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Running Toward the Darkness

As a prophet, Jonah proclaimed God’s word to the people. That was his calling, his duty, and his purpose. One day God ordered Jonah to prophesy to a group of people in Nineveh. Jonah hated those people, so he ran from God, from Nineveh, from his calling, from his duty, and from his purpose. Instead of going to Nineveh, he ran toward the farthest known outpost thousands of miles in the opposite direction – the city of Tarshish (Jonah 1:1-3, Jonah 4:1-3). This was foolishness on the part of a prophet because God examines the righteous (Psalm 11:5 NIV), and he is everywhere on the earth, both far and near (Jeremiah 23:23-24, Psalm 139:7-10). Running from God is like running from your shadow. The only way to escape it is to go to dark places. And if you run from God and his purposes for your life, that is exactly what will happen to you — either now while you are alive, or if you are unsaved, later after you die. Jonah, a prophet of God was no exception. He ended up in the dark belly of a large sea creature for three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17). Of course, he didn’t really escape God. He only escaped his palpable goodness, protection and provision, just like when you go to dark places, you don’t really escape your shadow, only the light that casts it. It’s that light that helps you see the world, to navigate it, and to build an impactful life that is worth living. This may have seemed to Jonah like punishment, but it was mercy. God was making him uncomfortable so that he would return to his calling, his duty, and his purpose. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn them that destruction was imminent if they did not change their ways. He was offering mercy to Nineveh through his servant Jonah. Ironically, Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh precisely because he knew God was merciful, and a people he hated might be spared (Jonah 4:1-3). The truth is that Jonah was already spiritually in a dark place before he ever felt the walls of a whale’s belly.  This may be true for you right now as you read this week’s Reflections. Has God told you to do something? Are you running from his command? Is there a lack of faith, a moral dimming, or a spiritual darkness that’s preventing your obedience? Is your life in tumult? Is it heading in that direction? If so, decide to obey God instead of running. Let him save you from the darkness and illuminate you with wisdom.

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