That one statement pierced my heart and I sat in that pew and wept.
I wept in the loss. I wept because even in his frailness before death, he was a pillar of strength in my church family and now he was gone. I also wept because I had regrets too, and I was drowning in a sea of shame and condemnation. I so desired to grasp that quiet strength I witnessed lived out in this man's life.
Last Saturday I sat along the seashore in a bed of sand wondering about regret and disobedience and the God of second chances who redeems both.
The waves gently tumbled onto the shore and then back out again, but in the open Word on my lap a tempestuous storm was raging in the sea.
God had given a command to one of His own.
Arise. Go. Cry out.
The man arose, but then fled. His vain attempt to flee from the presence of the Lord, even going so far as to pay money to get as far away as possible, only led him into the worst storm of his life that almost cost him his life.
But even in Jonah's rebellion the Lord had prepared a plan to save him.
Jonah's disobedience to God's voice exposed his fear and weakness, but it also exposed his faith.
"Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me." Jonah 1:12
At first the men didn't believe it, so they strived harder to control the ship in the storm. (Sounds a little like my life some days.) Finally, they relented and cast Jonah out to sea
The raging ceased. But Jonah's thrashing did not. He was drowning in a sea of shame and regret.
In that moment, God, in His goodness, reached down and extended mercy to an undeserving child of God
God's mercy fell upon Jonah in the form of a big fish. It swallowed him whole allowing Jonah to think twice about rebellion for three days.
Weren't we all just Jonah's a few hours ago? Did we miss God's mercy that fell softly upon our rebellions hearts, minds, attitudes and actions?
Wouldn't it be nice some days if a big fish would come and take us away for 3 days?
In the belly of the fish, Jonah had nowhere to turn except to the Lord.
Jonah cried out of the belly and his voice was heard, even in the depths of the ocean.
In the darkness Jonah acknowledged the weeds wrapped around his head. "What was I thinking, disobeying the voice of the Lord?" he must have thought.
Most days, I often have weeds wrapped around my head AND my heart!
While still in the belly of the fish, Jonah knew that the Lord was bringing him up from the pit.
Don't we know that of God too?
"For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts for a lifetime." Psalm 30:5a
Jonah's soul, the place where there is no appetite for God, fainted, and he remembered the Lord.
His disobedient attitude was transformed into a voice of thanksgiving.
"So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land." Jonah 2:10
The God of second chances spoke once again.
Arise. Go. Preach.
This time Jonah went.
But not without regrets.
We will all die with regrets, just like that man in my church. We will all choose to disobey the voice of God more than we would care to admit, but He is a merciful God and will pull us out of the pits that we fall into over and over again.
He isn't just the God of second chances, He is the God of third and fourth, and seventy times seventy chances.
He has and continues to redeem my regrets and disobedience by His unfailing mercy as long as I allow myself to fall into Him . . . daily!
David knew this truth too. In I Chronicles 21:13 he said, "I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men."
God is probably not going to send a big fish to bring us to this place of "crying mercy", but He does want us to do something.
While I was sitting on the beach preparing for this post, a family set up their beach picnic very close to me. The dad was upset with his son and said very firmly, "Stop, Jonah! And just listen to your father."
And that I believe was a word from the Lord. I was so stunned that I snapped their picture.
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