Jonah is a ridiculous story. A man defies God, is swallowed by a giant fish, relents and repents, fulfills his calling, becomes angry with the Lord, gets a terrible sunburn and then a lecture from the Almighty. If I were not a believer I would discount the whole thing as a fairy tale or a crazy allegory. Unfortunately, I do believe it, and that makes it hard for me to refuse God when He calls me to do something that is difficult. Jonah is a reminder that following Jesus isn’t easy.
In chapter 2, Jonah admits his mistake and prays to God from the belly of the fish. I’ve never been in a fish’s intestines, but I imagine it would stink and be extremely unpleasant. Our Father often asks us to do difficult things and when we refuse to do them, life can become yukky. God makes us uncomfortable because He wants to use us, stretch us and help us become more like Jesus, which is to say He wants us to think of others as more important than ourselves. I am His servant; I must learn to be obedient. I don’t like being obedient when it means doing difficult things. I only want to be obedient when it is easy.
Each person’s opinion of what is difficult is different. Maybe it is visiting a terminally ill person. Perhaps it is teaching 13-year-olds in Sunday School or tithing your salary. It could be that God wants you to become a foreign missionary, or maybe just speak to a neighbor about their relationship with God. What’s hard for you may be easy for me, and vice versa.
Doing difficult things is part of the Christian life. Take up your cross, Jesus said. Yep, it’s heavy and gives you splinters, but it is necessary, often for reasons we don’t understand at the time. I have to trust God that this unpleasant thing I am now enduring will have a great outcome in the future. For now, I must quit complaining and be obedient. I don’t want to end up smelling like Jonah.