Losing What You Never Had
This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. We're almost done dear ones! This is the last part of our Jonah series! I pray you've been encouraged, convicted, and refined through our Bible study of this wayward prophet. We looked through Jonah's hissyfit in our last installment. I pray that my attitude is never quite so juvenile as Jonah's, however I'd best not look too closely...
Let's take a final look at the God's goodness and His sovereign will in the last chapter of Jonah.
But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant[a] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die,and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh,in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
Jonah is angry at God. As we saw in the last installment, he's throwing a hissyfit when things didn't go as planned. And yet, in this passage we see God still providing good, rest, respite to him... even in the midst of his disobedience and angst. God made a shade vine grow over him. His grace overflowed in a very physical way- and Jonah relished in it.
He was refreshed- and yet a change of heart didn't occur despite God's provision. Has God ever provided goodness, even in the midst of your disobedience? How did you respond... with joy and heartfelt change of attitude? Or perhaps with continued selfish entitlement? How often are your feelings affected by whether things are going well or not?
The shade ended, the hot winds blew once again... and Jonah sank further into his resentment of God, even going so far as to say "I'm so angry I wish I were dead." Whoa! Ungrateful much?!
Jonah demonstrates here what so many of us still struggle with today. This strange idea of entitlement, that God somehow owes us something. That the good things in life we deserve and are owed. I liken it to my children at Christmas- they wake up and find presents under the tree for them. They don't necessarily deserve them, they've been lovingly picked out just for them just because I love them. They surely didn't earn or pay for them, they were purchased with my money through my hard work. The gifts are freely given... and often (depending on their behavior) they are freely taken back. How often after receiving a great present have I found my boys fighting over them, resulting in me taking them back for a time. They pitch a fit, they cry hysterically, they bemoan how unfair it is that I took "their" toy away. How quickly possession occurs in their little minds. What they do not understand is that me, as 'sovereign' mom, gave them that toy and I can just as quickly take it away.
You see the picture here? As the scripture states, the shade provided Jonah was not of his doing, it was God's grace. It was not tilled or nurtured by him, it was through God's gardening that it grew. It was God's gift to give and to take away. Yet so quickly after it appeared Jonah claimed it as his own- his very own, his precious (cue Gollum voice...)
How quickly do you claim God's goodness in your life as your 'own'... your deserved gift? How quickly do you close your fist around the present He gives you, and cry out in frustration and angst when He takes it away? Health, wealth, children, cars, houses, possession, spouses, everything. We received NOTHING of our own volition. It is ALL through the Father. His to give, His to take away.
Unlike Jonah, who received a stern reprimand from God about his attitude, dear ones we must learn to hold our palms open at all times to the Holy One- both in the receiving of His gifts, but also in the easily giving back to Him when He takes away.
It's all by His hands that we give and receive. Let us keep open hands and open hearts in the good times and the bad.