Do you ever find it easier to forgive others than to forgive yourself? Maybe you’ve done something you knew was wrong—spoken unkind words, exhibited a bad attitude, or treated someone unfairly. Maybe you cheated an employer by not giving a full day’s work. Or perhaps you sensed God asking you proceed in a specific direction and refused to do so.
The other day I accepted an assignment to write devotions based on specific scripture passages. One told the story of Jonah disobeying God and being swallowed by a whale. As I prayed about what God might want to say in the devotion, He brought an interesting thought to my mind.
When God asked Jonah to go preach to the wicked city of Nineveh, Jonah ran away from the Lord and boarded a ship in another direction. The Lord brought a storm that threatened to break the ship apart. Jonah owned up to his sin and asked the sailors to throw him into the sea.
Long story short, God caused a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and he remained in the fish’s belly for three days and nights. Inside, Jonah looked to God for help and salvation, and God commanded the fish to vomit Jonah on dry ground.
As I thought about the story, I realized that if God had wanted to, He could have chosen a more obedient man to carry the message to Nineveh. For sure, God knew how Jonah would react to the assignment. But God didn’t choose someone else. He chose Jonah.
I thought about the people of Nineveh. This was a wicked city full of hard-hearted people. Experience makes me think such people would not take kindly to being told they were living wrong and needed to change. Rather, I would expect them to ridicule and humiliate the man of God. Maybe even harm him physically.
But along came Jonah with a story to tell. Show-and-tell … or should we say show-and-smell. Jonah’s was a story of disobedience. Repentance. And salvation.
Imagine the fervency with which Jonah spoke of his experience, emphasizing the consequences of disobedience. His was an experience the Ninevites could connect to intellectually and emotionally. And because of Jonah’s words, the Ninevites turned from their wicked ways.
We all make mistakes. That’s a given. But how reassuring to know God uses even our most feeble attempts to further His kingdom. To know that on our worst days, God still has our backs. And always will.
Barbara E. Haley
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