When God Says Go and You Say No

So many times in our lives we seem to be led into experiences that are not of our own choosing—divorce, bankruptcy, serious illness and other losses may make us doubt God’s ever-present love and power.
Such was the case with the Prophet Jonah.  We read in Jonah 1:2-3, when God spoke to Jonah, “’Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.’  But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”  Jonah then boarded a ship and fled away from God and from his mission to Ninevah.
Once Jonah was at sea, the Lord caused a mighty storm to rock the boat.  Jonah had gone below and was asleep.  The captain woke him and, after drawing lots with the sailors, Jonah was thrown into the sea which then ceased its raging.
In Jonah 1:17 we read, “But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”  It is interesting to note that the large fish was provided by the Lord to save Jonah; the fish did not attack Jonah.  After the three days, Jonah prayed to God from the belly of the fish, saying, in part, “As my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.”  (Jonah 2:7)  The entire prayer of Jonah is called a Psalm of Thanksgiving.
Jonah 2:10  “Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.”  Jonah then responded to the word of the Lord and went to Ninevah, preaching to the Ninevites who changed their evil ways.
This famous story is rich in symbolism that applies to each of our lives.  When we are called to walk through an experience that seems to lead only to pain and struggle, how often do we seek to run the other way?  We may try to find escape in the distractions of the world:  drugs or alcohol, TV, working overtime, busy-ness, or like Jonah, we may sleep away the hours.  Yet God always provides.  Every experience is an opportunity for transformation, each one has the potential to bring us closer to God and to the Truth that we are never alone.
Sometimes life calls a “time-out,” such as Jonah had in the belly of the big fish.  We may find ourselves recovering from an illness or surgery, we may have time off between jobs, or otherwise have time away from the routine of our daily lives.  These times of rest are preparation for, or recovery from, a journey to our private Ninevah. As we go deeper, spending time in prayer and meditation, allowing God to work in and through us, we learn to surrender and trust that each experience in life can lead us into a higher place, and strengthen our faith.
I have journeyed to Ninevah several times over the years.  I’ve experienced illness, injury, failure and loss.  Yet, in time, I’ve seen these occasions differently, and learned to become grateful for the gifts they bear.  Like Jonah, when we finally can thank God, we are ready to undertake the next thing life spews at us.  I’ve come to believe that there are no random events, that each thing that happens provides the exact lesson we need to continue evolving on our spiritual path.
So, the next time God says “Go,” think twice before you say “No.”
Rev. Carla