We run and hide for all sorts of reasons in our lives and relationships.
We are afraid of love or of loving someone else and opening ourselves up to hurt. We are afraid of being loved and opening ourselves up to be left.
We do the same things with God.
We run one way when He tells us to run another way. We try to take his role as God in our lives because we have a better strategy, a plan this time that will make everything work.
We hide from God because we aren’t sure how to be known, how to be in a relationship. We aren’t sure if God is safe because the family we grew up in wasn’t safe.
All of this leaves us in a miserable spot. It leaves us alone and afraid many times.
There’s a book of the Bible that is so familiar, and the reason it is so familiar is because we so easily see ourselves in it.
In Jonah we see someone that is very much like us.
A man who is scared, who doesn’t want to do what God calls him to do (in fact, it’s the last thing he wants to do), and so he runs.
He doesn’t just run, he buys a boat and a crew and sails in the opposite direction.
I always thought that Jonah ran because he didn’t want to go to Nineveh, which is partly true, but not for the reason I always believed.
Jonah went to Tarshish, an exotic port city. A place with pools, beaches, hip restaurants, while relaxing with umbrellas in your drink kind of place. He went after the life he wanted. He went after the life he felt he deserved.
This to me is one of the main reasons we get angry at God, one of the main reasons we run from God: someone else got our life. That person got my marriage, my family, my career. My life was supposed to go that way, but it didn’t. My family picture was supposed to have three kids in it, but it has none. My bank account was supposed to have another zero or two, but it doesn’t.
So we run. We hide. We get mad.
The other reason we run from God is we aren’t sure God will chase us.
Many of us have feelings of unworthiness and abandonment. We wonder if anyone cares, if anyone loves us. So we run.
We hide our sin, our desire, our pain, because we don’t know if God will care. We despise what God tells us to do because we know better. We run from God because we don’t want to go to Nineveh, what seems dull, boring or difficult in our life. We want Tarshish. We want the beach and drinks with umbrellas in them while we prop up our feet. We want to run from our marriage instead of doing the hard work. We want to bail on integrity because sin is more fun. We want to spend more money than we make because we deserve it.
We want Tarshish because we deserve Tarshish. That is my life, and God, you won’t take it from me.
But here’s what we see in Jonah 1:
You can’t out run the face of God, the presence of God. This sounds like a threat, but it isn’t. It is God’s grace to us. We need his face, his presence. We long for it, but we also fear it because in God’s presence we are known. We also see that the further we run, as far as our sin goes, God’s grace and his presence always find us there. His grace always goes one step further than our sin.
In the storm, God spared no expense to show his mercy to Jonah. He didn’t leave Jonah or let Jonah go. He went after Jonah to show his grace.
Let me say this to you if you find yourself in a storm or you see one coming. I don’t know if God allowed your storm to come or sent your storm, but your storm is an invitation of God’s grace to stop running from him. To stop hiding from him. To rest in him. To fall into him.
God will use whatever means necessary to grab our hearts. God will use health issues, marital issues, relational wounds, financial troubles, troubled kids and teenagers, friends who leave us. He will use it all to get a hold of our hearts, to get our allegiance.
God uses all situations for his glory and redemption. Verse 16 is incredible. All the men feared the Lord and offered a sacrifice to the Lord. All the men began following God because of Jonah’s stupidity, selfishness and the power and grace of God.
Nothing and no one is out of the reach of God’s grace.
Os Guiness said, We cannot find God without God. We cannot reach God without God. We cannot satisfy God without God – which is another way of saying that all our seeking will fall short unless God starts and finishes the search. The decisive part of our seeking is not our human ascent to God, but his descent to us. Without God’s descent there is no human ascent. The secret of the quest lies not in our brilliance but in his grace.
So, why are you running from God? What is it that God has called you to? What things in your life are you doing that you know God has so much more for you?
Why are you hiding from God? What thing or person are you trying to keep from God?
Here’s a good way to test this. What is your prayer life like?
The reason I ask is, often when we are running and hiding we want nothing to do with praying. It is our way of trying to take hold, take control of the situation.