walk in the word
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God . . .” Psalm 43:1
Have you ever been discouraged to the point of giving up? Then you can identify with Jonah. For the last two weeks on the broadcast, we’ve been studying lessons from the life of God’s infamous, runaway prophet. Today, the bull’s eye is on how to get out of life’s valleys and experience the joy and victory that God wants to bring into our lives.
If you look at Jonah 4, you catch him sitting under a tree, totally wiped out, feeling pretty sorry for himself. If you want to go fast into a valley, get consumed by yourself. Get alone. Say to yourself, It’s just me against the whole world and everyone is just driving me nuts. If I get with other people, who’s going to take care of me and my problems? Tell you what—that kind of thinking takes you down. The absolute worst train of thought you could embrace is a self-absorbed—me, me, me, my, mine—kind of thinking. Sit there with Jonah for very long and your perspective will begin to spiral. A self-absorbed lifestyle is the beginning of a trip into a very deep, dark valley.
A self-centered outlook is also at the heart of every broken relationship. Every hurting marriage, every estranged child, every severed employee, every broken friendship is the result of a self-centered perspective. What am I getting out of this? Am I being fulfilled? Let yourself think like that for very long and you’re on the road into the valley.
While there’s something humorous about Jonah’s dramatic “I’d rather die!” in Jonah 4:3, his feelings are painfully real. You can say, “Jonah, you’re crazy. God saved your life! He brought revival to the city! What’s the matter with you?” You understand his perspective if you’ve ever felt this desperate. However, if you choose a better perspective and realize that we don’t have to respond this way. It’s a choice.
Back to the text. Notice the tenderness patience and sensitivity with which God comes toward Jonah. In Jonah 4:4, the Lord said, “Jonah, do you have a good reason to be angry?” How great is that question! You’d think God would be like, “Come on Jonah, get it together!” Nope, God’s not like that. Even though Jonah’s attitude stinks, God moves toward Him with such gentleness, and He would speak these same words into each of our lives, “Do you have a good reason to be angry?”
What should Jonah have said? “No, God. I don’t have a good reason. I’m just too focused on myself. Please forgive my rotten attitude and help me to rejoice in all the good things You are doing. I choose to look away from what’s not right in my life and I choose to embrace what is right and be thankful for it.” That’s how Jonah should have responded but he didn’t because he was so filled with self-pity.
I’ll say it again, the self-centered outlook rams life out of perspective and causes us to sink in destructive self-pity. Whoa is me. If you knew the pain that I’ve known, you’d be down in the valley, too. I probably would and would need the same thing that we all need—someone to come along side and tell us that we could get out of the valley if we would just:
Let it go, rather than hang on to it.
Look up instead of down.
Trust God instead of trusting self.
And instead of feeling paralyzed by circumstances, move on by God’s grace.
Here’s the weird thing about the book of Jonah—it never really ends. It is just one chapter in the life of a person whom God relentlessly and lovingly pursued.
Maybe God is pursuing you this way.
If you want to get out of the valley, do these things:
Want out of the valley? This is the way . . . walk in it.
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