“This is what anger can do: shatter things – a relationship, a reputation, a promise, a hope.” – Carol Knapp, Daily Guideposts 2017, February 15th
That’s what it did to Jonah.
Jonah, the prophet famous for trying to run and hide from God (Jonah 1:3,5) because he did not want to go to Ninevah. The prophet who compelled the sailors to toss him overboard to save their ship from the violent storm destroying it (Jonah 1:12). The prophet who “was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17) getting right with God before “it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (Jonah 2:10).
The prophet who humbly proclaimed “… But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit” (Jonah 2:6).
You would think the man who just went through all that would just go with God’s flow and accept His purposes. But not Jonah.
Now this humbled prophet has wandered outside Ninevah and angrily prayed, “Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:3). The same man who just experienced three days of compassion and forgiveness with a big dose of redemption is very upset at God (Jonah 4:1) for extending the same things to Ninevah after the entire city, including the king, heard Jonah’s message and truly repented for their evil ways.
The same man who just a few days before was begging for mercy – “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me …” (Jonah 2:2) – is now outraged that the city of Ninevah did the same thing – “ … Let everyone call urgently on God … ” (Jonah 3:8). And it was right that God heard and answered him and gave him another chance. But it was totally wrong for God to do the same thing for Ninevah (Jonah 3:10).
And when I think about it like that, it’s crazy. I totally get Jonah’s point of view. I can see him sitting there thinking, “God, are you serious? You made me spend three days floating in every gross thing imaginable to get my attention and get my apology. This city hears eight words about their coming doom, makes several grand gestures about being sorry, and You say ‘never mind’. Are you serious? They don’t deserve anything good. I get the fish, and they get nothing? I had to suffer for the grace you showed me. Why aren’t you making them suffer too?”
And I’ve rowed that boat before. In fact, I find myself often rolling my eyes over certain things at work. Like hiring a new shop manager, a man, and offering him more money than I was currently making after being there 4 years. And thinking it was okay on several levels. But here’s what I saw – it was wanting the experience he brings at the expense of my 4 years of hard work, long hours, and extreme dedication. And knowing I bring something to the company he never will – the ability to be able to do my job and his.
I could have been like Jonah. He was “righteously” angry and chose to dwell there. He set up camp. He wallowed until he was covered in it. And he threw a temper tantrum, begging God several times to just let him die. He refused to extend grace. He refused to allow grace. He refused to accept grace in action.
And God in that moment could have read Jonah his resume and reminded him of his choices. He could have rubbed Jonah’s nose in his running away as just page one. But that’s not who God is. It’s not who He was with Jonah, and it’s not who He was with Ninevah.
But despite personally knowing God’s love in action, he couldn’t accept it for anyone else. He was convinced God would change His mind, so much so that “he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city” (Jonah 4:5). Why? Because “Angry people stir up a lot of discord” (Proverbs 29:22a).
He could not get past their reputation to accept their repentance. When that was what God wanted. His great concern was the people. Jonah’s great concern was vengeance.
So what happened to me at work? I didn’t seek vengeance. But I did speak up. In a somewhat joking manner with a serious undertone. I wanted it to be known that I did expect to be acknowledged for my years of dedication and hard work. And I was. And I’m convinced it was because I was honest without being angry or hostile.
The choice was mine, and I think I chose wisely. Just like the choice was Jonah’s, and he chose selfishly.
And today is a new opportunity for us to choose. We can be Jonah, angry and pouting with our hands tucked securely under our arms and refusing to allow grace. Or we can be like God, gracious and good and forgiving.
Who do you want to be?
Who will you choose to be today?
Marie Fremin. 2/15/17 and 3/5/17