Monday, February 3, 2014

INSIDE THE FISH


OK, so I like Jonah.

He was kind of a *messy* believer.

Yes, he had faith in the Lord, but he wasn’t an immediately obedient servant.

I don't know about you, but sometimes it's easy to read the stories in the Bible about those who made mistakes, who disobeyed God, who were without courage – and point fingers at them.

We think, "Oh, I would never act like that."

Really???

Do we really have the audacity to throw stones (or seashells) at poor old Jonah?

I think not.

It occurs to me that sometimes we run away from the Lord, not just in disobedience, but in fear of what He's trying to accomplish in our lives.

Tarshish can be anywhere opposite of the nitty-gritty Nineveh of God's purposes.

And at times, God's purposes involve pain and suffering.

Who wants that?

And so, much like Jonah, we book tickets on the first boat out of Humility Harbor…

…only to find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of Sanctification Sea.


The recent death of my father makes me ponder this.

These are circumstances that I would never choose.  But, I'm beginning to change my perspective on them.  Rather than seeing them as suffering that has arrived unannounced, I'm beginning to see them as ordained assignments.

They are holy plans being offered to me by the same God who once spoke to a reluctant prophet.

"Do this," the Lord is saying, "and watch Me work."

And that becomes the moment when I have a choice.  


Tarshish or Nineveh?


But, here's the thing with that.

Even if we pick Nineveh, we still might find ourselves thrown overboard into the choppy waters of Sanctification Sea.

We might be tossed around in the storms of refinement, thrashed by the wailing winds of transformation.

We might even find ourselves – gulp – inside a big ol' fish.

Even when we're obedient, we might find ourselves alone, in the dark, scared and confused.

Sadness, loneliness, fear can be like the dark insides of a whale of hurt.

Again, a choice.

Will we be swallowed up by our surroundings, or will we cry out for the rescue that will surely come?


Good old Jonah – he shows us what to do:

"Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the fish.  

(I love that Jonah prayed, not just to God, but to the LORD his God!)

He said,

"I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble,
and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,
and LORD, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,
and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves…
I sank beneath the waves,
and the waters closed over me.
Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
I was imprisoned in the earth…
But you, O LORD my God,
snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away,
I remembered the LORD.
And my earnest prayer went out to you…
For my salvation comes from the LORD alone."

(From Jonah 2, NLT)


I love this prayer.

Is it not the cry of every heart that has gone to the depths of trials?

Does it not echo our soul groanings in the mighty waters of terrible suffering?

Ought we not utter these words when we are drowning in a sea of circumstances beyond our control?

Yes.

For the Lord answers.

"Then the LORD ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach."  

(Jonah 2:10, NLT)


Dear ones, where do you find yourself today?

Running away to Tarshish, or heading purposefully toward Nineveh?

Or set adrift on the swells of a stormy sea?  Or perhaps you find yourself *inside the fish*? 

Might you take a moment and turn toward the sky and pray?

Call out from the depths of your soul to the Lord who keeps you.  Tell Him your deepest feelings.  Cry if you need to, rant if you must.  But turn, TURN, towards Him.

He is there.

In it all, through it all, because of it all.

He is there.


And one day, when His purposes are accomplished, He'll order you *spit out* onto the shore.

To bask in the SONshine of another wonder-full day!





And though I know not the destination,
I will fly to where He leads.




"'Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine.  When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown...For I am the LORD, your God...'" (Isaiah 43:1-3, NLT)


"Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.  You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble..." (Psalm 32:6-7, NIV)


"...we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance." (Psalm 66:12, ESV)


"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.  I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.  I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.  I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched...Lord, the Lord Almighty, may those who hope in you not be disgraced...God of Israel, may those who seek you not be put to shame...I pray to you, Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation.  Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from...the deep waters.  Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me.  Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me.  Do not hide your face from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.  Come near and rescue me; deliver me..." (From Psalm 69, NIV)


"The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.  The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic...The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.  The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace." (Psalm 29:3-4, 10-11, NIV)


"The LORD is king! 
He is robed in majesty.  
Indeed, the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength.  
The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.  
Your throne, O LORD, has stood from time immemorial.  
You yourself are from the everlasting past.  

The floods have risen up, O LORD.  
The floods have roared like thunder; the floods have lifted their pounding waves.

But mightier than the violent raging of the seas, mightier than the breakers on the shore - the LORD above is mightier than these!

Your reign, O LORD, is holy forever and ever." (From Psalm 93, NLT)



"Take heart. It is I."

These are the words that wash over my spirit today - bringing me the calmness I so desperately crave.  The waves are pretty steep, and the wind is howling loud.  But, praise the Lord, I can still hear His whisper.


Are you in the stormy seas, or perhaps *inside the fish*?  How is God rescuing you?


Linked today with:

Joan at SHARING HIS BEAUTY
Michelle at HEAR IT ON SUNDAY, USE IT ON MONDAY
Laura at PLAYDATES WITH GOD
Hazel at TELL ME A TRUE STORY
Jen at UNITE
Jen at SOLI DEO GLORIA
Judith at WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAYS
Rachel at WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS
Jenifer at WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY
Beth at THREE WORD WEDNESDAY
Lyli at THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY
Wanda at THE FRIDAY FIVE
Laura at FAITH FILLED FRIDAY
Mel at ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS
Charlotte at SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS
Barbie at WEEKEND BREW
Sandy at STILL SATURDAY
Janis at SUNDAY STILLNESS


BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

28 comments:

  1. Oh Sharon this is an excellent and very apt (for me anyway) blog. I love your references to the Humility Harbour etc. This could be my sentence too "The waves are pretty steep, and the wind is howling loud. But, praise the Lord, I can still hear His whisper."

    Praise God for His Patient Teaching

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  2. Sharon, wow...a great post! The Lord has sure been speaking to me a lot lately about the obedience/disobedience thing...through many different ways. Hmmm...I guess I better listen. Just this morning, it was from Joyce Meyer on TV. One thing she said was "selfishness results in disobedience"... it hit me right between the eyes. Your post just reinforced it even further. Thank you.

    Blessings on your Monday! :)

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  3. WOW Sharon ... as usual an awesome expose on Jonah, life, Inside a Big Fish, life, Sanctimonious Sea, life, Humility Harbor, life, Tarshish or Nineveh?, life ... rolling waves, tumultuous torrents, capsized pangas, so many life choices ... between the fine lines of obedience and disobedience; selfish or unselfish, my way or His way, purpose or panic, calm or fear, etc. WOW, this one is packed and carries such great wisdom, words and wonderful illustrations and well applied to your current situation and ours!

    Exceptionally well written and done, my friend and sister in Christ! Out of the depths of the Sea rises the strength of the Lion and the writings of a mighty warrior with such revelation and amazing connection of words and thoughts!
    Love Jonah's prayer! Bask in the SONshine and sense His Presence with love and comfort surrounding and filling you to overflow! Love the photo too (without the 'spit out' part) and praying for wings to carry you as you rest and find what God has for you in this whale of woes ... I'm praying and believing for MORE J.O.Y.

    So blessed by this Jonah episode and the wonder you weave as we're "tossed around in the storms of refinement, thrashed by the wailing winds of transformation" WOW! ... that's only one, so welled phrased ... I'm beginning to think that 2014 is a time of transformation that includes so much of ALL you drew in this WONDER filled blog post ... such a gift you have! Amen and thank you!

    LOVE (HUG) just me ... Peggy

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  4. Hi Sharon! I did not remember the prayer of Jonah, thank you for including it in your post today. Great point about our choices. Even if we pick the way God wants us to go, we still might be in for a wild ride. That doesn't mean we picked the wrong door. It means we need more time in that Sanctification Sea (great image!).

    I hope that you will travel today in God's comforting hand, no matter what your spiritual weather. And thank you for your heartfelt and touching post.
    Ceil

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  5. What great and beautiful wisdom you express here, Sharon! I am sorry to hear of your loss. Yet it surely looks like God has granted you gain through the pain that may not have come any other way in your life. That has surely been my life experience. When I read, back at the year's beginning, that you were choosing "Joy" as your word, I thought, "Oh, boy, I bet she's got some challenges ahead." It's hard to understand, but those who know the deepest, strongest joy all seem to be people who have weathered great hurts and trials--things that make us feel like we're being swallowed alive. And yes, you are so right, that running away from "Niniveh" will likely end us up inside some "big fish," but that might also happen if we're going the right way. (I'm staggering through the book of Job right now.)
    Prayers for you.

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  6. What an encouraging post! Yes, once he hit bottom, Jonah prayed some powerful prayers!

    Thank you for sharing this perspective!

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  7. I love the way you write... this is about the hundredth time I've told you that. I GET your points because your gift of expression is so clear. Just loved this one Sharon!

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  8. I love Jonah (even though he's a curmudgeon!) - I totally relate to him and his stubborn self-righteousness.

    Thanks for linking up with #HearItUseIt this week, Sharon!

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  9. Oh my Sharon, I love the way you have brought the story of Jonah right down to world in which we live. When I get all high minded, it's not usual long before God reveals how much like that person I truly am.

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  10. I think right now I'm in the belly of a great big fish. When I read Jonah, I always seem to learn new insights about him. I would hope when given the opportunity, I would go towards where God wants me to be and not run the other way, though I do think I'm a runner at times (and thus that's probably why right now I feel in the belly of a great big fish.)

    betty

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  11. I have just come through the stormy sea!
    God spoke to me through Isaiah 33:1-3 ALOT over the last few days.
    I will not forget what He promises even his reluctant children.
    I copied and pasted it to my computer so that I will be able to quickly access it.
    Blessings and love

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  12. Thank you for the scriptures. I prayed through them:) I used fear I would fail - but now when I read those stories - I see God saying, "I know you're going to miss it - but I have plans to redeem you. Turn to me - and I will redeem you."

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  13. I loved this, Sharon. I loved the phrase "swallowed up by your surroundings". That's exactly where I am. I'm somewhat like Jonah in my heart toward a certain group of people whom I have difficulty loving. My reasons aren't the same as his so my story is different, but it's still the same in so many ways. I'm swallowed up by it and really want to be vomited ashore ANYWHERE but with them. I'm not proud of it, but I will still confess it.

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  14. And yes, I know that wasn't the purpose of this post. It's where your words took me anyway. Just call me riding the wave.

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  15. "It occurs to me that sometimes we run away from the Lord, not just in disobedience, but in fear of what He's trying to accomplish in our lives."

    Yes! I hate admitting that, but yes, this is me, this is my life. Sometimes, I'm disobedient because I'm a stupid and stubborn sheep, but sometimes, it's just because I'm scared and I've so shrunk my God down into something I can understand that I forget how big He is.

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  16. WOW...this is exactly what I needed to read this morning. Yes, some times we are obedient and we still end up in the belly of the fish. I have been crying out..and I am crying out this morning. NO, this isn't where I want to be...YES He is here in the midst of all of it...even the hardest parts. Thanks so much for being obedient to write this post.
    Hugs and prayers as you continue through in obedience and walk out your grief.

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  17. Thanks so much for popping by my blog. I am sorry to hear of the unexpected loss of your father. Sending love and prayers as you begin your journey of loss and grief.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

    ps. I like Jonah, too.

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  18. LOVE!! I just wrote about Jonah a week or so ago with the Daniel Fast series....I am just like you, I would not pick on the poor old guy either. I am too much like him! But there are wonderful lessons to be learned from him and you brought them out beautifully. So thankful God is helping you through this time of sorrow, giving you strength for each new day...and did you know even through that time of grief He is using YOU to bless others? Oh yes, He really is Sharon, you are a blessing!! Write on soldier!! Write on!

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  19. Great post, Sharon. I appreciate, like you, the strugglers in God's word. I relate to them. I spent my time running from God as if I could out run the globe that sits in the palm of His hand. Madness. One of the best things for me about Jonah is the fact he got it, finally, proof being he penned the text by our Father's direction.

    I understand the journey after losing your dad. Wisdom comes, not always pleasant in this fallen world, but valuable and telling of our Father's sovereignty.

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  20. Guilty. Sometimes, I'm so caught up in my own plans that I don't even realize I'm running from God until I find myself in the belly of that fish! Thanks for this good reminder, Sharon.

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  21. I think you should write a devotional book. As many times I have heard the story - I like your take on it and the information. I have been there myself. sandie

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  22. Nineveh bound, friend, and praying every step of the mail. By the way, you're the winner of Mark's book. Please message me your snail mail, please.

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  23. As we pray "inside the fish" may the Lord command that old fish to burp us up!
    Thank you for sharing your lovely post with us here at "Tell Me a Story."

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  24. I understand. I was less than perfect, especially when seriosity hit me related to many family or friend situations. Fell into sinfulness... and He brought me back out. How can I misjudge everyone else in the Bible? You shared straightforwardly as usual. Appreciated.

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  25. What a great reflection on the life of Jonah! His is a story I go back to time and time again. I can always glean something new depending on where I am in my walk for that season. Blessings! Love, Rachael @ Inking the Heart

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  26. Thanks so much for so faithfully sharing this for WholeHearted Wednesdays.
    I love the story of Jonah and I love your writing style as it brings new life to a familiar story. When my son was six, he read it aloud to me every single day until he ended up mostly memorizing it. That wasn't my intention. My intention was to help his reading along while reading God's Word.

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  27. I love how God knows just when the timing is right for you to read something. Today I'm feeling... "alone, in the dark, scared and confused." And then here I am. I needed Jonah's prayer today. I needed your encouraging words. Always blessed by you, Sharon.
    Much love,
    Beth

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"So [I] have been greatly encouraged in the midst of [my] troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives [me] new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. How [I] thank God for you!" (1 Thessalonians 3:7-9)

Thanks for your comments - it is such a joy to be sharing my journey with friends like YOU!