Perspective From the Gut

Sometimes you need perspective, and God often brings that perspective through events you never would have chosen for yourself. Take Jonah for example.

Here’s a guy who gets a message from God: Arise, go to Nineveh and preach to them. Now, in all fairness, Nineveh wasn’t the best place for him to go, it might be dangerous; they were, after all, an evil people, God said so Himself. But God also gave a personal command that should have taken priority over Jonah’s desires. So what does Jonah do? Grab a ticket for a cruise in the opposite direction. “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD” (Jon. 1:3). Since we have a better chance of losing our shadows than escaping an omnipresent and all-powerful God, He still works His plan in Jonah’s life. He is pitched overboard and swallowed by a “great fish.” 3 days and 3 nights later he is spit out onto land. God speaks to Jonah a second time, “Arise, go to Nineveh” (3:2). This time, he obeys.

What changed? Nineveh was still evil, the mission commanded by God remained static, and the sun continued to rise and set for those 3 days and nights.

The world didn’t change; Jonah did.

Floating around in the dark gullet of an animal, covered in fish juices (and other stuff you don’t want to imagine) had a profound effect on him. There are changes in perspective that you gain only by spending time in the belly of a fish. Those dark, stinking places and hard, despairing times that we go through shape us more deeply and define us more clearly than most other experiences. They point out our weaknesses and underscore the fact that God has none. Jonah cries out from his own literal fish belly, “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD” (2:7). Our response to difficulty should be no different. Only by remembering God can we have the right perspective.

The Jonah drifting into the deep in the ship’s wake toward the awaiting fish’s mouth was not the same Jonah gulping the fresh air on the shore after being spit out. Likewise, the way you view God, others or even yourself can change dramatically after a period of time in the fish’s belly.

When you do land on the shore, let your first breath be one of thanks, and go to your own Nineveh with a new perspective of the One who holds your life.

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