I only wanted to get a few things done in the garden before the kids started in on each other. I thought I would be witty and put them to work with me, but their attention span at two and three proved them ill-equipped for the monotonous task of weeding. I gathered materials for them to do a small activity and returned to plucking green patches of grass. The final squabble between my two toddlers sent me over the edge. After angrily gathering everything up and barking a lot of things at them I would regret later I sent them off to an early nap. Then the guilt settled in, and I felt a lot like Jonah.
Who was Jonah?
Jonah was a prophet with a bad attitude. God asked Jonah to go to Ninevah and share the message of repentance with them so that they would be saved from destruction. Instead of following God’s command, Jonah got busy running from the Lord. He was thrown from his escape boat and ended up inside the belly of a giant fish for three days until God rescued him. With grace, the Lord came to Jonah again telling him to go to the people of Ninevah.
This time Jonah obeyed God. He warned the Ninevites that in forty days God would overthrow their city should they not repent and turn from the evil things they were doing. The people listened to Jonah and God compassionately spared the city from destruction.
Jonah was livid. The entire reason for his running away from God was because he didn’t think the people of Ninevah deserved sparing. He didn’t want God to be merciful to them. And Jonah definitely didn’t want his life interrupted by the task of bearing their message of salvation.
Jonah sat outside the city gates and when the heat came God mercifully sent Jonah a plant to give him shade. And for the first time, we see that Jonah feels happy. However, the next day God brought a worm to destroy the plant. Jonah, rather dramatically, got so upset he wanted to die. God allowed him to feel the heat of the sun before probing him again about his anger.
Finally, the story ends with God asking Jonah a pointed question. How was it that Jonah could be so concerned about the plant even when he had no hand in its creation or destruction, but no compassion for the people of Ninevah?
How often do we respond like Jonah?
How often do we decide that our plans are more important than God’s plan?
How often do we decide that our priorities are more important than God’s priorities?
How often when do we snatch, sulk, and allow our emotions to destroy the joy of being a part of something beautiful that God is using us to do?
How often do we love things over God’s lost people?
I think if we’re honest the answer is too often.
Thank God He still uses Jonah and People like You and Me
Jonah was a sinner and a prophet. Just like I am an imperfect mother, and we are imperfect followers of Christ.
We’re going to get it backward so much. Whether it’s in our relationship with God, our marriage, our motherhood, friends…all of it.
I put plants and my plans over my kids in the garden that day just like Jonah put his plans and plant over an entire city of lost people.
However, the only thing that was lost was Jonah’s opportunity to experience joy in what God was doing through him. And that is often what we miss as well. We’re so blinded by our own selfish agendas that we miss out on a thousand opportunities to experience the joy of following God’s plans for our lives.
Thank God Jonah’s sin and even our sin is never enough to ruin God’s plans. God accomplishes through us what He plans to accomplish. Whether we choose to be happy about it or not is up to us. So the next time we get interrupted let’s not allow it to cause a response that leads to guilt and let’s not rob ourselves of joy. Instead, why don’t we allow those feelings of frustration to prompt us to take note of what it is that God is doing in and through us? Let’s open our eyes to the fullness of joy that is available to us in the plans God has made for our lives. Let’s rejoice that God uses us for the ultimate purpose, seeing the lost be saved.