He wasn’t told the outcome. He wasn’t asked about it. His opinion didn’t matter. God just wanted him to do something. Something specific. Something strange. Something so scary that he ran away.
He’s the guy who ended up in the belly of the big fish in that short, 2-page book of the Bible. He is responsible for several children’s songs and felt-board characters. God asked him to do something that included going to a specific place. So, he ran in the opposite direction. (Makes sense, right?) He was tossed off of a boat in a storm and was eaten by a big fish. Inside the belly of this fish, he prayed. He changed his mind about this whole “do what God tells me to do thing,” was thrown up onto the shore and went to the place where God told him to go. He did his job and expected certain results. He expected that the people he didn’t like would get punished, that the bullies in the elementary-school classroom of life would finally be sent to the principal’s office to get what he thought they deserved.But that didn’t happen. God didn’t ask for his opinion or for his advice. He sent him to this strange land to do a certain job, and when it was done, God did what God does better than any human being in the history of the world: He forgave people, revealing his great love and compassion and mercy.
Jonah didn’t want it to go down this way. He was angry. He was so angry that he threw a temper-tantrum about a plant that died. (Seriously. Look it up. It’s true.)
This ending to the “the guy in the belly of a big fish story” bothers me each time I read it. It bothers me not because there’s something strange that doesn’t make sense but rather because it hits home too closely.
I, like Jonah, get jealous. I get jealous of people who seem to have everything work out for them even though they hurt me. That’s just not right. I get jealous of people with whom I’ve shared my dreams and hopes, and then they come true for their lives and not mine. That’s not fair. I get jealous of people who seem to get something I want and don’t have, even though my life is pretty great. That’s not enough. I get jealous. And, subconsciously, the tiniest bit, wished that God would hire me as his consultant and execute my fantastic ideas.
Thank the Lord that he doesn’t.
Because what about the more-times-than-not that it’s me who desperately needs the grace and mercy only God can provide? What about the times that God’s love and compassion override fairness for my own life, my own actions, my own shortcomings, my own mistakes and my own sin? If God took my advice, I would miss out on the surprising ways of his love and compassion not only in my life but also the privilege it is to celebrate his goodness in the lives of everyone else.