Summary: This is the 15th of 31 devotions from a series called, 'The Church Called Jonah.' In these devotions, which are based on the book of Jonah, I make a comparison between The Church-at-large in the light of this present global pandemic.

# 15 – The First Death Wish

Jonah 1:12: “And 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 this great tempest is because of me.’”

In our previous devotion we saw how the sailors asked Jonah what they should do to him so that the sea would become calm for them. In this devotion, we look at Jonah’s response to that question.

“And he said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea…”

The response by Jonah to the sailors to pick him up and throw him into the sea must have been most unexpected and would have shocked them out of their wits. How would throwing a man overboard solve a problem like a tempestuous sea? Discarding cargo didn’t help any, discarding a man couldn’t make much of a difference. But Jonah seemed to have a different way of thinking to the sailors. We’re not told why Jonah arrived at this solution but let’s look at two possible reasons. Firstly, perhaps he thought he was so far gone in his act of rebellion against God that God could not forgive him. In fact it was God Himself who sent the tempest on account of him. So he decided to take the law into his own hands, and he became, not just the culprit but also the judge, pronouncing judgment on himself.

The second possibility is, that this was an act of cowardice – to flee from the situation he had got himself and the sailors in, and to also flee from the call of God on His life, by putting an end to it once and for all.

What options did Jonah have? He could have pleaded with God for mercy and forgiveness, repented and decided to obey the Lord’s call. The Lord would have made a way for Him to retrace his steps back to His calling. He could have offered to help the sailors in their efforts to get through the storm. After all, another hand could make a difference, right? But instead He chose death as the way out for himself.

Going by the assumption that this tempest-illence (pandemic) was sent by God to wake up The Church to our call to be a reflection of Him and to make disciples of all nations, what option would we choose to end this crisis? Would we seek God’s mercy and pardon and repent of our rebellion against God’s call on our lives, or would we decide to continue on in rebellion even if it meant both us and others losing our lives? The Lord is willing to have mercy and deliver us from this pandemic if only we will seek Him whole-heartedly.

With this suggested solution did Jonah have just himself in mind or would this be a solution for the sailors as well? Let’s read on.

“…then the sea will become calm for you.”

The problem the sailors faced was the raging sea, which destabilised their boat and made making headway impossible, and more seriously, put the ship and the lives of all those on board in jeopardy. If only the sea could be calm again, all would be well again and they could proceed on their journey.

If you look back at the question the mariners asked Jonah, it was, ““What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?” It seemed like a ‘you and us’ situation had arisen. They wanted Jonah, to tell them what they should do to him, so that the sea would become calm for them. Notice the ‘you and us’ at play in that question. So the answer Jonah gave them was along the same lines. “Pick me up and throw me into the sea, then the sea will become calm for you.” Notice the ‘you and me’ at play in his response too? Jonah didn’t just have himself in mind with his suggested solution – he also had the sailors and the ship in mind.

Have you noticed, how when we are in a crisis situation – take this pandemic for example - no one but us and our families matter? Other people’s lives and concerns usually take a back seat. Sad as it is, it’s a stark reality of life today. Praise God for exceptions to this rule, where loving people are concerned for theirs and others’ lives as well, and they do all they can to help people in need. This is the best proof of selfless, sacrificial love of God. Those who make decisions to share love in this way stand as great testimonies of God’s divine love).

During this pandemic, are we in a similar situation, where it’s a ‘you and us’ game at play? Are we concerned about none other than ourselves and our families? Do we want a solution for our problem, even if it’s at another’s expense? Or are we concerned for both ourselves and others as well? Are we going out of our way to help those in need? Let’s remember that the world is watching us during these times and every demonstration of divine love is noticed and will impact their lives. Theodore Roosevelt said it beautifully, when he said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Let’s remember that at the end of the day, it’s love that impacts lives – not programmes and projects – these only serve as vehicles to express love. It’s only God’s love demonstrated through us, The Church that can transform lives of people, just like it transformed ours.

What might it take for this tempest-illence (pandemic) to go away? Would it mean that we The Church would need to be plunged into persecution for there to be a calm in the world? Is that what Jesus talked about in Matthew 24:1-31, where He foretold that The Church would go through a great tribulation, the likes of which were never seen before and would never be seen thereafter? (Matthew 24:.21)

“…For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”

Jonah goes on to be quite explicit about the acknowledgment of the fact that he was responsible for the tempest they were facing. He says, “For I know that this tempest is because of me.” We must appreciate the honesty of Jonah here. He did not try to deny the fact that he was responsible, he did not downplay the drawing of lots that led to him being discovered as the culprit – he willingly acknowledged his wrong doing to the mariners.

When we are confronted with an issue we might be guilty of, what’s our response? Do we deny our wrongdoing, do we blame others, do we justify ourselves, or do we accept our wrong doing. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”

If we The Church are the cause for this pandemic, what’s our response going to be? Will we deny, will we blame, will we justify or will we acknowledge, repent and seek God for mercy? Let’s decide to do just that, knowing that our God is merciful and willing to forgive and turn things around. It’s not worth continuing on as if nothing’s amiss – it can be detrimental to both ourselves The Church and to the world around as well.

Have a great day or night – God bless you