Temper Tantrum

Bible Reading: Jonah 1; 2; 3; 4; 2 Kings 13:5-6; 14:25-27

This is a familiar childhood story. God told Jonah "Go to Ninevah"; Jonah took a boat in the OPPOSITE direction. God sent a violent storm until Jonah was thrown overboard. God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah alive. Three days later, God made the fish vomit him up on the shore. God again said "Go to Ninevah"; Jonah obeyed. The Ninevites listened to Jonah's message. Because they repented and turned from their wicked ways, God had compassion and did not bring the destruction he had threatened.

God's mercy, however, made Jonah mad. He WANTED Ninevah to be punished for their barbaric violence against his people. He told God, "That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity" (4:2).

When Jonah complained to God about it, God replied, "Have you any right to be angry?" (4:4) Then Jonah was mad because the vine that God provided for shade one day was eaten by a worm the next. Again, God asked, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" "I do," Jonah said. "I am angry enough to die" (4:9). But the Lord said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" (4:10-11). God tried to broaden Jonah's vision beyond himself to give him a glimpse of the vision of God.

I have thrown quite a few of my own jumping-up-and-down Jonah fits. My complaint always goes something like this: "God, I'm mad at you about ______. If you're such a loving God, how could you let this happen? How can this be your plan? Why won't you intervene here and make things right? I/they don't deserve this!" I stamp my feet and demand God's justice and goodness. My whole life becomes colored with disillusionment and doubt.

God's reply always goes something like this: "Do you have any right to be angry? Every good gift comes from me (James 1:17). Don't proudly expect a blessing. Trust me to give you the right thing at the right time. When I bless you with good things, enjoy my gifts but be willing to let them go when their time is up. Your vision is limited only to what you can see or surmise, but I see every deed, every heart and every possibility. I have a plan for you, your family and your friends. I will lead you and care for you. If you will follow me, I will reveal each step of the journey to you when the time is right and you are ready. Remember that I am God, and you are my child. Trust me."

Children don't always fully understand or correctly interpret what they encounter, which sometime leads to foolishness. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child" (Pr. 22:15). Our hearts, as God's children, are also often bound by foolishness as we fail to interpret God's plan correctly. When we walk through difficult changes and circumstances, we often interpret them as punishments or mistakes and view God as being insensitive and uncaring. But God is concerned about our hearts, not our happiness; our character, not our comfort; our eternal existence, not just our temporary plight. He deserves our trust, not our doubt; our obedience, not our resistance; our humble appreciation, not our proud expectation; our love, not our anger. He will go to great lengths, as he did with Jonah, to get our attention and teach us to trust and obey.