Have you ever run away from something, and I don’t mean something that might threaten your life? I mean, has there been a time in your life when you ran because you didn’t want what was in front of you, so you did a 180 and took off like lightening in the opposite direction?
Most of us, if we’ve lived for any length of time, can remember at least one of those times, maybe even more than one. As Christians, that running most likely involved running from God. Not too many believers would say that in some way at some time they didn’t run from what God was telling them to do. After all, there is a little Jonah in all of us.
Abraham Kuyper, the journalist, once wrote,
“Our heart is continually inclined to rebel against the Lord our God. So ready to rebel, that O, so gladly, were it but for a single day, we would take from His hands the reins of His supreme rule, imagining that we would manage things far better and direct them far more effectively than God.”
What do we do when we find ourselves running? What do we do when we see someone else running?
If it’s us who’s running, chances are that we don’t even see it. But if it’s someone that we simply know, either from church or just an acquaintance, we may be tempted to sit in judgment, as if it’s simply their weak constitution or their lax moral integrity that might cause such a detour. We might simply shake our heads in feigned remorse, thinking, “What is he thinking? Doesn’t he know that he can’t run from God?”
If it’s a loved one, maybe a child or a spouse or sibling, the pain can be almost immobilizing. Suddenly all memories of our own course changes are almost non-existent, and the only things we can think are, “What is he doing? Doesn’t he know that he can’t run from God?”
I don’t know….can we?
Let me remind you of how Jonah did. In Jonah 1:1, we read:
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah…
That means that God literally let Jonah know exactly what He was thinking.
Then in verse 2, God said to Jonah,
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
This was not what Jonah expected. After all, he was the Lord’s prophet. He was supposed to go and direct his prophecies to the nation of Israel. He wasn’t supposed to go to Israel’s enemies and prophesy so that they might be saved. What in the world was God thinking?
Maybe we should think of this in terms that are closer to home. Maybe the little Jonah in you might sound more like:
“God doesn’t want me in this marriage! He wants me happy, and I’m not happy here! What is God thinking?”
Or maybe this:
“God wouldn’t want me to miss out on a better lifestyle. He says that I will get the desires of my heart, and my heart desires that car or that dress or that house (that I can’t afford). He wouldn’t keep me from it, would He? What is God thinking?”
Or maybe our child’s little Jonah says this:
“I’m sick of living under my parents’ thumbs! God would want me to be independent and do my own thing, no matter who I hurt in the meantime! He wants me happy, doesn’t He? What is God thinking?”
The little Jonah in all of us might say slightly different words, but it’s pretty much the same thing. All of us have listened to the little Jonah some time or another, and we all run for exactly the same reason that Jonah ran. Verse 3 says,
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
The truth is that this running isn’t literally from God, since we, as His children, are always and forever His and in His loving care. However, what we can and do run from is what the literal translation says is the “face of the Lord.” Jonah was trying to get as far away from where he would be confronted with all that God is.
When we run, we run from the same thing, which generally means we run from the church or our church family or anything else that might remind us of who God is.
There is a reason that many have called Satan the “travel agent of distraction.” If he can get us away from the “presence of God” or the “face of God,” then he can also deceive us into thinking that we can get away from it, which consequently keeps us from healing and love and peace. Warren Wiersbe wrote in his book, Be Amazed,
“It’s possible to be out of the will of God and still have circumstances appear to be working on your behalf. You might be rebelling against God and still have a false sense of security that includes a good night’s sleep. However, God in his providence was preparing for Jonah a great fall.”
But the good news is that God always provides a fish, doesn’t He? He always provides exactly the right storm at exactly the right time so that even though we may be distracted temporarily, we are never permanently lost.
Jesus said in John 6:39,
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose none of all that he has given me.
If you are running from the face of God today—refusing to go to church, avoiding your Christian friends, finding every excuse in the book for not getting involved with your believing family—genuinely reflect on the little Jonah in you. God will not lose you, but I can promise you that it is no fun in the belly of the fish! Bow before the throne of the One who will never leave you nor forsake you and come home. Unless it is God you are running toward, you’re headed for the storm.
And if it is a loved one who is running from God’s loving face, take heart and never lose hope. The promise that Jesus gave in John applies to every one of His children. The fish is coming. Keep praying and keep your eyes fixed upward. God will bring him home.
After all, there is a little Jonah is all of us, but there is a great God who owns our hearts!