This is part of a 7-day series on Jonah in the Lent 2016 reading plan.
I have felt God pursuing me and showing me bits of His character. He has used the wise words of a friend. He has revealed Himself to me in the Bible. I have stood in awe of Him in corporate worship. And I have seen Him in answered prayers.
I feel my heart turn toward Him in the laughter and tears and honest questions of my kids. I’ve been shown His loving-kindness through the grace and forgiveness of my wife. I can point back to these times in my life and know that God was drawing near to me, showing me more of Himself, and pursuing me. But God’s pursuit doesn’t always look the way we think it should. It doesn’t always feel the way we want it to feel.
What went through Jonah’s head when, asleep in his shame, he woke up to a violent storm and a panicking captain? What was he thinking when the lot fell on him and everyone learned he was the cause of the storm and that their lives were on the line because of his rebellion? And what must he have felt as they tossed him overboard and the waters closed in over him?
Circle one: Pursued or Punished.
Surely he didn’t feel pursued by a loving God.
Jonah couldn’t see that the God who created the very waters that threatened to drown him was fighting for his heart. He didn’t know that it was God’s graciousness that tossed him overboard. What felt like the biggest rejection from God was actually the biggest embrace; what felt like punishment was actually pursuit.
As followers of Jesus, we must remember that God is always graciously pursuing us—always doing everything for our good and His glory. Even when it doesn’t feel that way. Even when we can’t see the big picture. Jonah had no idea that the God who created the waves and then ordained them to swallow him had created a fish that was also ordained to swallow him—saving him and drawing him nearer to dry land.
As followers of Jesus, we don’t need to confuse pursuit for punishment because we know that Christ has already taken our punishment on the cross, satisfying the wrath of God. Anything that feels like punishment is always pursuit because the Bible tells us that God disciplines those that He loves. But He does not punish us. Because the wrath of God has been satisfied by the death of Christ, the punishment that brought us peace was laid upon Christ (Isa 53:5).
So whether you find yourself in a sanctifying conversation with a friend or in some terrifying situation, remember that it is God who is drawing you in, singing over you, and always graciously pursuing you.
Written By Billy Jack Brawner