How to Know God's Trying to Get Your Attention
What Jonah and the whale have to do with you.
It took me a while to understand the application of the Bible’s story about Jonah and the whale. Maybe it came quick for you, but not me.
In case you’re not familiar, the story of Jonah goes something like this:
A man named Jonah was asked by God to go Nineveh and talk to people who lived there. Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh or talk to the people who lived there.
Jonah hid from God by getting on a boat headed away from Nineveh. A storm came. The people on the ship knew someone on the ship caused God to be angry. Jonah told them to throw him overboard so the storm would stop. Jonah was thrown overboard and the storm stopped.
Jonah’s death did not fit with God’s plan. God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh. God sent a large fish to swallow Jonah, where he stayed for three days. Jonah turned back to God and prayed. The fish swam to Nineveh only to spit Jonah out on the shore. Jonah inevitably did what God asked.
Now, a lot of trouble, turmoil, and stress could have been easily avoided had Jonah just done what God had asked him to do in the first place. Jonah did not listen to God. He feared God’s plan and chose a different route.
I live in a little town in Idaho town that I love. I love my job, the people, the recreation and God’s beautiful creation all around me.
A year ago, I felt God’s call for me to step up, which made me fear I’d have to leave my little Idaho town. I applied to a graduate program nearby so I could keep living my way.
I even did it under the guise of, “This program will help me to serve God better.” I did well in the program: good grades, learning everything I could etc.
I felt transformed to do more. My pride grew and I became satisfied with my work for God.
That’s the issue, isn’t it? It is not me who needs to be satisfied with my work for God. God is the one who works in me and through me. God is the one who transforms me. My intentions and love for my town were great, yet my lack of trust in God made me fearful of the future.
My fear made me lose sight of God and his plan. Instead I focused on my plan for him.
My plan resulted in a dive overboard and a bed in the belly of a whale—not literally of course. In the end, the grad program revealed itself to be incompatible with my faith and the professors knew it too.
A storm had come. Ethical issues arose, and the rocking boat threw me overboard.
In the whale’s belly, I experienced heartache. All my work I had done for God went out the window and flew itself straight to the dump. Suddenly, what had meaning, meant little.
Angry and sad, I washed up on the shore of a place I hated—a place of failure and where people who get kicked out of grad school go to live.
What I didn’t know is that God had a bigger plan for me in this town.
My passion is to serve God and teach his people about his abundant grace. I am fulfilled when I can walk beside women as they learn not to fear the future and trust in God’s protection and love. If only I had taken the lesson of Jonah seriously. I would have saved myself a year of stress, heartbreak, a major hit to my pride and $10,000.
If you feel afraid of the future or what will happen when you pursue your passion, I pray your heart feels peace in this: God takes into account your passions and wants you to love what you do. He gave you your passions. He wants to be with you in those mountaintop moments. He wants to bless you in your passions. He wants you to grow in them and go places with you would never expect.
Grow in God; follow your passions; when you focus your eyes on him and follow his way, you will be surprised and blessed when his way is also your passion.
I tried hard to make my plan God’s plan. I looked at life with fear and “what ifs.” The fear that caused me to panic did not fool God. My plan and sound reasons to do it my way did not fool God. I tried to hide from God. I even said I did it for him.
He knew the truth, and he loved me anyway. He knew the truth and had something even greater in store. When I finally stopped and looked at my fear honestly—when I finally stopped making plans to avoid “what ifs”—when I finally sat down and heard God’s whisper, I was home and his plan was my plan, and His passion began to power my passion.