Dr. Zach Crook
Jonah knew, more than anyone, what it felt like to be in the depths. After he rebelled against God’s call and got thrown overboard, he sank to the literal depths of the sea. There are few moments as sobering as this. If you’re a suffering Christian who needs advice on how to get out of the depths, Jonah’s story can be both cathartic and comforting.
Jonah did not initially think he needed God’s help. He was stubborn and hard-hearted. It took a lot for Jonah to cry out in prayer, finally. Jonah 2 records the desperate plea he extends to God from inside a fish at the bottom of the sea. This was his rock-bottom moment. So as we face rock bottom, we can learn from this prayer he prayed when he had nothing left to lose.
Even When You’re Suffering, God is Still in Control.
Jonah starts his prayer by acknowledging that God is still sovereign. Jonah 2:3 says, “When you threw me into the depths, into the heart of the seas, the current overcame me. All your breakers and your billows swept over me.” He knows that God sent the storm to get His attention. Even though it is not simple, God wants to save him from more destruction, even if it takes a fish’s stomach to do so.
When everything is going wrong in your life, do you still believe God’s in control? Sometimes our hardships are a result of living in a sinful world. Because humans have rebelled against God’s design since the beginning of creation, the world is a broken place to live. Every day our lives are affected by illness, cancer, natural disasters, and death. This was never God’s desire for us. He even sent His son to earth, so a different option was possible. Through repentance from sin and acceptance of Jesus’ gift of grace, we can see the power of sin, death, and suffering trampled by the power of His resurrection.
However, sometimes we’re the ones rebelling. Occasionally, we are the ones causing heartache for those around us. This is what happened with Jonah. His rebellion caused the lives of the sailors to be threatened. All they could do was throw him overboard. Sometimes we find ourselves in the depths because God is disciplining us. The Bible says that God disciplines those He loves. There are times with every one of us where He has to get our attention to turn our eyes to Him. As Jonah seeks Him, he acknowledges that God appointed the storm and the great fish. He knew God was in control and could still save Him even though he was in the belly of a fish. When you face difficult things, whether due to living in a broken world or caused by your rebellion, you trust that God is still in control and ask for His help.
Suffering Christians are Helpless and Hopeless without God.
Isn’t it ironic that even atheists pray in moments of tragedy or heartache? It’s at these moments that make us realize just how helpless we are. We know we cannot change the situation. Without some divine intervention, the situation is hopeless. Similarly, even backsliding prophets come back to God in desperate times.
In moments like these, our pride can get in the way. We might try to fix it ourselves or pretend we have it all together. But eventually, Jonah had to let go of his stubbornness because he knew he couldn’t get out of this mess without God’s help. We can do the same. The good news is that God was always waiting with open arms. He’s not waiting to scold you or turn you away. His mercy and grace are always available to humble people with repentant hearts. When we get into hopeless situations, we realize how much we need Him.
Jonah 2:6-9 says, “I sank to the foundations of the mountains, the earth’s gates shut behind me forever! Then you raised my life from the Pit, Lord my God! As my life was fading away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, to your holy temple. Those who cherish worthless idols abandon their faithful love, but as for me, I will sacrifice to you with a voice of thanksgiving. I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation belongs to the Lord.”
Even during his darkest point, Jonah focuses on who God is. He remembers God’s faithfulness and chooses to offer praise. When you’re in your darkest moments, do you do the same?
God’s Past Deliverance Predicts His Future Faithfulness.
If you’ve been struggling and asking God, “Where are you?” It’s helpful to look to the past. In moments of turmoil, there are so many unknowns that our fears and feelings override our capacity to see hope and deliverance. When we look at our circumstances, we only see what could go wrong. But looking at the past, it’s easier to see what God has done. We can identify ways he’s provided for our needs, saved us from danger, and given us strength amidst suffering.
However, if you’re in a dark place and can’t identify a time when God has done this for you, you can always look back to the cross. Jesus sacrificed himself; three days later, the tomb was empty because he conquered sin and death. He made way for you to be in a right relationship with God. So no matter what’s going on in your life or how much you’re tempted to believe God doesn’t love you or care, the cross says otherwise.
Jonah knows this. He declares to himself that even when he’s stuck at the bottom of the ocean, salvation belongs to the Lord. This is the same posture the writer of Hebrews mentions in saying we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. When we see Jesus with the proper perspective, we know He can always save us, no matter how messy the situation. Nothing is ever too dark or too doomed for Jesus to renew.
If you’re facing a harsh storm in your life right now, no matter what caused it, you can come to Jesus. If you’ve never followed Him before, like the sailors on Jonah’s boat, you can still ask Him for help. If you’ve been a Christian for a long time, but now you’ve backslidden like Jonah, you can still return to Him. No matter what’s going on in your life, salvation belongs to our God. So don’t let another moment pass without fixing your eyes on Jesus.