When Life Tries to Swallow You Whole

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But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good.I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ [Jonah 2:9]

Jonah is a Hebrew prophet. You can read his story in the Old Testament portion of the Bible. Some may only know the children’s version of a large fish swallowing Jonah up.

Several years ago I preached a message on the story of Jonah. It was a two-part sermon and at the end of part one, I left Jonah in the belly of that large fish. Someone in the congregation, who had never heard the story, asked me later what happened to Jonah.

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I was thinking about that conversation again this week and the story of Jonah. It is a short book of the Bible and it covers only a few months of Jonah’s life. Yet, it is the only thing we really know about the prophet. One vignette and a few months of his life shapes our entire perspective of Jonah.

And just like that, I felt compassion for him.

The book of Jonah doesn’t really paint a pretty portrait of the prophet. He is disobedient and obedient. He is angry and fearful. He is judgmental and gracious. He is faithful and unfaithful. And the story ends unresolved.

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It made me think of another conversation I had this week. A friend encouraged me to give someone another chance. And I thought about Jonah and how hard we, the Church, are on this prophet. We come to an opinion about him with nothing but a three-month window into his life.

I think there are seasons in our life that mark us. Seasons we may not be proud of. Seasons that haunt us because we were not living up to the standard God has called us to. They were seasons of fear or anger or desperation or pain. They were seasons that corrupted our souls and the lives of those we encountered.

Often times those seasons of our life require God to send a large fish to swallow us whole. At the time it feels like God is punishing us. But, just like the prophet, we see in hindsight that God was rescuing us from ourselves. He allowed us to look into the abyss with the purpose of extending us grace upon grace.

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Sometimes it seems like life is swallowing us up. Here’s the good news. It is only for a season. You have been given grace upon grace to mark your life with better days.

And we have also been given the grace to extend to the “Jonah”s in our life. We are reminded that, like us, those moments and seasons do not represent the broader scope of one’s life. Our experience may have left things unresolved, but God is the One who resolves all things in the end.

For Jesus said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world”.

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