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A Lesson on Calling From Jonah

Studying Jonah has produced more awareness of the Jonah seasons of my life. A Jonah season, by my definition, is a season during which my calling feels hard. A season where God asks me to do something uncomfortable or countercultural, where I feel like running from my calling. The pressing question in my soul in these times is, “How are you going to respond?”

I look at Jonah and think, “What a fool!” I’d like to imagine I would have been a different character in the story–maybe the ignorant nation, who receives mercy for their sins because they repent. Or the pagan man, who gives his mouth to God and, ironically, reminds Jonah to turn his face upward and seek his God. Or even the fish. I’d like to believe God would send me to save another. 

The truth is, I have been a Jonah far more than I would like to admit. God has often commissioned me to do hard things and continues to do so. He asks me to sacrifice what is comfortable and walk the day-long journey into the center of Nineveh. The heart of physical danger, the place of loneliness where few others dare to go, the place where comforts run away, replaced with dealing with difficult situations and people. 

I am sure Jonah–before running away–asked, “Why me?” “Why does everyone else get to stay home?” A valid question, but how could he ask it of the One who did that very thing for him? Though Jonah was wicked and sinful, out of love, God warned him of the consequences of that sin and showed him where to find life. God didn’t explain His reasons to Jonah, and he doesn’t to me. 

He Calls All of Us 

There are things we are all called to as Christians, clearly written in God’s word. Such as: offer your body a living sacrifice, go into all the world and preach the gospel, look not to your interests but the interests of others, care for the orphan and the fatherless and the widow, love the immigrants among you, submit to your authorities as unto the Lord, or be a good steward of the world.

Keith Green once said, “You and I are already called. The Bible clearly says ‘Go’.” Calling is not something for a select few. 

Yet, these callings do not always apply universally. Each of us receives a specific personal calling (or many). It is not separate from our original call but rather an individual application of the same. Such as Jonah’s, “Go to Nineveh and warn of coming judgment”. It is these types of specific leadings that often ruffle feathers. It is they that hurt. That tear down walls of comfort and break the facade of safe Christianity. That led Jonah to that lonely day-long journey across the desert. 

How Will I Respond? 

When I read Jonah, specific seasons of my life come to mind. I remember some arise-and-go statements that marked the start of a trip to Nineveh for me and other deep burdens that led there. Sometimes my response has been to look for a place to hide, to plant my feet, and to tremble with fear at how painful it would be to walk forward. I always wind up going after running. Often after a more painful detour or failed excuse. Yet, it is the times when I go joyfully from the moment I receive direction that I am truly able to enjoy the beauty along the way, though it may be a strenuous hike. 

Jonah suffered for his selfishness and, after a near-death experience, went. How much more pain did he undergo in running than he would have endured had he just gone? The most pain Jonah endured was not drowning but hiding from the presence of God. He had sought a God-forsaken place to hide but then realized He could not bear it. No hard calling can hurt as much as following my plan away from God. No matter where Christ may lead, He is always better. 

I look upon the character of our great God and feel an ache to not disappoint him again by refusing to arise and go when He calls. I have counted the cost of following Him, and I don’t want to say, “No, that road is too hard.” I don’t want to flee the presence of Him, who is my everything. 

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Hi! I’m Rachel. Through a series of God orchestrated events I ended up in Haiti, in 2017.  Through years of serving with a ministry there I came to love the country and its people. I met Nelson and we got married in 2020. It was the best decision of my life! 

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