A dear friend of mine gave a wonderful talk in church today based on the story of Jonah. She started out by giving some historical context to the tale - describing the impact of the Assyrians conquering Nineveh and what the social/political climate would have been like at the time. It was with GOOD reason that dear Jonah was fearful and decided to high tail it in the other direction to Tarshish. My friend then read a few scriptures and paraphrased the story of Jonah with which we are familiar - focusing on one piece I had previously overlooked:
Jonah 1:17 "Now the Lord had prepared the great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."
The Lord PREPARED that fish to be in the right place at the right time to prevent Jonah from drowning. A fish of that size does not grow in a day, or a month, or even a single year. This was a BIG fish. But God is an eternal being and He had the Big Picture in mind all along. He knew the nature of Jonah and He knew the challenges this dear man would face. Jonah was basically a good guy who had some important work to do. But God knew that at a key moment he was likely to lose courage. So God prepared a fish.
God knows what challenges I will face. God knows the things that I will master and the things that will cause me to falter. He will prepare ways for me to get through each challenge.
Now, when Jonah got swollowed up by that fish I doubt very seriously he said "Yeah- Goodie, I'm saved!" It must have been dark and nasty in there. It was probably excruciatingly painful, difficult to breathe and downright terrifying. But being in the body of that whale (or whatever sort of fish it may have been) is all that stood between Jonah and drowning.
Sometimes when I am swollowed up by circumstances that SEEM to be yet another layer of adversity perhaps I would do well to recognize I may be caught in the throat of some big fish. What feels like I'm getting eaten alive may be the very circumstances I need to carry me through to where I need to ultimately be, just as it was when Jonah was spit out onto dry ground.
For another take on the Jonah tale, check out this blog where I snagged the picture of the whale I included here.