I’ve been thinking a lot this week of how often I have found myself in the Jonah story as we’ve worked our way through the book on Sunday mornings this spring. Runner from God at times? Check. Desperate prayer in desperate circumstances? Check. More concerned with my own comfort than with the suffering of foreigners? Sadly, check. Shaking my fist at the sky when God’s love frustrates me or is hard to understand? Check and mate.
In the sermon on Sunday (which you can listen to here) we saw how badly Jonah misunderstood the love of God. God’s love was more free than Jonah wanted it to be in that it was extended even to Jonah’s enemies. And God’s love was more costly than Jonah wanted it to be in that God’s love is a jealous love; not willing to share Jonah’s allegiance with the idols of this world.
Jonah was bothered by the love of God. He knew some things about God and had experienced God’s love in his life, but he just couldn’t figure out how God’s love could possibly be operating in his own life and in the world in the way it was.
God’s love appoints hardship in our lives at times. God’s love crushes the not-God things that we are most attached to at times. God’s love can be difficult to see at every fleeting moment of our lives.
We want to know at every moment how what God is doing is loving, and we want to reserve the right to authorize God to do it, once we agree it is loving and best for us. We want to be able to see at every moment how God’s actions are for our good. And because we can’t see God’s wisdom, we sometimes deny that it’s there.
As I have reflected on Jonah’s frustration with God, and my own, I am struck by my need to be in prayer. Not so much to pray so that God changes what He is doing in my life or in the world; but to pray so I can remember God’s character, come to trust God’s steady hand, and become conformed and surrendered to God’s purposes above my own.
Jesus taught his followers to pray these words as a part of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Will Be Done.”
At the end of the day I know that God’s thoughts are higher than my own and God’s ways are good. But in the middle of the day, I simply want what I want. Part of prayer for me is looking both backward at God’s faithful works and forward at God’s promises and remembering that surrender to God’s good and perfect will is what I really want; even if it has me shaking my fist at the sky in the moment.
Grateful to be pausing to remember with you in the midst of the troubles of this world that our God is good, even when his love is a mystery to us.