September 18, 2016

Jonah 2:1-2 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:
“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me
From the depths of the grave I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.

I think it is safe to say that no one who might ever read this has had occasion to pray from within the belly of a fish (or whale, as seems likely). However, there are many other situations that seem just as impossible to escape, at least while we’re in the middle of them. It is interesting that this story, that is dismissed as fiction even by many “theologians,” is an explicit foreshadowing of Jesus’ time in death, between the cross and the resurrection. His circumstances were even worse, bled to death and then pierced through the heart with a spear. The point is, no circumstances are beyond God’s reach, and we need to remember that. At the same time, we need to yield ourselves to God and His plans, not thinking that we know what is best for us. After all, God has prepared eternity in heaven for us, so any suffering we endure on this earth is insignificant in comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:17) Sometimes our suffering can be so great, in our experience of the moment, that all we can get out is a cry of “Jesus!” (Incidentally, that is one reason the devil encourages such phrases as “O my God,” because it cheapens them and makes people less likely to use them when they are genuinely appropriate.) The thing is, God hears every sincere prayer, and suffering can certainly strip away insincerity! We are never to forget that He is there, and listening.

The only time I can remember saying, “O my God,” (other than as a line in a praise song) was when I watched on live TV as the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I have had times that seemed dark and/or painful to me, but nothing to compare with what I see others going through. As I write, I have a friend whose body is riddled with cancer, and she is striving to keep her focus on Jesus. I cannot really speak to that, other than to assure her that Jesus is real and He really is Lord. She is understandably most concerned about her children, but God is able to meet their needs as well. I am never to belittle anyone’s suffering, but neither am I to encourage them to wallow in it. I am to “weep with those who weep,” (Romans 12:15) but I am always to point them to Jesus. When my wife has Parkinson’s Disease, the devil tries to steal my joy with all sorts of imagined scenarios. They are indeed possible, but I know even now that God is real and is more than able to carry us through whatever lies ahead. We have a major trip starting this week, and there are concerns as to what could happen on it. There too, I am to be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present my requests to God, and then choose to receive the supernatural peace and joy that He has prepared for me in Christ. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Father, thank You for this reminder. The pressures of the moment can be overwhelming at times! Help me, help us, indeed rest, relax, and rejoice in You, even in the middle of all that is going on, so that we may receive and participate in Your perfect plans, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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