Jonah 1: 17
Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Six months ago, I experienced what I’m told qualifies as a major life event: unexpected retirement. It’s okay; I’d been thinking about it. But that event only led to other questions and stressors: the cost of health insurance, where to live long term; no steady paycheck; what to do with my time, etc. There was seemingly no end to the steady stream of ideas and catastrophes in my head regarding my new normal.
My anxiety forced the initiation of my personal “checklist-to-ease-stress list” protocol:
- Press the “pause” button. List all the things I DON’T have to think about right this minute and set aside for, say, three months. It’s insightful to discover just how many things are only emergencies in my mind.
- Re-institute thought-stopping. I tend to “catastrophize:” every little “what if,” which can be paralyzing at the exact moment I need to bring my A-game. So, I thought-stop the ideas that aren’t helpful.
- Make my “In-my-control-out-of-my-control” list; the left side of the paper is what I DO have control over; the right side is what I DO NOT have control over. Doing this further alerts me to my wayward thoughts.
- Remember and repeat this Bible verse: Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) Being still is not my superpower, so I have to work at it. I intentionally make time to listen to God in these anxious days – and I’m not good at that either.
All of these steps were, as always, quite helpful.
When I saw the blog topic of “circumstances,” I was all over it and signed up really fast. Then I noticed that the scripture suggested was the book of Jonah. Seriously? Cue the universal symbol for gagging. I’m not fond of the book of Jonah; I avoid it like I avoid the book of Job. And I don’t actually believe the part about the big fish. Go ahead; judge me, because I do. I was going to need some help with this task. When all else fails, Google! Research is my superpower, and I found a commentary on Jonah from Chuck Swindoll. A lot of it I breezed over. But there was something that stopped me in my tracks. Resurrection comes after the pause.
Jonah is only one of four prophets mentioned by name by Jesus during his earthly ministry. And Jesus didn’t just mention Jonah; Jesus actually identified Himself with Jonah’s three-day “pause” in the belly of the great fish, noting it as a foreshadowing of His own death, when Jesus would himself spend three days “in the heart of the earth.” (Matt: 12: 39-41.) Now we’re talking about resurrection. This link in the prophetic chain gives [us] a glimpse of Christ’s death and resurrection hundreds of years before they actually occurred.” (Swindoll;insight.org). In all my years as a Christian, I totally missed this link.
In my personal experience, I’ve found God touches base with me pretty quickly during a crisis. The day I submitted this blog, I decided to re-read the entire book of Jonah. Let’s call it an act of repentance for not believing the big fish story. That evening my husband and I decided to try a new original series on Netflix. One of the lead characters was Jewish. His name? Jonah. A little bit creepy but, really, probably just a coincidence. Title of Episode One? In The Belly of the Whale. And from a deep place in my soul, I heard, “Gotcha. Again”. He wasn’t angry with me. I was chuckling at how consistent He is. God was just reiterating that it’s not my job to decide if a lesson in the Word actually happened or is just a metaphor with deeper meaning. My role is to trust Him and go with it.
All that God has shown me in my recent “pause” gives me the confidence to rely on and listen to His still small voice, even if it feels like a big fish story. Jesus’ identification with Jonah at Jonah’s lowest point reminds me that even Jesus had to be humbled in order to remain merciful and faithful. Now it was my turn.
Father, forgive my moments of unbelief. Thank you for your gentle and humorous nudges that remind me you are paying attention. Your timing is perfect and never fails to help me trust you more. I’m strong-willed, so thank you for your patience, too. I know you are revealing my future, one step at a time. Help me to value your voice above all others. Amen
Madelyn Ferris is a member of Commonway and previously served on the Elder Board. Madelyn holds degrees from Ball State and Indiana University and worked at Paws, Inc. over 35 years. She and husband, Dwight, enjoy spending time with their children and two granddaughters.
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