Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, ‘I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me.’ Jonah 2:1-2
Here is a word for the struggling believer, to the back slidden believer, to those of us who find ourselves in the depths because of our disobedience.
The emphasis of the book of Jonah is not on Jonah’s predicaments so much as it is on God’s provision. God used extraordinary measures to save Jonah from his sin and disobedience. The prophet acknowledges that it was God who “cast [him] into the deep, into the heart of the seas” (Jonah 2:3) Yes, it was the sailors who had tossed Jonah overboard, but Jonah recognized that what took place was under God’s sovereign hand, and that the sailors acted as His instruments. God had pursued him and had him thrown into the raging waters in order that he would come to a place where he could say, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me.”
Furthermore, in the belly of the great fish, the prophet felt the sting of being separated from God, of being “driven away from [His] sight” (Jonah 2:4). For Jonah, the physical terror of almost drowning in the ocean and being swallowed by a fish paled in comparison to being forever estranged from his heavenly Father. Jonah knew God’s love; he knew what it was to be in God’s presence. He was able to understand what it would mean to be separated from God, even though—and this is the perversity of sin—he himself had chosen to separate himself from God.
What a word for us! It is God who, when we are wandering away from Him, comes to us in the storms and valleys, who alters our circumstances to catch our attention, who allows us to feel isolated and separated all in order that we might say, “This is not where I belong. This is not what God wants for me. I cannot get myself out of this predicament. But He is able.”
Today, you might be dealing with a deep sense of failure and regret. You have been running. You have disobeyed the clear voice of God and attempted to hide. But your story doesn’t have to end there. In His grace and kindness, God is determined to save you and to complete the work in your life which He has begun (Philippians 1:6). In the Christian life, there is always a need to repent but never any reason to despair.
When Jonah ended up on dry land, it was not because he deserved to. It was because of God’s grace. Likewise, it is God alone who comes to us in our sin and disobedience in order that He might cleanse, save, and restore us to His purposes. Can you see the dry land today?