We just finished up a short 3-week series at church on the book of Jonah. In a nutshell, I think a lot of us are familiar with the story of Jonah - how he was swallowed by a big fish (often described as a whale) where he spent three days and nights and was later spit out. At church, we took a look at the end of the story, which we don't often hear. Have you read it?? Jonah gets angry with God. He wants to die. He's miserable because God showed grace to the people of Nineveh who, in Jonah's opinion, were very undeserving! The book of Jonah just ends. Jonah's pouting. He's angry. There's no happy resolution. When I read it, it really caught my attention. Today our pastor preached about this ending. He had some interesting things to say. The following are the key points that Pastor Greg Surratt made - taken from the notes I took today (these are his words):
1. God can use people who do the right things for all the wrong reasons.
God can love through you even when you aren't loving through Him.
Jonah was selfish and hard-hearted, but God used him to save an entire city.
Don't let your desire for justice make you a bitter person.
The power of God is not limited to our purity.
2. It's hard to feel sorry for someone when you secretly wish they would die.
God is calling us to love those who we don't feel deserve grace.
Pray for them. Ask God to bless them.
We want grace for us but the truth for everyone else. We need to have grace.
3. Before you write someone off, ask God to let you see them from his point of view.
How we see God determines how we live.
Let God be God.
This is some tough stuff to think on, isn't it?! It is so easy to cast judgment on others and think that we have the solutions - that it is our call as to who deserves what. I'm not talking about the judicial system. There is a place for justice, don't get me wrong! But when we take our own set of beliefs, values, etc. and cast them on the others we see, we often fall into the pit of declaring innocence or guilt on people's behaviors when it's not our place to do so. We don't always know why someone is the way they are - maybe there's stuff at work in their life that is beyond our comprehension. Maybe there is sin and even evil at work. But as our pastor said, "The power of God is not limited to our purity." Amazing testimonies have come from people who have come back from total darkness. God can use anyone at any time in any place for His glory. We shouldn't be so selfish to think that He can and should only use someone like ourselves!
Ok, so I have to say that I don't have anyone in my life that I secretly wish harm on. BUT...I've encountered people even recently who I just don't get. I've had great personal difficulty and, on the one hand, want to give them the benefit of the doubt and trust that God has a plan for this relationship, but on the other hand, am kind of hurt and confused and don't know what that plan could possibly be. On Saturday night, I was seriously in the middle of a mental struggle over this exact situation when a friend of mine tweeted Before you write someone off, ask God to let you see them from his point of view. She was, at that time, sitting in on the Saturday night service at our church. That much I knew, but I didn't know what the context was. That said, for what I was thinking at that exact moment in time, that was exactly what I needed to hear! It's funny how God works! So, at that moment, I stopped my anger and frustration over this situation and just prayed. I prayed again this morning as I got ready for church. I lit a candle at church and prayed over this situation.
I guess that's really it for me. I realize within myself that I need to spend less time trying to figure out how something could be in my control when it really isn't, and I need to give that up to God because He is the one in control. He's placed people in my life for a reason and this particular situation will work itself out and perhaps things will be revealed that will be greater than I could imagine right now. Until that is revealed, I will just continue to pray over this situation and ask for grace for myself and for the situation. I will try to avoid being the complainer that Jonah was in the end of that book where this and other situations are concerned. I know God can accomplish a mighty thing if I just allow Him to!