Written as part of the She Reads Truth #SheSharesTruth experiment
Read Jonah 3-4
Have you ever decided ahead of time how mad you were going to be about something before it even happened? Told yourself, “I don't want to do X because Y person is only going to do Z. And when they do Z, I’m going to be sooo mad!”? I have. I refer to it as getting “pre-angry”. Deciding ahead of time that I’m going to be extra-angry when someone fails to do what I want AGAIN, in the exact way that I’m expecting them to. I’m not sure why I think I can get extra-angry in these situations. Probably just because I predicted it and had time to stew about it before it even went down. By the time that they fail me (i.e., don’t do what I want), I’m ready to POUNCE! OR my only solution for preventing my anger (instead of just deciding: 1) to believe in the person and 2) to not be angry if they do something other than my wishes) is to decide ahead of time that I won’t be sucked in again. That I just won’t do X this time.
That’s Jonah in this story. He was angry that God made him go to Ninevah to make this big pronouncement that he was going to destroy the whole place because of how evil they were and then didn’t live up to the promise that he had Jonah make. Jonah was mad because he knew God would want to forgive them. He knew God’s nature. He had God’s number. And the thing is: What he predicted was that God would do something amazing, not horrible. But if God was not going to destroy Ninevah (which Jonah knew he wouldn’t), then he didn’t want to waste his time making the threat. In Jonah 4:3, Jonah said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Paraphrase: “I told you that you were going to do this. And now you’ve done it! That’s why I was justified in disobeying. Because I didn’t want to be sucked in again for no reason. I didn’t want to have to talk big about what you were going to do – knowing you’d never do it – and then look like a fool when you didn’t do it. But you did it! You sucked me in again, after I convinced myself that you had changed, and here we are. I’m so humiliated I could die!”
But God never changes. The good thing about that is: He’s always good. It’s not like being sucked into the messy lives of those we love who might fail us. God never fails. We may fail in wanting the right things from God. But God doesn’t drop the ball on who he is. He’s consistent. His gracious, merciful, patient, loving, relenting-from-disaster character will always hold true. Jonah was right about that. But what Jonah seemed to forget was: He didn’t deserve forgiveness (or that plant that sprouted to keep him cool) either. He’d known God long enough that he’d become entitled. He thought his relationship with God was about him. He thought he made the rules. He thought it was about what he could get out of God.
But it’s never about us. It’s always about God. Everything. All the time. And that’s part of what Jonah got pre-angry about. Because he was going to obey God’s wishes for one reason – to tell those awful people how God was going to destroy them and everything they loved and then sit back and watch the filthy place burn like they deserved. But if God dared to make this about him again, if he dared relent, Jonah was going to be mad.
But thank goodness God dares. Thank goodness he gives us what we don’t deserve. I just pray that we Jonahs out there – who know God and the mercy and grace and love and patience and relenting that is part of his very being – don’t forget that we didn’t always know God. We didn’t always know his character. And we weren’t always the “good” people we envision ourselves to be. Thank goodness someone was willing to tell us about him – not because we deserve his grace, mercy, love, etc. – but because God is bigger than all of the things we’ve done that need grace, mercy, love, etc.
May we never lose sight of our undeserving nature. And may we never grow weary of the steadfastness of God’s.