The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai. ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, ‘How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.’ Then the sailors said to each other, ‘Come let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.’ They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, ‘Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?’ He answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ This terrified them and they asked, ‘What have you done?’ (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, ‘What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for?’ ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied, ‘and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’ - Jonah 1:1-12

Jonah was asked to rebuke an entire city for their wrongdoings. Nineveh was one of the largest cities of the time, making this an extremely daunting task. Can you imagine having to go into a huge city only to tell everyone there that the God of the Heavens was angry with the evil in their city? He was fearful of ridicule and even death in Nineveh so he fled to Tarnish. Part of Jonah probably wanted to see Nineveh receive the wrath of God. To put it in more modern day terms, imagine a Jewish man living in New York City at the end of WWII having heard from God to go to Germany and warn them to change their ways so they did not experience his wrath? It would be incredible difficult to do, and it wouldn't seem fair. Jonah had a choice and he fled.

In this day and age Tarnish was though to be near the end of the Earth and about as far away as Jonah could get. He desperately wanted to get away from what the Lord had asked him to do, and his impulse was to run. So he went and purchased his ticket far away from what the Lord was asking him to do.

Jonah was asleep while the storm was raging outside while the other men on the boat were crying out to their gods with no relief. I've always wondered how Jonah could be sleeping in the middle of a storm that is threatening the lives of everyone on board. It's kind of like us honestly. How we walk through the craziness of life and can be completely asleep to how the Lord is trying to get our attention. Jonah was running from the Lord and completely asleep to the constant pursuit of God.

Jonah is woken up by the crew because they have identified him as the reason for their troubles. They're begging him to make it stop; to call upon his God. Jonah knew the solution was for him to be thrown into the raging sea. There are a lot of ideas as to why this was the solution. It could have been because he had compassion on the other sailors. It could have been so that he was forced to be completely dependent of God. It also could have been because he had repented in his heart and he knew it was the only action he could take to change the situation. The bottom line is, Jonah had to surrender his fate completely to the Lord. He had no idea what was going to happen when he went overboard. But (spoiler alert) the Lord is good and spares him when he was undeserving. This is just like us. The Lord is sparing of us when we do not deserve it.

Jonah's story is important because it is full of lessons we can apply to our lives. We constantly look for the easy way out when what God has asked seems far too unobtainable. But what we can learn from Jonah is that we can never outrun God. His will is always better than what we can decide for ourselves. When we know what he is asking of us, no matter how hard it may seem, we have to trust him that he will equip and be with us aways. We have to trust him the first time he speaks, and not wait to be 100% sure before we do something.

Lord I thank you that you are relentless. Thank you for the ways you pursue me in my everyday life, just like you went after Jonah. I pray that I would have the courage to say yes to you from the beginning. I pray that I would be able to step out in faith and dependence on you when you ask me to do something. Thank you for loving and trusting me.

- Laura DeGroot