by: Jeff Baker
We don’t know a lot about Jonah. When we first meet him, the Lord speaks to him and asks him to perform a very specific task. We read in verse 3 of Chapter one, “But Jonah…” Obviously, this task was unpleasant to Jonah and as a result he disobeyed and fled to Tarshish. He decided to go the opposite direction from where God had called him to be. You see, Nineveh had a problem not much different than what our country has today. Their sin had reached a point where the wrath and judgment of God was on its way. Within 40 days Nineveh would face the consequences of their choices and sin.
But God… sent His messenger Jonah to let them know what was about to happen. But Jonah knew something about God that he often ignores throughout his interaction with all parties involved. The mercy of God. But more on that in a moment.
The crew is your average everyday shipping crew. They are going about their life doing what they do every day. Taking cargo from one place to another, making a living, and providing for their families. On this day something significant was about to happen.
Jonah boarded the ship possibly in disguise or just simply trying to keep from being noticed by anybody. As the ship set sail, things begin to change dramatically. A huge storm overtakes the ship and this weathered group of men begin crying out to anything or anyone that could possibly save them. But who could possibly save them? All their idols, false gods and world views weren’t enough. In fact, things got worse.
Only God could help them. And as providence would have it, His representative was on that ship… somewhere. Actually, he was deep within the ship trying to hide from God and man.
Back on deck, the crew threw everything overboard they could think of to try to save the ship. Think about that for a moment. Everything that they were entrusted with by their clients was now lost and destroyed. Their shipping careers were most likely over. Afterall, who would want to use a carrier that willingly destroyed all that cargo.
And yet, the storm raged on. After casting lots they discovered that Jonah was the reason for all of this. They even tried to save him by not listening to him about throwing him overboard. And again the storm worsened. Finally out of desperation they pleaded with God for mercy and threw Jonah overboard.
What Could Have Been
From the moment Jonah boarded the ship he could have been God’s message of love and mercy. Here were a bunch of men who seemed rough and tough on the outside, but when faced with overwhelming circumstances, they clearly welcomed and even worshiped the God of Jonah.
Then the men became extremely afraid of the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. Jonah 1:16 (NASB)
Instead of experiencing a God of mercy, they met a God of wrath. Jonah knew that God was a God of mercy and yet kept silent on the matter from the moment he boarded this ship. How often do we keep silent amongst those who we pass by everyday?
The Big Fish
We all know what happened next. Jonah is swallowed up by a really big fish. After 3 days and nights, Jonah came to his senses. He prayed. He returned to the God he knew to be merciful. Even in the midst of extreme disobedience, Jonah knew God would forgive and restore him. And He did.
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah (a second time). This time Jonah obeyed. Reluctantly, but he still obeyed. With the fresh experience of the mercy of God on full display in his own life, Jonah spent 3 days (20 – 30 miles each day) walking across Nineveh. With a population of 120,000 (about the size of Columbia, South Carolina), Jonah simply repeated what he heard from God. “In forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown!”. No mercy, no grace, just straight judgement.
We don’t know if Jonah had any previous issues with Nineveh. Perhaps they were the political party of the day he didn’t like. Or maybe, the people of Nineveh identified as something he didn’t approve of. Or perhaps they were just a bunch of ignorant people that didn’t really strike him as worth much. We don’t know. But we do know that he delivered God’s message with zero compassion, grace or mercy. I can almost see a gleam in his eye that he can’t wait to see this place laid waste in the next 40 days. They will surely get what they deserve.
The amazing thing is that Nineveh repented. God relented.
I bet it was a sight to see cows, dogs and cats in sackcloth.
What Could Have Been
What if Jonah approached the city with the fresh experience of mercy he had just received. What if, as he shared the message of God’s coming wrath, he also shared with them His amazing mercy and love. Jonah could have explained that repentance was indeed required, but that the cows, dogs and cats weren’t required to wear sackcloth. He could have shared with them his own experience and intimate knowledge of God’s mercy. But he didn’t.
The reason we receive God’s grace and mercy is not so that we can feel better about ourselves. We receive His grace and mercy to become exactly that.
As I look at the world around me, there are well meaning Christians that have all but become what God has called them to. I am forgiven so that I may forgive. I am shown mercy that I may show mercy. I receive grace so that I may give grace to others. I am loved by God so that I might become love to others. After all, isn’t that what it means to be created in God’s image. If God is love, then let us also become love. The world desperately needs it.
Is God saying the same thing to us today? Does Jonah 4:11 not apply to you and I?
Should I not also have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 people, who do not know the difference between their right hand and their left, as well as many animals?”
If you listen closely enough, you might even hear the echo from the cross saying much the same thing. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
Healthy boundaries are vital to all relationships. Part of having good boundaries means being able to say “no” to one another respectfully. To learn more, read Tana Amen’s 6 Strategies for Setting Healthy Boundaries with Others.
Taking care of our mental health is one of the most important things we can do. Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen provides helpful tips for boosting our mental health. Click to read Dr. Amen’s blog post regarding The 7 Best Feel-Good Alternatives to Replace Hugs.
By Jennifer Lynch
As a mother, you want to do everything you can to protect your baby. You take every precaution to keep them safe. But with everything that happens in the world, we can’t always protect our children. However, we can love them, snuggle with them, and help them understand what is in the world around them.
Over the past year, the world has been in an uproar. It has affected us all in different ways. The Lord tells us not to fear because He is with us. As believers, we look to that, but as fleshly humans, we have a tendency to question the fear within us.
As a child, we are just learning about relationships, spiritual guidance, and personal contact. Over the last few months, my child has struggled with this pandemic. She has adjusted to wearing masks and knows the rules about being six feet apart and not having close contact with people. As adults, we understand how to deal with unknown circumstances, but to most children, none of this makes sense.
Yesterday I was checking my daughter’s folder from school and noticed a drawing. Of course, I am always excited to see her thoughts out on paper. This time, it was a little heartbreaking. There on the paper were five stick people all standing by each other. She colored a big blue circle around them. The coloring page template was supposed to be a representation of what her dream would be. “That all of us can play together” was written in the upper right corner by the teacher. This struck my heartstrings. Her dream is to play with her friends and have contact with those around her.
I set the drawing aside and went about the day. I decided to do some crafts with both of my kids that afternoon—a DIY fairy jar. As we were reading the directions, I noticed that they were supposed to write down a wish and put it in the jar. Just a little extra piece to make the project magical. I handed it over to my youngest child to help her write her wish. “I wish that COVID would go away” was the wish. Again, my heart broke.
This pandemic has been affecting my child more than I could have imagined. We genuinely don’t think about the appreciation that a hug can make, a touch of a hand, or playing with the same toys. This pandemic is hard on all of us, but our children struggle even more. For a kindergartener learning how to build relationships in a world where you can’t interact in close quarters, it is very difficult and hard to understand. The Lord built us to love one another and to be close to others (John 15:12).
My daughter thrives on interaction. This goofy, fun-loving child now worries if she will get in trouble if she gets too close to someone. She worries that she will never be able to hug her teacher and play with her friends. This is the time our kids are learning to build relationships. They need some normalcy in all of the craziness of this world.
As parents, we need to keep our eyes wide open. We need to watch for these signs in our children. We need to be there for questions that may need answers. We also need to hold them close, hug them daily, and let them know that we are there for them. We don’t have the answers to what will happen next. We can only deal with what happens today. We can also pray with them to give them hope that Lord is walking with them through it.
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble in dread before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 AMP.
Be strong for your babies. They look to you for guidance. Trust in the Lord through everything we face. Only He can walk us through it.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
During this busy Christmas season, let us be reminded of our purpose. Let’s enjoy it with peace and thanksgiving instead of stress and overcommitting. May we be challenged this holiday season to seek God first in the things we commit ourselves to and to keep our eyes on Him.
Kirby King, a local author and Life In Abundance workshop facilitator, shares her personal experience with saying “yes” to rest and “no” to busyness. Click here to read more.
By Dana Adams
Summer has officially come to an end, which means we say a temporary farewell to the beloved sunny, warmer days. As summer days fade into cooler autumn nights, the season isn’t the only thing changing. We may begin to experience less energy, sadness, fluctuation in weight, lack of motivation and focus, and a longing to stay curled up in bed. Have you noticed this about yourself? Or, maybe the holiday blues seem harder to get over and are getting worse year after year?
This can be alarming, and often frustrating as we question what’s wrong with us and why we can’t just shake it off. You’re not alone, friend. The fall and winter blues are very normal and commonly felt among many. If these symptoms are proving to be more and more difficult to overcome and impacting everyday life, it could be Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
This time of the year can bring up great personal loss, which can make it increasingly difficult to manage symptoms of Seasonal Depression. Add to that the significant life changes due to COVID-19, it’s unimaginable what this season can mean for so many. With the approaching hustle and bustle of the holiday season, my heart inclines a little closer toward the one who is quietly hurting. The one who overbooks during this time to try and forget their loneliness and aching grief that nostalgia now brings. The one who holds back anxiety while carving the Thanksgiving turkey. The one who flawlessly shines in their tacky Christmas sweater holding on to beliefs that they are unseen.
I understand it well, and can find myself most days during this season feeling like the winter months will never end. It was 8 years ago during this time that my journey to soul healing began. I remember feeling beyond hopeless and broken. I, too, spent the holiday season holding in deep sorrow, sadness, and grief as the most wonderful time of the year made its deafening approach.
Loneliness, depression, anxiety, grief, family dysfunction, health crisis, financial strain, addiction, fears, stress, stress and more stress stay wrapped up inside as a haunting heaviness. Whatever your haunting heaviness is that tries to restrict joy and peace, please hear me when I say that you are not alone.
You don’t have to overcome the holiday blues, or Seasonal Depression, alone or without tools. Here are some ideas to help get ahead of the holiday blues this season:
- Enjoy the sun: Take a walk outside or keep the shades open. Pro-tip: Mid-day provides the strongest light!
- Exercise regularly
- Stay connected to others
- Journal: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help sort through the negative to find the positive. Try starting each entry with 1-3 things you’re grateful for.
- Engage in healthy habits: less drinking, stay away from overeating, drink more water, etc.
- Try Light Therapy: This can include exposure to direct sunlight or using Light Therapy Lamps.
- Talk with a Counselor: Counseling provides helpful emotional support that can provide healthy coping strategies to overcome the holiday blues.
- Medication: Talk with your doctor to see if starting antidepressants before the start of winter and continuing until spring would be right for you.
Lastly, pray and seek Jesus. The Lord can handle our hurts. He wants us to bring them to him. He knows exactly what we’re going through. He promises to give rest for our weariness and heavy burdens in our constant fruitless toil of trying to get it right. With so much busyness either on its way or already here, it’ll be important to make time to take care of ourselves. Maybe one thing our weary souls need most right now is to rest in the arms of a loving Savior, the true reason for this amazing season.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30