You think you’re having the worst day ever!? Sometimes THAT is an understatement and yes, it truly could be the worst day ever. Been there, done that. But sometimes we measure bad days by the sum total of how many ducks got knocked off our rows. Maybe we broke our favorite coffee pot, or lost our keys and it made us late for work, or we drove straight into whiteout conditions, or a recipe called for 3 eggs and we only had one…and on and on and on that scenario could go in a day, and BAM – sum total = bad day. I think a REALLY bad day would be seeing a giant whale, like Jonah did, headed straight for you with its mouth open, and you realize you are his meal. And THEN you find yourself STILL alive in his belly. Now THAT is the sum total of a bad day.
A Very Fishy Story
You have heard of this guy. Jonah. Let’s go back to the beginning of Jonah’s day – before it went all wrong and straight to the depths of the ocean. His bad day was his own fault. I think THAT is the worst – when you know that whatever consequence you are going through, did NOT have to happen to begin with. Oh, the shame and regret.
God asked Jonah to do something he did NOT want to do (go preach to the wicked people of Ninevah), so he ran to hide. I see myself in this. I ran to hide a time or two (thankfully, I didn’t have to get swallowed up by a whale to get my full attention). Jonah jumped aboard a ship to hide from God. Logically, pretty sure you can NOT actually hide from God, but – he tried.
Fast forward – a fierce storm came upon the boat and its crew, and Jonah the stowaway. Hoping to stop the wind and the waves, they all prayed to their own gods with no avail. Then they threw cargo overboard to lighten the ship, and finally cast lots to see who was responsible for the wrath of the gods. The lot fell on Jonah and they asked him who he was – where did he come from – who were his people – what was his country? He answered and said, “I’m a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven; pick me up and throw me into the sea and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” (Jonah 1:9-12)
I admit it – it was me!
I think we should note something RIGHT here – His admission of his own mistake, and NOT blaming it on anyone else – and being willing to face the consequences of his actions. Before God can even begin to rearrange or fix our mistakes and failures, we need to own them! This then releases a way for change to come. Jonah’s change came in the form of a whale. I am sure Jonah just figured he’d drown when they threw him overboard, and he obviously felt he deserved that fate.
Enter – the whale. (Cue the “Jaws” soundtrack).
I don’t know about you, but this is the most horrifying, yet amazing way of escape I have ever heard in order to save a man’s life and his purpose. “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)I guess if God wants to get your attention He would hand select the very thing that would most likely get your attention and turn you around to go in the right direction. I mean, parents know exactly what works for each of their kids. My guess is Jonah was REALLY bull-headed and really needed a whale of a smack upside the head. Or in his case, his WHOLE body.
So just for a minute – put yourself in his place. You may or may not have been completely clear about the fact that a whale swallowed you up until you woke up in his belly. Or did you still NOT know? You have no flashlight to take an assessment of your current surroundings. You just know it’s incredibly dark and that you are still alive (like the walking dead) and that it’s unbearably hot and it stinks (whale breath must be putrid)! And you are 100% convinced there is NO escape from this realm of the dead – and worse than ALL that? You know everything happening to you was your own fault!
I have had some moments in my own life of realizing things (decisions, choices) that were my own failures and feeling utterly consumed by my own shame and guilt. Jonah felt the same. And so he did what I have done in those times. Prayed to God. Period. Desperate loud pleading prayers! When all seems hopeless and over, we cry to the Lord in our distress. We cry for HELP. I am not too proud to beg for God’s help. Nor was Jonah. He dared to ask God if He was somewhere, anywhere – listening, if He would rescue him.
God Our Rescuer
I love this. Jonah was in the belly of a whale, somewhere out in the depths of the ocean. No one could help him. He couldn’t help himself. But here comes that BUT GOD moment. In our darkest, most foul moments, even if it is our own fault – our own mess – our own failure – our own shame – our own regret – IF we admit our fault, own it, and ask God for His help, He will deliver us.
“In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help.” (Jonah 2:1)
No matter what; no matter how far down or far gone you think (or know) that you are, you are NOT too far from the grace and mercy of God. Call on Him like Jonah did. Did Jonah actually know for sure that whale would puke him up on the shore line? Nope. He did not. Did it even look possible? Probably didn’t actually cross his mind. I am sure he really just felt hopeless. Yet, he still called on God. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You Lord.” (Jonah 2:7)
The whale puked up Jonah. After 3 days and 3 nights of desperate praying and crying and screaming and being barely able to breathe, God delivered Jonah. Okay Jonah, NOW let’s pick up where you left off. Let’s get it right this time. Second chance. If you read more about the life of Jonah, yes – he DID go back and preach his original message to the people of Ninevah. But he still didn’t have a great attitude – even after his whale of a detour. Humanity is really bull-headed. And yet, God is really merciful.
Despite our worst failure, God can redeem us. No matter our vilest sin, God can forgive us. Whatever ugly mess that stains our conscience or the backdrop of our life, God can turn it into a whale of a beautiful message.
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