But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and all the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; how shall I look again upon your holy temple?’ The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the Pit, O Lord my God. As my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who worship vain idols forsake their true loyalty. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the Lord!” Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.
Many, if not all of us, find ourselves in a time where we are embracing more ambiguity and uncertainty in a world with Covid-19 and in looking towards a Covid-19 impacted future. Perhaps unsure when school will resume, unsure about income and employment, or about the health of our loved ones. We may feel more vulnerable to forces outside of our control than we are used to. Like us, there was a time when Jonah entered into an ambiguous, uncertain, and vulnerable state and that is where we pick up our devotional today.
Yesterday we read about how God used people around Jonah to hold him accountable to who he was and his call. Today we witness Jonah’s transformation through his prayers in a deeply vulnerable state. Jonah was held in the dark, wet, fleshy, and very much alive belly of the fish for 72 hours. After being thrown overboard Jonah was completely out of control and had no idea where he was going or if he would even survive.
In Jonah’s prayer he was not focused on if God would save him or asking God what would happen next. Instead he remembers who God is, how God has called him, and repents to renew his vow to God. It is in the uncomfortable and unpredictable belly of the fish that Jonah reflects back to when he is first called by God. It is when he realizes his own vulnerability and lack of control that he remembers God and expresses gratitude. Jonah thought that being thrown overboard would have been the end of his life, but God did not let him die. Even though Jonah was in a precarious situation he had gratitude because he knew that it was only through the grace of God that his life had been saved.
From Jonah’s prayer in the belly of the fish we learn the importance of remembering our dependence on and gratitude to God. Jonah could have cried, been paralyzed by fear, or been asking God incessant questions about if and when he would make it out of the fish alive. Instead the dark, unpredictable, and uncomfortable space caused him to remember his dependence on God.
Fos us in a time of Covid-19 we may feel out of control and uncomfortable. In learning from Jonah’s prayer we gain wisdom on the ways that God is revealed when we realize that we are vulnerable and need God. Perhaps this time is an opportunity to let what is uncomfortable or painful teach us our need for God. Perhaps instead of focusing only on what will happen next or what must change, we can start by remembering God and to remind ourselves why we worship.
God we release any perceptions that we have of control over our own lives. Give us the courage to sit with what is difficult, to be grateful for all you have provided in this season, and to repent when you remind us how we have turned away from your call to love. Amen.
Written by: Cassie Chee, Pastoral Intern