Think back to the last time you spoke in anger, were too quick to judge, or acted unkindly. If you’re anything like me, you feel badly after the fact; in the moment, though, I am so wrapped up in myself and how I am feeling that I forget the impact I have. We act in these ways because we are human, and wrapped up in that reality comes choosing wrongly sometimes. But our God is a loving and forgiving God, “slow to anger, rich in kindness.”
The story of Jonah in the Old Testament is a wonderful example of God’s kindness and mercy. God asks Jonah to go to Nineveh, commanding them to repent from their evil ways. Frightened, Jonah runs away, seeking to avoid the call of the Lord. Unfooled, God brings a terrible storm down upon the ship. Jonah, meanwhile, slumbers peacefully belowdecks.
The ship’s captain goes and awakens Jonah, imploring him, “What are you doing asleep? Get up, call on your god!” (Jonah 1:6). Realizing that the storm has been brought upon him by God, Jonah tells the ship’s crew to throw him overboard. Hesitant to throw him off the ship, though, the crew resists as long as possible. But Jonah is insistent, and in imminent danger of wrecking, the crew throws him overboard.
Immediately, the storm calms. Jonah is swallowed by a “great fish” sent by God, in whose belly he remains for three days. He spends that time repenting, offering a prayer of thanksgiving to God for preserving his life. The fish then vomits him out on dry land. God calls Jonah again, and this time Jonah listens. Marching through Nineveh, he announces the wrath of the Lord. When the king hears of Jonah, he orders an immediate fast and repentance of his people. They turn from their sinful ways, and God does not bring down the wrath he threatened.
But instead of being pleased, Jonah becomes upset. He is angry that God was merciful to the people, and marches out into the desert in protest. So God helps Jonah understand His mercy: God grows a gourd plant over Jonah’s head overnight, which protects him from any discomfort. But then the Lord sends a worm that poisons and withers the plant, killing it a day after it grows. He then sends a scorching wind, which causes extreme discomfort to Jonah, who cries out and wishes for death.
But God challenges Jonah: “Do you have a right to be angry over the gourd plant?” Yes, Jonah says, angry enough to wish to die. God says, “You are concerned over the gourd plant which cost you no effort and which you did not grow . . . and should I not be concerned for the people of Nineveh?” (Jonah 4:10-11)
God created each of us and gives us infinite chances for us to “get it right.” He will never tire of forgiving us and loving us; isn’t that a comforting thought? In spite of our flaws, we are always enough for God, who turns our negatives into positives.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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