. And I was. I had no control over what was happening.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever had one of those “life as you know it” ending storms hit you? Some times these storms come as a consequence to a decision we make. Some times they come because of someone else’s decision. Some times they come just because life happens. These are the kind of experiences where you learn your dad is dying. Maybe it was your fiancé ending the relationship. Maybe you were downsized at work. Or maybe it was hearing your doctor say it is cancer. What was if for you?
Jonah had a “life as you know it” ending storm hit his life. Jonah’s thinking was messed up. He didn’t understand God or people. So he tried to run from God’s mission. In the midst of the storm Jonah chose suicide by sailor instead of repenting (changing his thinking) and turning back to God. So, the sailors reluctantly threw him overboard. Ultimately, Jonah was swallowed by a giant fish (see Jonah 1).
But God was not finished with Jonah. While in the belly of the fish, Jonah found himself protected from the sea and from the harsh digestive juices of the fish’s digestive tract. God finally had Jonah’s attention. What does it take to get your attention? For me, at times not much. At other times, it takes a “life as you know it” ending storm.
God uses these “life as you know it” ending storms to reveal to us that He is God and He alone is our “refuge and strength an ever present help in times of trouble” (see Psalm 46). God intervenes and supersedes the natural laws not just to save Jonah, but to save you.
Do you believe the story of Jonah? I know for many this is a difficult miracle to believe. But think of it this way, do you believe God is capable of intervening and superseding the natural laws of creation? If He is not, He may not be able to handle your “life as you know it” ending storm. But He is!
God responds to a surrendered heart
Jesus created all things. He then entered His creation and became one of us. He lived the human experience perfectly. He alone was able to be our substitute, dying on the cross He satisfied our sin debt (see Romans 3:25) and God’s love debt (see Romans 13:8). Rising from the dead, He demonstrates His power and authority over life and death!
If you don’t believe He can send a storm and a giant fish to rescue Jonah, you will not be able to fully believe that God can save you from your “life as you know it” ending storm. God wants to use that storm to teach you about yourself and Him. It is a matter of faith.
Once God had Jonah’s attention, Jonah cried out to God. He repented. He corrected his thinking! In Psalm 51:17 the psalmist’s words summarize Jonah’s prayer, his heart: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (see Jonah 2).
Why does God respond to a surrendered heart? When we are surrendered, we are teachable, available and responsive. How about you? Where are you on the a scale of 1-10 on each of these things?
How teachable am I? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
How available am I? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
How responsive am I? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
This is not a spiritual self-help test. What I want us to see is our part of positioning ourselves so we are prepared for the miracle we need in our lives, not necessarily the one we want.
The next time you are drowning in the digestive juices of the giant fish God sent to rescue you from the “life as you know it” ending storm, surrender. Praise God. Acknowledge Him. Repent – change the way you think. Offer yourself to Him. Join Him in His joyous adventure of loving others!