Day 17

Jonah’s Flight

from the Lent 2016 reading plan

Jonah 1:1-3, Psalm 139:7-12

This is part of a 7-day series on Jonah in the Lent 2016 reading plan. 

Our culture has a well-documented obsession with travel. Wanderlust is deep in the heart of nearly every person I know. We want to go where there is newness and life and adventure! And believe me, I totally get it.

When I was in college, three of my buddies and I piled into an old minivan and set out on a 5,000 mile road trip. It took us about 14 days to journey through 12 states. We camped in national parks, slept in parking lots, and traveled on a shoestring budget. It was a life-giving and life-changing adventure, and certainly a trip that I’ll always be glad I took. I think my friends would say the same thing.

Here’s the thing, though. At about day 10, we were tired, dirty, and disagreeing about where might be the best place to get a solid night’s sleep. You can run on adrenaline and Redbull for a while, but eventually you realize there is no substitute for a good night’s rest.

In our tiredness and fatigue, tempers flared and words were spoken. Don’t worry; we worked it out. But it was in that moment that I realized that pots and pans and warm clothes weren’t the only things I had packed. I certainly had intended to leave my problems behind and toss my cares to the wind, but ultimately they came with me whether I wanted them to or not.

Ernest Hemingway once famously stated: “Traveling won’t ever help you to get rid of your problems. You can’t run away from yourself.” Hemingway’s words are ironic enough when you consider the source. Or perhaps they’re just prophetic. Either way, I have certainly found his words to be true.

Jonah’s situation was complex. He wasn’t merely trying to get away from his issues and baggage. He was also trying to get away from God. Which, when you say it out loud, sounds ridiculous. But I know that I, and many others, have tried this as well.

Have you ever avoided prayer because you already sensed what God might be calling you to? Have you ever stopped going to church because you didn’t want to have to face a difficult reality in your spiritual life? Or how about this one: have you ever professed doubt in God, not because you had genuine burning questions, but because you didn’t want to do what He commanded?

Ouch. Writing those questions stings a little bit because I know they all reflect my various attempts to escape to Tarshish. Sometimes these decisions we make are subtle. Sometimes they are blatant.

Oftentimes when we run away from God, what we are really running from is our own inadequacies and brokenness. Those parts of our person are only made more visible in the presence of a perfectly holy God.

Psalm 139:7 reads: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” When we know that God is perfectly loving, the Psalmist’s declaration is not a threat. It is a promise! Even when we’re foolish and run headlong in the wrong direction, we can take heart knowing that God pursues us. He chases after us, not with a fist or hammer to punish us, but with a staff and rod to guide us and reel us in.

Traveling may temporarily help you escape your problems, but it certainly won’t enable you escape God. Here’s the very good news: you can’t outrun your problems or responsibilities, but you also can’t outrun God. This might sound scary, but is a very, very good thing.

Written By Andrew Stoddard 

Post Comments (21)

21 thoughts on "Jonah’s Flight"

  1. Isaac Jones says:

    Man cannot escape God. Man needs to face God in openness and humility, because there is nowhere for him to hide.

  2. Isaac Jones says:

    This teaches me that God truly can care for everyone. If God is everywhere, then He does not miss or forget or lose any of His children. God hears us when we call out to Him even in the deep dark places of the earth, and our soul.

  3. Isaac Jones says:

    God is everywhere. God cannot be escaped and no matter how high, low, deep, broad, light, or dark we go; God is always there. Ke knows what and who is everywhere, and nothing is hidden from His sight.

  4. Isaac Jones says:

    I will not try to run from God or hide from God; I will seek to give all my “hidden” sins to God so he can deal with them and me with His rod and staff putting me back on His path.

  5. Isaac Jones says:

    Oh God,
    Show me your ways and teach me your truth. Lord I know that I cannot run from you. Help my wicked heart to know and understand this. Please reveal the sins I have tried to hide from your sight and mine. Deal with my son and hardness of heart; may I be humble before you, and submit myself into your hand. Thank you for never leaving me and always finding me even in my rebellion; amen.

  6. Bryce says:

    This teaches us that despite where we are, or where we’re trying to flee to, God will not allow us to just slip away. This teaches me that God is the Hound of Heaven who pursues us relentlessly, not because of our awesomeness but because of his grace in the gospel. We can’t outrun God because his grace constrains us.

  7. Bryce says:

    We wildly overestimate ourselves and are incredibly stupid. The God of the Universe who is omni-everything/where draws near to us for our own good and we try to hide in tarshish or religious moralism or just our own minds. We are dummies in this regard. And sinners.

  8. Bryce says:

    It reminds me of the truth of his omni-presence. I think that my thought life is private only to me, but I am mistaken. I cannot flee from his presence, but that’s a good thing. That’s like saying I can’t flee from drinkable water or air or sunlight.

  9. Bryce says:

    I will respond by reflecting on the nature of God’s relentless pursuit of us. I will rejoice in the fact that as his son I can’t run from him, that’s so freeing to know that he won’t let me run off.

  10. Bryce says:

    God, thank you thank you thank you that your presence is inescapable. Thank you that you won’t let me run, that you keep me near to you. Thank you for arresting Jonah’s like me and stopping my heart from arriving at Tarshish. Amen.

  11. Adam H says:

    God is always there whether we want him to be or not and he truly brings us back to him with love and patience guiding us to the path he has for us.

  12. Adam H says:

    The gospel is always there for us whenever we are ready to accept the call.

  13. Adam H says:

    Man often is very like Jonah in trying to flee from God and the scary things He is calling us to. We very rarely see what God has planned for us in the way He sees it and we think that we know better.

  14. Adam H says:

    I will seek to trust the Lord and “go to Ninevah” whenever the Lord calls me.

  15. Adam H says:

    I will pray that my heart my beat along with the Lord’s and I may choose to trust him even when it’s not easy.

  16. Daniel says:

    I will embrace that which I have been fleeing, and surrender it to God.

  17. Daniel says:

    God wants relationships with and pursues us.

  18. Daniel says:

    We cannot escape God, which is a beautiful reality. We may try, but it is not God we are attempting to flee, but ourselves.

  19. Daniel says:

    The grace and love will reach us, and often what we are trying to flee is what God needs us to embrace.

  20. Daniel says:

    Lord, I pray for this surrender; to hand to you that ultimate burden, that brokenness that has been buried deep within. Take it Lord, refresh, and make it new. Amen.

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