YMI Reading Jonah Day 7: When Things Don’t Go Your Way
Imagine being told that you’d be kicked out of your home when you have a baby on the way.
This was the situation my husband and I found ourselves in when our new landlord, who had just bought the apartment we’d been renting, informed us that he wanted to move in soon.
Despite knowing that I was close to giving birth, he was resolute about the move-out date. Our request to end our tenancy earlier, so that we could move before my delivery, was rejected; so was our request to waive the rent for at least the last month, despite having moved out three months earlier. All this, with no explanation.
As you can imagine, I had some pretty strong feelings towards the landlord. It’s why I can sort of relate to how Jonah must have felt here, faced with such an unjust situation.
After prophesying judgement to Israel’s national enemy, Jonah waits outside the city for the verdict—only to see them repent and God relent. Seeing the evil and cruel Ninevites escape the punishment they deserve makes Jonah so mad that he wants to die (4:3).
His displeasure is likely worsened by his physical discomfort of being out in the sun. So God provides a plant to shade him—the only time in the book Jonah is described as “very happy” (v. 6).
Yet, the very next day God allows a worm to devour said plant, thereby exposing him to the scorching wind. In a fit, Jonah again emphatically declares that he would rather die (vv. 8–9).
The way Jonah reacts to God and his circumstances is telling of what he really values: himself. Jonah just wants his own way. He wants revenge on his enemies, he wants to be comfortable, and when he can’t get his own way, he wants to die!
This prompts God to ask: if you’re really so concerned about this plant—which you didn’t even grow—can you imagine my concern for an entire city of people? (v. 11)
Seeing how the book abruptly ends with this resounding, rhetorical question, perhaps God intends for us, the reader, to think about our own disposition towards life when things don’t turn out as we hope.
Like Jonah, do we also react in anger and frustration when things don’t go our way? What do we feel “very happy” about—and what does that say about what we ultimately value?
Consider how another man, Job, responded very differently on the day he lost all he had: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21).
Job’s response showed that he knew that everything—even life itself—comes from his Maker. It’s a truth that Jonah seems to have forgotten, along with all the unmerited kindness God has shown him, having saved him from drowning and even providing shade for relief.
While it’s easy for me to note how ungrateful and narrow-minded Jonah is, I too struggled to see God’s sovereign goodness over my situation, to forgive and not feel bitter.
Yet, as I learn to set my eyes on God’s grace rather than my landlord’s lack of it, I’m learning to humbly relinquish my own desires and do what is right in His sight. So, instead of reacting with “rightful” rage, we chose to respond with grace: We prayed for his salvation and for ourselves to forgive him, and quietly moved out.
And who knows? Perhaps by our “peaceable and considerate” conduct (Titus 3:2), we might have sowed the gospel seed in the landlord in some small way. And while it’s no Nineveh, I hope our response will be less Jonah and more Job, in bringing praise to God (Job 1:21).
— Wendy Wong, Singapore
Questions for reflection
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