Jonah a Man of Our Time

Sunday I spoke on Jonah's prayer from the belly of the whale. He called it "Sheol". It was his hell. From his prayer we can tell what his hell looked like:
  1. The Absence of God: "I am driven away from your sight" (2:4). This isn't concocted or pretended. It is real. Jonah doesn't feel God's presence at all. Some mystics call this the dark night of the soul. It is horrible and real. Jesus experienced this on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" This isn't a spiritual exercise, but the reality for many, many people. When people are going through this, even for years, this must be respected.
  2. The Inability to Worship: "How can I look again at your holy temple?" (2:4). Jonah could not worship. There are times, sometimes long seasons, when worship doesn't seem possible. How can you worship something that isn't tangibly there? When people go through these seasons, this must be respected.
  3. Utter Confusion: "Weeds were wrapped around my head" (2:5). This is when the intellect, rightfully, gets offended and confused, dismayed. All your previous theology and thought patterns no longer suffice because they are challenged by the reality of your sufferings. We tend to try to go back to our easier beliefs, but this is escapism, denial, and useless. When people are going through this, this must be respected.
  4. Hopelessness: "I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever" (2:5). Jonah's life was over. Done. He hadn't read the book yet. He didn't know the end of the story. He was finished. If anyone is going through a time of deep hopelessness, this must be respected.
  5. The Feeling of Dying: "My life was ebbing away" (2: 7). Jonah could feel his life slipping away from his grasp. He was dying, watching his time trickle away. When people feel death at work in their lives, this must be respected.
The discussion Sunday morning was lively. Basically, we resist all of these realities. We unconsciously or consciously refuse to acknowledge these as defining the truth of the human condition, and we often retreat into our securities. Some people there Sunday morning are where Jonah was at. They're going through their own hell. Others have been there and knew what was being said. Others acknowledged that they just didn't want to go there. It was too frightening and uncomfortable, and they preferred to stand in the comfort of what they believed. It was a good discussion. The illustration is of a woodcut called "Jonah and the Whale" from the American artists, Barry Moser.
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