“One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.” ~ Master Oogway (paraphrasing poet Jean de la Fontaine) in Kung Fu Panda
Is there something – or Someone – you’re running from?
Jonah was a man on the run. God had told him to go to the great city of Ninevah and warn its wicked people of the judgment that was coming their way. But Jonah did NOT want to do it.
Not because he was scared. Not because he didn’t trust God — but because he did!
Jonah absolutely trusted the nature and character of God. He knew the minute God spoke to him that by confronting them with their sins, God actually intended to save the people of Ninevah. (See Jonah 4:2) And Jonah wanted no part of it.
The people of Israel – where Jonah was from – had good reason to hate the people of Ninevah (who were Assyrians — enemies of Israel), for all of the atrocities and acts of war committed against them. The Assyrians were known for their brutality. It’s possible that Jonah had felt the impact personally, that his own family or community had been victimized in raids by Assyrian marauders. Or it’s possible he was just generally filled with disgust and outrage and righteous indignation.
Either way, Jonah decided he would not obey. But he didn’t just NOT go to Ninevah. He laced up his shoes and ran the other way.
I have to admit I understand Jonah a lot better now than I did when I was little. Back then, I could not imagine saying no to God. And running away – that’s just so silly!
All I can say is, you should see my collection of running shoes.
When we grow up, we discover that God asks us to do a lot of things we really don’t want to do. Hard things. Challenging things. Painful things.
Things that will cause us to see things we’d rather not see, feel things we’d rather not feel. Face things about ourselves, about others, about life and death – and everything before and after and in between.
Things that will ultimately draw us closer to Him and teach us to know Him – to experience Him like never before. Things that will help us learn and grow and stretch and far, far, FAR beyond our comfort zones. Things that will change us forever.
But it’s not easy. Never easy.
Often our first instinct is to run. Run from God and the things He asks us to do. Run from ourselves and from the Truth.
Looking through the pages of Scripture, we see that we come by it naturally – we come from a long line of “runners” and “hiders.” It’s as if we were born to run. We’re THAT good at it.
But you know what? Running isn’t always a bad thing.
It’s good to run from evil – from sin and temptation (2 Tim 2:22). It’s good to run from unnecessary danger — the kind God has given us the wisdom to avoid. (Prov 22:3) It’s good to run from useless quarreling and arguing with others. (Titus 3:9)
It’s good to run the race of faith – to live the life God has called us to – passionately, adventurously, freely. (Psalm 119:32, Heb 12:1-3, 1 Cor 9:24)
Most of all, instead of running FROM God, it’s awesome to run TO Him!
“The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deut 33:27) “He gathers the lambs into His arms and carries them close to His heart.” (Isa 40:11) “For He will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in His sanctuary.” (Ps 27:5)
So I guess the question isn’t really, “Are you on the run?” We all are. In one way or another.
The question is “Where are you headed? Are you running TO Him or FROM Him?” and “Are you hiding IN Him or FROM Him?”
That’s what makes all the difference…
This week’s Virtual VBS for GrownUp Girls Assignment:
Read: Jonah 1 (again), Psalm 139:1-16, and Hebrews 12:1-11. As you read the Scriptures in Psalms and Hebrews, think about how they relate to the story of Jonah and how they speak to you and your life today. Underline any key words or phrases. Jot down any points you want to remember.
Memorize: Hebrews 12:11
Reflect: Here are some questions to be thinking about, praying about, journaling on this week —
Do you have your own Jonah story? Looking back, is there a time when you know you were running from God? What happened? How did God get your attention? What did you learn from the experience?
Overall, what are some of the things you’ve learned from your failures or mistakes? Are you in a place yet where you can look back and see God’s mercy and grace, see the good that God brought out of the pain?
Is there anything you’re running from today — in a bad way? Is there something God’s asked you to do that you don’t want to do? That you’re afraid to do? Or some other feelings, emotions, decisions, problems, or people you don’t want to face?
What’s keeping you from running TO Him with these things? What can you do to “lace up your shoes” and head out in the right direction?
If you’re willing to share your thoughts, I’d love to hear from you!