Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Finding Comfort in the Book of…Jonah?

Posted by BrianJ on April 23, 2007

Sometimes it rains, and sometimes it pours. And sometimes it pours so hard and long that you’re not sure what to call it.

I have a friend who can juggle eleven balls all at once. Can you believe it? Eleven! But over the last few weeks I’ve felt like that ability still wouldn’t be enough for me to keep “in the air” everything I have coming at me.

So why, when I was out hiking alone and praying—and, I’ll be honest, also trying to avoid praying, lest God use the occasion to throw something more my way—did the Book of Jonah come as a source of comfort?

We all know the story of Jonah: he was called on a mission, ran away, swallowed by a whale, spit out a few days later, still had a sour attitude, and ended up with a nasty sunburn. And I think we all know many of the lessons of the story of Jonah: such as why Jonah didn’t want to obey his call, or the significance of the call being to Ninevah.

So, was God trying to call me a “Jonah?” Was he trying to say that I had a selfish, unforgiving attitude? As I hiked, the thought was very clear: “Think of the story of Jonah.” Here’s the condensed version:

The word of the LORD came unto Jonah;

Jonah rose up to flee, But the LORD sent out a great wind.

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish….

Then Jonah prayed, And the LORD spake unto the fish….

And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh. So the people of Nineveh believed God, And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, And he prayed unto the LORD.

Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?

And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.

And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?

But after much introspection, I couldn’t see how I was behaving like Jonah.

“Okay, Lord, I don’t get it. I’m not acting like Jonah, so what’s your point?”

“That’s right, you’re not acting like Jonah. But I, the Lord, am acting now just like I acted toward Jonah then.”

That’s when it dawned on me: everywhere Jonah went, the Lord could see him. From the top of the hill outside Ninevah to the edge of the sea and the dark belly of the whale, the Lord was everywhere: always mindful, always listening, always moving Jonah closer to…something.

“Okay, Lord: now I get it. Thank you.”

But I sensed there was still something I was missing—something I had missed despite studying the Book of Jonah for days just a few months ago. It was the Psalm of Jonah—that little chapter that takes place inside the sea monster’s belly—a few verses I had never taken seriously because, after all, they were from Jonah (of all people!).

When I got back from my hike, I read Jonah’s prayer (for the nth time), but this time I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Sure, Jonah was a “selfish jerk,” but then, aren’t we all at times? Should the Lord discount all of my prayers the way I discounted Jonah’s? His really is a beautiful prayer, full of faith, promises, and a hope that, yes, one day Jonah will—with the Lord’s help—make it through.

I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.

When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.

“I will”: is that a promise, or a prophecy?

3 Responses to “Finding Comfort in the Book of…Jonah?”

  1. robf said

    Thanks, what a great way to start my morning.

  2. Cherylem said

    Thanks for sharing this. I loved it.

  3. Jim F. said

    Thanks. Nice reflection.

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