I thank Him for the plans He has for my life, which have yet to be revealed.
But You, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You, Lord… Jonah 2:6,7
At this point, you would think that Jonah had been spit out onto shore, doubled over, prostrate before God, weeping in the sand, his life just rescued from a slow, painful death.
This prayer came in the midst of his seeming death.
Jonah was not rescued, he had not been given any sort of relief, he was not making his trek to Nineveh, he was where we always picture Jonah – he was dying.
The pitch darkness of a slow, gruesome death surrounded Jonah, he had no way of escape – and He praised God for rescuing him.
To be completely honest with you, when I opened up my Bible and saw Jonah staring back at me I felt a little bit frustrated inside – I knew I couldn’t really gain anything from a story I had been taught and I had read since I could first look at a picture book.
How naive and simple I am – it’s almost comical – immediately I saw that before the first chapter even closes God has men who were just moments ago pleading with their gods to come save them, crying out to HIM and acknowledging HIM as holy, and making sacrifices to HIM – the storm hadn’t even stopped yet, God didn’t even need to bring an end to their fear and He revealed Himself to these men who had all their lives put their faith in other gods.
That’s my God.
Then there’s Jonah’s prayer in the midst of dying and believing God had banished him,
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: “I said, ‘I have been banished from Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But You, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You, Lord, and my prayer rose to You, in Your holy temple…And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
I had to fumble over what I was reading a few times before I could really get it.
I was so confused by the context and tenses of this prayer because I was trying to have it MAKE SENSE, but do you know what is most amazing about my God? He is in the miracle-making business, so most of these amazing glimpses of His glory we see do not make any earthly sense at all.
He is an enigma of a Creator, and when you serve the One who drips rain from His fingertips and twinkles the stars in the night sky, you find yourself not making sense a good chunk of the time as well.
Jonah praised God for rescuing him from his death, though he was in the very core of it.
Though it made no sense at all, and though he was the opposite of ransomed, Jonah thanked God for salvation.
I am humbled by this.
You know, I am so guilty of parading around verses like “Walk by faith, not by sight,” when all along it IS sight that I cannot do without.
I ask Him for healing, for restoration, for guidance, for deliverance, to show me things, to reveal His plans (which are not bad), but I think He is trying to teach me something new about talking with Him in the center of things I long to wish away – He is asking me to pray with boldness.
Not just boldness that causes me to come forward transparently, but boldness that dares to give Him praise and glory and honor for healing all my brokenness in my most broken of moments.
Boldness that thanks Him for taking away pain that is right then strapped down and yoked upon my shoulders.
Boldness that gives Him glory for taking away every last bit of loneliness riding around in my heart when loneliness is the only tangible feeling I have to grasp.
I don’t know if it is just a woman thing, or just a me thing, but I look behind me far too often. I see the curled back edges of wilted roses and the former paths I strolled with those that were not meant to hold onto me and God did not allow to lead me any further down roads never meant to be traveled. I see the “what ifs” lining choices I made and choices I never made, and question if I have tainted God’s path for my future.
Though, when I venture back towards my enigma-God He simply and gently urges me to rest.
Slow my breathing. Sit down. Close my eyes. And thank Him.
Thank Him for having an incredible plan for my life, and for whittling out all the pieces that are not meant to have a forever part of me.
Thank Him for all the beauteous things that He is going to do with all the moments of pain and brokenness that lay ahead, and thank Him for restoring me of those things even before they have begun.
Thank Him for healing me of my anxiety and fears and doubts, that I cannot seem to fully rid out of my life, yet I thank Him for casting them away and making me confident and making me bold.
Thank Him for using me for His kingdom, for using the things in my past and the things in my future to give Him glory and to be able to exclaim His faithfulness when He stumbles me across the path of someone whose world has been shattered and are left kneeling in the crumbled remains of everything they thought gave them value.
These are the changes His is daring me to make when I approach Him.
It seems most times when Jonah is being taught it is a lesson on what not to do, and how not to respond to God’s call on your life – but Jonah has something so valuable hidden away inside his small, four chapter testimony – he has taught us how we ought to pray in the midst of the toughest trials.
Praise Him NOW.
Praise Him in the CENTER of the storm, in the most HOPELESS of times.
Praise Him for His rescuing while you’re still searching for an end result and a purpose behind it.
Praise Him for snatching you up out of the fire even while the flames surround you.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. you will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. Jeremiah 29:11-14