The Way of the Warrior Week 23 - The Warrior's Journey®

The Way of the Warrior Week 23

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The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah.  (Matt. 12:41).  Jesus makes this statement, affirming the Ninevites had genuine repentance and when that happened, the Lord was delighted.

Jonah’s ministry was gloriously successful, because of the power of God.  However, a very peculiar matter arises – Jonah was so distraught by the Ninevites salvation that: ‘…it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.’  (Jonah 4:1).  If I was writing the book of Jonah, I might have finished with chapter 3 and left Jonah’s petulance unmentioned, since it is so bizarrely unreasonable.  This is one of the reasons the Bible has the ring of truth- it doesn’t sugarcoat people’s blemishes.

Okay, so Jonah is angry.  So what? He has a bone to pick with the Ninevites, or he’s biased or prejudiced, or some other ‘ism’ that makes him weird.  Why is chapter 4 included, since it is so peculiar? The Lord includes the next narrative to give us a revealing insight into the character and nature of God. He was utterly gracious to Nineveh, then was super tolerant with a very challenged Jonah.  Jonah needs a measure of patience, that only someone as good as the Lord, could give. Jonah was so bent out of shape, most of us would have thrown him back in the sea, to get swallowed again.

But his behavior is a clue to his angst.  He notes that the Lord is: ‘…gracious…merciful..  slow to anger…abounding in steadfast love…relenting from disaster.(4:2).  But then he prays something upside down and backwards: Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (4:3).  He thinks it’s better to die!  This kind of anger, leading to a wish to die is not from an emotionally healthy person.

Jonah has experienced near death trauma.  He was the target of sailors who threw him overboard to drown.  Though he offered that idea as a solution, the actual act of discarding him was jarring.  Jonah was a victim of their action. Thus, trying to believe the unbelievable, the brutal reality of being sacrificed to die, so others could live, is challenging. This can put one’s mind into anguish, with emotions like anxiety and panic.

The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head…at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever (2:5, 6).  He was in danger as a result of his own behavior.  There was a sense of shame, that goes with his dying, since it seems he was unlovable and deserving of being mistreated.  The sailor’s actions convinced him that he was disgraceful.

Trauma survivors don’t dismiss painful experience, rather they internalize them.  Ask combat vets. Trauma victims have their lives shattered, and it’s enhanced when one does not anticipate the suffering.  Jonah thought he was off to vacation in Tarshish, when wham! A mega storm arises, followed by being thrown to certain death.  Stacked crisis.

Then at the very moment of drowning, a mega monster from the deepest and darkest place on earth, gobbles him up.  Death would have been preferable to being gulped down as a snack. Traumas stacked on each other are devastating. Riding around in a fish’s innards is not like lying on a sofa in front of your TV. I don’t know how to describe it, I’m guessing it’s full of ghastly things sliming you while you’re on a carnival ride for three days.

Trauma is the intrusion of death or near-death into life when one is a victim of circumstances beyond their control.  Jonah’s condition, of living in fear and danger, diminishes his ability to have hope — you see this in his prayer to die (4:3). To restore one’s health, one needs to re educate the mind and body.  The Lord will reeducate Jonah to feel pity, rather than fear. This is a stupendous intervention by God for Jonah.

Survivors of trauma often try to disconnect because of the fear of pain.  They regularly numb or hide themselves from future loss or hurt. This might be what Jonah seems to be wanting — to disengage, to die, to escape future loss. Is this why his behavior is so peculiar?

The VA notes in their statistics, there is an average of 117 adults that die of suicide each day the America. 20 of those 117 are veterans, which is a rate of suicide two times higher for veterans, then for non-veterans.  Military personnel are tasked with engaging in warfare, embracing conflict, and are most vulnerable in wanting to die in order to avoid further trauma. Jonah’s reaction was not unusual.

The Bible does not reveal Jonah’s exact condition, thus we are speculating.  Yet, the Lord discloses a canny understanding of Jonah’s thoughts, and he begins to unwrap the issues Jonah’s dealing with. He does not leave Jonah in a state of malaise, rather, the Lord actively engages Jonah to help him recover from his unresolved anger.  He will do the same for us. He does not abandon us to figure things out on our own. He starts doing heart surgery.

“And the LORD said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?’” (4:4).  He begins to drill down. Maybe I’m crazy, but is the Lord asking the question because he doesn’t know what Jonah’s thinking? “…you discern my thoughts from afar,” (Ps. 139:2).  No, he actually knows what you’re thinking!  Oh, what’s more: Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. (139:4).  Yep, he knows what you’re going to say – before you blab!

Come on!  Why is he asking what he already knows?!  This is a counseling session. The Lord is scratching an itch, probing, to get the counselee to open-up, to reconnect.

The predominant hope for a trauma victim is to speak openly to someone who loves and cares about them.  Hope does not come from medications, or from disengaging, but from interacting with a sympathetic person who understands their condition.  The Lord knows this, because he created us, and is willing to help because he cares for us.

There may be some ‘Jonahs’ reading this.  Some who are guarded, who are protecting themselves from future pain, and as a result are in distress. Perhaps some cannot get emotionally settled.  Anger is bubbling, ready to pop up in rage, impatience, outbursts, irritability, or worse, detachment. Will the Lord let you disengage? Nope.

He’s going to chase you down: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” (Ps. 23:6).  Jonah tried to ignore of the Lord – it won’t work.  The Lord is a hard charger, he’ll not take ‘no’ for an answer.  He wants to liberate you, he’s on your side!

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