However, Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence. Jonah 1:3a.
In my Introduction to this devotional series, I described the literal trials I faced during a stretch of my career. I contemplated whether they were the result of being out of God’s will, and consulted with scripture to find guidance. In that effort, I discovered four men in the Bible – all whose names begin with “J” – that offered insight into this issue.
The first “J” that I considered was Jonah. What trial did he face? Well, there was that part about being swallowed by a whale (Jonah 1:17) and being vomited up three days later (Jonah 2:10), trials far worse than I was experiencing. The reason he suffered his trial was obvious – disobedience. In fact, it was worse – defiance. Jonah was given clear instruction and he deliberately chose to do the opposite.
Jonah was clearly out of God’s will. Notice, however, that his trials weren’t merely punitive. If that were the case, the book of Jonah would have only one chapter, if it would have been written at all. God did not send the whale to eat Jonah. No, God sent it to rescue Jonah from his defiance and correct him. It worked. Jonah went to Ninevah and was God’s eventual instrument to bring wicked people to repentance. (Jonah 3:10)
How does Jonah’s story inform our evaluation of personal trials? We may indeed reap consequences for disobeying God, and our trials may flow from being out of God’s will. But, even so, as long as we have breath, we have the opportunity to repent. And repentance is the ultimate goal for our loving Father’s discipline. Thus, we can “consider it a great joy” when facing trials, even those that are corrective by nature.
My deep dive (pun intended) into scripture revealed not only this example of disobedience-triggered trials, but three other “J” examples whose trials were despite, or even because of, faithfulness. We’ll cover those gentlemen in future installments of this series.
(As an aside, consider listening to the humorous song “In the Belly of the Whale” by the Newsboys for the animated Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie. My oldest son – now a collegiate – is named Jonah, so we have an expansive collection of children’s books and other resources on the subject.)