I was despairing and angry about my circumstances. I was facing a dilemma for which I had no solution . . . and that just frustrated me to no end. I did not run to the Lord. Instead, I fled from His wisdom and peace by sailing away in my fears and discontentment. The storm grew, and I was sinking.
By no chance, I have been studying the book of Jonah with some dear friends. Near the end of our hour together this past Saturday morning, the question was posed, “What did you learn about God from studying Jonah 1 this week?”
As I sat back and listened to their answers, I was convicted. And I was comforted. I would like to summarize for you some of the answers that were shared around my dining room table as these women recounted who God was in the storm of Jonah 1—and in the storms of their own lives when they also have fled from the Lord.
1. God is sovereign over the storm. “The Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up” (Jonah 1:4). Not only did God use the storm, He sent it! The Creator exercises power and authority over His creation (including calamity), and He is also sovereign over the smallest details of life: “Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.’ So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah” (Jonah 1:7). As it says in Proverbs 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the Lord.”
2. God is present in the storm. “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. . . Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, ‘How could you do this?’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them” (Jonah 1:3, 10). The saying, “He can run, but he can’t hide,” was first attributed to the American boxer Joe Louis, but Jonah was one of the earliest examples of this truth: You can’t escape the presence of God; His dominion is not limited; He is everywhere, even in your storm.
3. God is purposeful in the storm. “He said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.” However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them . . . So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging” (Jonah 1:12-13,15). The storm achieved the purpose for which God had sent it—to get Jonah back on track. It was not a storm of fate. It was not a storm of vengeance. It was a storm with purpose, and God always achieves His purposes in the storms of our lives. As it says in Isaiah 46:9-10, “I am God and there is no one like me . . . saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish my good pleasure.”
4. God is mercifully pursuing through the storm. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Ninevah the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me. . . Then the men [sailors] feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. . . And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:1, 16,17). God pursued Ninevah. God pursued the sailors. God pursued Jonah. It was a storm of correction and discipline, redemption, and declaration. In His mercy, not because of any merit of their own, God went after these people to show them the error of their ways, to pour out His grace upon them, and to declare to them the greatness of His name. Likewise, the Lord pursues us in our storms. What a tender mercy.