Dream Killer, Part 5: Jonah, God’s Will or Ours?

For the first four posts, please go to the Dream Killer page.

Dream Killer

“I have a word for you,” one of our team members timidly said as we finished our weekly time of worship. We had told our little band that our cafe was closing as of the end of the month. They stared at us wide-eyed and nervous, I’m sure wondering what this meant for them and knowing how crushed their leaders now are.

“Ok, here goes. You carried the cafe like a mother carries a child and it’s been miscarried. You should mourn its death. I hope that was at least a little encouraging.”

“Again, God!” My thoughts screamed at my Creator. Outwardly, the tears spilled down my cheeks, but I tried to be assuring as this sweet member of our team worked through the turmoil of sharing such a painful word. Inside, though, I was crushed. Again. Again I spent the day wondering what God was doing. Again I questioned why God would do this to me when I didn’t even want to do this in the first place. Again I poured out my rage at never knowing what it’s like for life to grow inside of me. Again I was surrounded by senseless death and destruction. Again I questioned the goodness of God and if he had abandoned me completely.

I walked around like a zombie, totally broken for the next day. I dreaded sharing our need to close with our local business partner, but I stoically and succinctly told her all she needed to know. Then we somehow dragged our dying souls to international church. The pastor was speaking on Ruth, someone born not far from where we were sitting in that dark basement. He spoke of the oppression women in this part of the world feel, have felt for millennia. He praised our work among Arab women and what we were doing to create a space just for them. He has no idea we’re closing. He has no idea the pain he caused by asking us to raise our hands so others could acknowledge our work. He has no idea everything is dead. He has no idea that over the next week I’ll be changing the lives of so many: the precious women who work at the cafe will no longer have a job, the woman raising funds to return to run the cafe no longer has a position, four women coming for a year to experience life as a missionary in the Middle East will find everything they expected changed. Being a life changer when you get to share a message of hope and joy is beautiful. Being a life changer and bringing a message of pain and change is something altogether different.

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:1, 2 NIV)

No one wants to be that guy, the bearer of bad news.

God saw what they had done, that they had turned away from their evil lives. He did change his mind about them. What he said he would do to them he didn’t do. Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, “ God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness! “So, God, if you won’t kill them, kill me! I’m better off dead!” God said, “What do you have to be angry about?” (Jonah 3:10-4:4 MSG)

I have sat in judgment of Jonah. How could he be so unfeeling? How could he want all those people to die? How could he be so angry? I would be rejoicing because lives were saved.

That’s an easy thing to say when I’m on my high horse looking down. But when I’m at the bottom of a pit straining to see anything at the top, the perspective changes. Ugly comes out.

Why are they doing so well and we’re struggling? Why do they get to have a bunch of kids and we can’t even have one? Why?

It’s easy to look around and compare myself to others, raise my fist and yell at God. It’s easy to demand fairness.

It’s hard to trust. It’s humanly impossible to see the success of others in the midst of heart ache and rejoice with them. But it is divinely possible.

Sometimes I wonder what happened next in the story. Scripture doesn’t say, but here’s how it plays out in my head.

Seriously, Jonah? You’re upset that I saved thousands and you’d rather be dead than see them succeed? After everything you’ve been through, did you learn nothing? Your message wasn’t about my wrath. If it was just about my wrath, I would’ve burned the city down like I did with Sodom and Gommorah. This was about my love. I loved those a people enough to send you to them to bring my message so they could repent and turn to me. And I loved you enough to send you to them so that you could see my love in action. Open your heart. Let me love you. Stop worrying about what others have or don’t have. Stop wondering when you’ll get your reward. Just be obedient. Love me. And out of your love for me, love others.

That’s the bottom line. Jonah was so worried about everyone getting what he deserved, he forgot to check to see what God actually wanted in the situation.

And this gives me hope. If God can use a reluctant, disobedient guy like Jonah, there’s hope still for me. But that’s comparing myself again, isn’t it?

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