“The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.’ But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” // Jonah 1:1-3, NIV
Today I sit on a dock on a beautiful lake in Virginia, listening to the sounds of water lapping and kids swimming and talking loudly in the distance. If my ears are not mistaken, one of them is even performing a “Frozen” medley. Tomorrow is supposed to be 84 degrees, and I cannot wait to put on my swimsuit, ride a boat to the deepest part of the cove, and jump in.
This dock belongs to my grandparents, so I sit here and reminisce about times when I was younger and too afraid to jump in because I feared that the fish would bite, or that there would be spiders, or that the water would be too cold. My dad and uncles would literally have to shove me out and pry my fingers off the edge of the boat. Once I was in the water, I was thrilled to be swimming, but I never swam too far into the darkness of the deep waters. The water closest to the top of the lake is always warmest, and the deeper you go, the colder it is. Also, the deeper you go, the less clearly you can see.
As I mentally sift through the abundance of memories that this lake and this dock bring, I can’t help but wonder if we have similar hesitations in our relationship with God.
Often times as young people, we claim or are credited with being risk-takers, adventurers, and thrill-seekers, but it seems to me that we don’t always earn those titles in our spiritual lives. Being a Christian in any stage of life isn’t all sunshine and flowers—by choosing to be Christians, we are deliberately choosing to step out from the rest of the world and relentlessly pursue the Ruler of the Universe, meaningful relationships with all people, and our purpose in the Kingdom of God.
Here is the problem: These things are not always comfortable, clearly visible, or easily accessed—each involves a little intentionality and a lot of risk. Each involves the willingness, desire, and vulnerability, to dive deep into the colder, darker waters and not know what might be there—it is there that we will truly find what we are looking for and what God would have for us.
In the verses highlighted above, we can see without even knowing the whole story that Jonah made a conscious decision to actively avoid God’s call to go deeper with the people of Nineveh. Now take a look at the story of Jonah as a whole, and you will see that Jonah knew very well that the pursuit of God, relationships, and his purpose would not be comfortable or easy—but also that God had other plans in mind.
As I think again about all of those times when I was younger, too afraid to even get in the water, I think that the discomfort and fear could have been overcome more quickly if I had been brave enough to overcome it myself—without the shoving and prying of my dad and uncles. Similarly, Jonah’s story would have been a lot shorter if he had overcome his discomfort and fear about the mission to which God appointed him on his own—without the shoving and prying of God. Instead, it took being swallowed by a whale.
What will it take for you to jump off the boat and dive into the unknown that God has for you?
Discussion Questions: When was the last time you were spiritually uncomfortable—how did it feel? What hesitations keep you from going deeper?
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