A few weeks ago, I was working on my computer, when my husband asked me a question. The emotion with which I responded to his question caused him to ask “why are you so angry”? I explained why I felt as I did in that moment, but, I knew that it had more to do than just that moment. Though I reacted in anger in that moment, I knew that it simply wasn’t anger.
I likened my feelings unto a boxer, who after a boxing match, was still walking around with his boxing gloves on. Every one kept saying “The fight’s over. Take your gloves off”. But, he refused. I refused. Because I anticipated that I would need them again. Soon. So, I wanted to make sure I was ready for the fight.
I soon came to realize what the feeling was. It was fear. It was frustration. The reason for my fear and frustration came from a state of spiritual dissatisfaction that I found myself in. It wasn’t a state where my faith in God was shaky. It wasn’t a state where I had grown tired of the work of God. It was a state where my heart had grown weary. It had grown weary because the “imperfect things” that exist in my world were starting to take a toll on me. And where re-directing my energies had been helping me to overlook these dissatisfactions, the re-directs were no longer enough. My strategy was no longer working.
So, I took my troubles to God in prayer, and what I explicitly got from Him was that I have to walk through this fire; and not just walk through it, I can not falter, even for one second, while I walk through. He said that I must continue to work as He directs me to, in every facet of life that He has placed me in, as that position demands that I be. I have to do it, and I have to do it well. And my response to that was “I can’t do it. It’s killing me inside and it is causing my heart to harden. And all He said to me was “Hardening your heart is your way of coping, and since it is in your heart that I dwell, hardening it is not an option. Whatever it is that you require, to be who I am instructing you to be, require it of me, and of no one else”. And for all the sense that what the instruction made to me, it made me feel as if a huge weight had been placed on me. It all just felt so hard!
So, in the midst of the height of my unhappiness, I was in my car and three songs played in succession on the radio. The first was titled “Great Is Your Mercy Towards Me”. The second was “Praise Him in the Middle of It”. The Third was “I can’t make it without you, Lord”. As I listened to each one, all I could do was smile, shake my head, and marvel at how timely this God is when it comes to sending the right kind of help at the right time.
The second chapter of the book of Jonah focuses exclusively on one thing. The prayer that Jonah rendered to God when He was in the belly of the whale.
Most of us are familiar with the story, I’m sure. God assigned Jonah to a mission, and for reasons that seemed justified to him, Jonah had no intentions of complying God’s instruction. So, in the midst of Jonah’s of disobedience, God caused him to be thrown off a ship, into the ocean, and caused a whale to swallow him up.
Jonah was at his depth while in the belly of that whale. Literally and figuratively. It was from that depth that he prayed:
I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of theLord. And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations that make no sense. In the midst of those situations, we often ask “ How did I get here”? Also, in those times, we are at the mercy of a host of different emotions like anger, confusion, frustration, sadness, depression, bitterness, jealousy, envy, desperation, and hopelessness. It is during those times that we experience our “Belly of the Whale” moments.
Note that we are not always severed from God in those moments, nor is God silent. If anything, God makes it clear to us in those moments that He requires us to be exactly where we are. But what makes it so bad is that those moments can be extremely difficult. They are physically difficult. They are emotionally difficult. They are mentally difficult. And we, like Jonah, just want to curl up at the bottom of the boat and sleep. But if the Lord has appointed us to a task, then we must face it. No matter how difficult it seems.
God chose Jonah for that mission to Nineveh. He knew every strength, every weakness, every flaw, that Jonah possessed. Yet, it was him, Jonah, whom the Lord chose. For one reason: It was Jonah, who God had specially empowered for that mission.
If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and your desire is to abide in Him, and have Him abide in you, then wherever you may find yourself, or what ever difficult situation that you may be going through, know that God has empowered you to go through it. He knows us. He sees us. Every imperfection in us. Yet, He chose us!
Verse 8 of that Jonah 2 says “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy”.
The grace that we have in Jesus Christ is that though we are imperfect, because we love Him and walk in Him, He covers us. Not because we deserve it, but because He is merciful to those whom He loves. However, when we place our trust, our hopes, our sustenance anywhere else but in Christ, EVEN IF THAT SOMEWHERE ELSE IS OURSELVES (our understanding, our wisdom, our resources, our intelligence, our fears, etc) then we forsake the mercy of Christ, and end up going it alone. When we trust in ourselves, or any other source outside of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, then, we forsake the covering, the victory, the protection, that comes with trusting and relying totally on God! We forsake our safety net; our saving grace; our own mercy, freely given by God to those who love Him.
So, brethren, when we find ourselves in our Belly of the Whale Moments, let us cry out to the Lord in the midst of our distress. Let us open up our mouths, honestly, and confess our fears to Him. If the fear is in our hearts, He already sees it. Confessing it with our mouths just shows that we are now ready to hear from Him. Let us accept that we don’t know how we’re going to do it, but let us trust that He does.
I know that one of the reasons that God allowed me to get to this very low, and lonely point was so that I can share my personal trial and let people know that it’s okay to feel confused. It’s okay to feel helpless. It’s okay to feel afraid. Just know that you’re not alone. If we remain in Christ, then Christ remains in us. Actively! We just have to hold on to Him. Listen to Him. Trust Him. Obey Him. He WILL get us through!
Psalm 34:19 says “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.”
Psalm 28:7 says “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.
My soul is indeed lightening as I share this. It is my prayer that as you read it, yours too may become lighter if you happen to be in a similar situation. The journey continues; and yes, it will be rough and downright painful at times. But, I rest in the knowledge that every step I take, I take under the cover of the One who ransomed my soul. He has promised that He will never leave me nor forsake me. And I believe that promise.
What about you?
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
Share your thoughts, that you might encourage your brethren.
In Christ, The handmaid at His feet.