Spitting Out Seaweed
Can you believe it?! I have another new book coming out on March 5, 2019.
The title is “StormProof: Weathering Life’s Tough Times!”
Have any of you been through a storm lately? That’s what I thought …
So, for the next few weeks, my blog will consist of “snippets” from my new book just to whet your appetite.
Today’s storm story is taken from the life of Jonah.
“In every storm and in every bewildering environment of your life, God’s chief desire is that you cry out to Him. When you find yourself in a place of terror and solitary confinement, God wants your attention. He simply wants to hear your voice amid the wind and the waves. He longs to be your ultimate comfort and safe shelter. And when you at last respond to the God of Jonah, you, too, will experience a divine “Aha!” moment that will change the trajectory of your life.
Spitting Out Seaweed
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, “I called out of my distress to the Lord, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice. For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me. So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’” (Jonah 2:1–4)
Jonah had been about one gulp of salt water away from death when God rescued him. The waves had covered him and he was rapidly descending into the deepest and darkest part of the sea. There was no rescue boat on the way or safety net in sight—but God reached down from heaven, scooped Jonah up, and placed him safely in the belly of a very large fish!
The Lord will never give up on one of His very own who has the humility and honesty to say, “I’m sorry, Father. It was my fault.” At the very instant that Jonah uttered those unpretentious yet revealing words to God, the rescue began! Likewise, your rescue will begin when you follow Jonah’s example and declare to God—and to others—“I’m sorry. It was my fault.”
God is a pursuer, and He will track you down with creative resolve and unimaginable wit. As the storm was calming down, the sailors were worshipping, and Jonah was spitting out seaweed, I wonder if God looked over to the angel on His left and said, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”
The truth is that God will, indeed, rescue you—but the entire truth is that it may not be in the way you envisioned. Your heavenly Father will certainly send someone or something to get you back on His track for your life, but at first you may not recognize that particular someone or something as being heaven-sent. You might even believe that your situation has gone from bad to worse, as I’m sure Jonah felt in his case!
If Jonah had imagined he would be given a way of escape, he might have envisioned the sailors throwing him a life preserver as the storm calmed down—but no, that didn’t happen. Next, he might have imagined a small fishing boat coming his way with a beautiful girl at the helm—but no, that didn’t happen. As the minutes went by, perhaps Jonah dreamed of having super powers so he could miraculously fly from the middle of the ocean to dry ground—but no, that didn’t happen. God had a better idea! God sent a great fish to swallow the storm-tossed and very humbled Jonah.
Often, when I am in over my head, I am able to come up with all sorts of great ideas for God to solve the situation. Have you done the same? I create various scenarios that would work well for me, and it is my sad but true history that God has never yet accepted one of my brilliant ideas. Imagine that! God always has a way of escape for this soggy traveler that is very different from what I would have preferred in my wet state.
However, what I do know for Jonah is that there truly are much worse things in life than being swallowed by a massive fish. Never being caught by God would be infinitely worse than spending three nights in the belly of a blimp of a sea creature. Never saying yes to God would be so much more appalling than slogging around in rotting fish guts for seventy-two hours of one’s life. Never again hearing the voice of God would be so much more ghastly than smelling the residue of an immense fish’s dinner from the night before. Never again being used by God would be so much more nauseating than walking around with the vomit of a marine critter on your tunic.
Give a Little Whistle
[Jonah continued to pray,] “Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple. Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness, but I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:5–9)
Jonah’s near-death experience caused him to break out into a hymn of praise even while he was in the middle of the digestive system of the enormous fish. He knew that he had absolutely nothing to complain about and so he took this moment in his life to worship the Lord—even though he didn’t know if he would ever leave that place of stomach acids, crushed seafowl, and disgusting odors. Jonah didn’t complain and ask God why He hadn’t seen fit to rescue him a different way. Instead, this repentant prophet sang loudly, and as the melody echoed through the cavernous ribcage of the floating beast, Jonah recommitted his life to the Lord.
What is your emotional and spiritual response when the waves of your self-inflicted storm land you in a place you would rather not be? Do you write letters of complaint to the management? Do you shake your fist in the face of the One who has made you and rescued you? Or, do you join Jonah in a chorus of “How Great Thou Art”?
Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land. (Jonah 2:10)
I love the word “then” in this particular verse; it implies that something is about to happen due to an event that has previously occurred. This is what is known as “cause and effect.” The Holy Spirit is noting in this verse that there is a relationship between the event of verse 10 and the event described in the preceding verses. What the Spirit recounts through the pen of Jonah in verse 10 is a direct result of Jonah’s choice to worship in the darkest and dankest place of his life. Because Jonah worshipped the Lord, the Lord spoke to the fish to get rid of Jonah! Not only did this massive sea monster vomit Jonah up—but he vomited him onto perfectly dry ground. The creature could have expelled him in the middle of the ocean, which is where fish of such enormous size normally stay. But this obedient fish heard the voice of God, swam to the shore, and regurgitated Jonah! What a miraculous series of events!
Now, the next time you wonder if God is able to deliver you from the darkest place you have ever experienced in your life, just start to sing! Give a little whistle! Hum a happy tune! Lift your voice in praise and worship! The God who rescued Jonah by causing him to be swallowed alive by a colossal fish, and then telling that same behemoth to spit Jonah out onto dry ground, is the same God whom you serve today! Never underestimate the power of Jonah’s God!”
Thanks for listening to my heart this week. As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me. And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!