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Lessons From Jonah (Pt. 2): Purpose in Pain

As the first chapter of Jonah closes, we see that the rebellious prophet has unsurprisingly failed to escape the presence of the Lord and finds himself at the depths of the sea within the belly of a great fish (Jonah 1:17). Interestingly enough, Jonah does not consider this setting a punishment, but a refuge. This leads him to do something unexpected: while stuck in a fish, he thanks the Lord for his deliverance (Jonah 2:2, 5-7) and prays these powerful words:

For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.” (Jonah 2:3)

These words echo those of David when writing about the condition of his soul being in a state of spiritual depression (Psalm 42:7). What both men do is vitally important: they identify that God's hand is over their suffering and misfortune. It was God who cast Jonah into the heart of the sea, it was God's flood that surrounded him, it was His waves and billows passing over him. In other words, Jonah and David were greatly acquainted with God's providential power in their pain.


What does this mean for us? For those who are in Christ, we are now called children of God (1 John 3:1). Through Jesus, we have been chosen and adopted into God's family (Ephesians 1:5). We now have the great privilege of calling the God of the universe our Father or, as the apostle Paul writes, "Abba" (Romans 8:15). This not only means we have unhindered access to Him, but He now cares for us as his own children (Matthew 10:29-31). What we see in Jonah is a prime example of God's fatherly discipline:


"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:5-6)

This passage makes clear that God reproves or disciplines us out of love. And be sure, every one of His sons or daughters will experience correcting seasons, in fact, this is how we are confirmed as legitimate children of God! (Hebrews 12:8). As God rears us as his own, we must remember that this will be a painful process, but it leads to the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11). The good news is that God is not like earthly parents who discipline according to what seems best to them, He deals with us according to what he knows is best for sharing in His holiness (Hebrews 12:9-10). Therefore, we can rejoice knowing that the various trails we experience are purely for our benefit (James 1:2-4).

Peter agrees when he wrote, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12). Instead of being surprised, we should entrust our souls to "the faithful Creator while doing good" as we suffer "according to God's will" (1 Peter 4:19). As we will later learn from Jonah's life, God is over all so we can rest.

The takeaway today is simple, yet powerful: we can be confident that, because of who God is to us, there is indeed purpose in our pain. If you are a follower of Jesus currently facing difficulty, take these words to heart and trust your heavenly Father with whatever may come. Be assured that he wastes nothing!