Friday, August 7, 2015

Jonah 4:4 -- On Letting Go of Anger

"Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry?"
Jonah 4:4

We don't often talk about Jonah post-whale, but he went through a lot in order to do what God asked him to do, and things didn't turn out the way that he wanted or expected them to.  He was upset.  The whole whale thing, and then God didn't destroy the city as he had prophesied.  When you're a prophet, you are probably used to God backing you up.  You say that the city will be destroyed in 40 days, and God does it.  ...But in this case, Ninevah believed Jonah's prophecy, and they repented... which is amazing in itself.  We often don't listen to God's warnings.  But in any case, God spared them, and when God didn't destroy them, Jonah just sat down and gave up.  Wanted to die.  And God's lesson to him at that point is an interesting one.  Jonah is sitting there in the dirt and the sun is beating down on his head, and God causes a plant to spring up quickly and offer him some shade.  And Jonah is glad of the shade.  And then God kills the plant, and Jonah is angry about losing the plant.  And God compares his compassion for the plant to God's compassion for Ninevah.  Jonah, even in his despair, cared about something, even though it was there and gone the next day... and God cared about Ninevah, and didn't just send Jonah to destroy it, but so he could save it.
And I guess that whole story as the background for this one verse.  We get angry in life.  It happens.  But in talking to God about it, he is always going to ask us this question.  And the thing we have to learn is, the answer is always no.  As with Ninevah, so with everything.  God always has a plan, and he is always, always trying to save us.  He doesn't take our suffering lightly, and he doesn't ask us to do things with no reason.  Sometimes the reason is the one we expected, but sometimes it isn't.  Sometimes things work out the way that we want them to, and sometimes they don't... but the point that Jonah didn't get at first, and that we don't often get, is that God isn't backing us up.  We are backing him up.  Things aren't going according to our plans?  Frustrating, yes, but not a problem eternally, because they are *always* going according to God's plans.  We are all going to suffer some personal setbacks and tragedies as we learn.  We're not always going to think that life is working out or that life is even worth living.  Like Jonah, we might give up, but God never does.
We don't know the ending of the story of Jonah.  It ends with the lesson.  But I would like to believe that Jonah stood up, brushed off the dust, had dinner, and got back to living.  Because God has a plan and a purpose for all of us, and even when we're disappointed and angry, his plan continues, and we still all have parts to play.  Today, let's trust that God knows what he is doing.  Let's let go of the anger, brush off the dust, have dinner, and get back to living.

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