Have you ever run away from something, and I don’t mean something that might threaten your life? I mean, has there been a time in your life when you ran because you didn’t want what was in front of you, so you did a 180 and took off like lightening in the opposite direction?
Most of us, if we’ve lived for any length of time, can remember at least one of those times, maybe even more than one. As Christians, that running most likely involved running from God. Not too many believers would say that in some way at some time they didn’t run from what God was telling them to do. After all, there is a little Jonah in all of us.
Abraham Kuyper, the journalist, once wrote,
“Our heart is continually inclined to rebel against the Lord our God. So ready to rebel, that O, so gladly, were it but for a single day, we would take from His hands the reins of His supreme rule, imagining that we would manage things far better and direct them far more effectively than God.”
What do we do when we find ourselves running? What do we do when we see someone else running?
If it’s us who’s running, chances are that we don’t even see it. But if it’s someone that we simply know, either from church or just an acquaintance, we may be tempted to sit in judgment, as if it’s simply their weak constitution or their lax moral integrity that might cause such a detour. We might simply shake our heads in feigned remorse, thinking, “What is he thinking? Doesn’t he know that he can’t run from God?”
If it’s a loved one, maybe a child or a spouse or sibling, the pain can be almost immobilizing. Suddenly all memories of our own course changes are almost non-existent, and the only things we can think are, “What is he doing? Doesn’t he know that he can’t run from God?”
I don’t know….can we?
Let me remind you of how Jonah did. In Jonah 1:1, we read:
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah…
That means that God literally let Jonah know exactly what He was thinking.
Then in verse 2, God said to Jonah,
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
This was not what Jonah expected. After all, he was the Lord’s prophet. He was supposed to go and direct his prophecies to the nation of Israel. He wasn’t supposed to go to Israel’s enemies and prophesy so that they might be saved. What in the world was God thinking?
Maybe we should think of this in terms that are closer to home. Maybe the little Jonah in you might sound more like:
“God doesn’t want me in this marriage! He wants me happy, and I’m not happy here! What is God thinking?”
Or maybe this:
“God wouldn’t want me to miss out on a better lifestyle. He says that I will get the desires of my heart, and my heart desires that car or that dress or that house (that I can’t afford). He wouldn’t keep me from it, would He? What is God thinking?”
Or maybe our child’s little Jonah says this:
The little Jonah in all of us might say slightly different words, but it’s pretty much the same thing. All of us have listened to the little Jonah some time or another, and we all run for exactly the same reason that Jonah ran. Verse 3 says,
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
The truth is that this running isn’t literally from God, since we, as His children, are always and forever His and in His loving care. However, what we can and do run from is what the literal translation says is the “face of the Lord.” Jonah was trying to get as far away from where he would be confronted with all that God is. When we run, we run from the same thing, which generally means we run from the church or our church family or anything else that might remind us of who God is.
There is a reason that many have called Satan the “travel agent of distraction.” If he can get us away from the “presence of God” or the “face of God,” then he can also deceive us into thinking that we can get away from it, which consequently keeps us from healing and love and peace. Warren Wiersbe wrote in his book, Be Amazed,
“It’s possible to be out of the will of God and still have circumstances appear to be working on your behalf. You might be rebelling against God and still have a false sense of security that includes a good night’s sleep. However, God in his providence was preparing for Jonah a great fall.”
But the good news is that God always provides a fish, doesn’t He? He always provides exactly the right storm at exactly the right time so that even though we may be distracted temporarily, we are never permanently lost.
Jesus said in John 6:39,
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose none of all that he has given me.
If you are running from the face of God today—refusing to go to church, avoiding your Christian friends, finding every excuse in the book for not getting involved with your believing family—genuinely reflect on the little Jonah in you. God will not lose you, but I can promise you that it is no fun in the belly of the fish! Bow before the throne of the One who will never leave you nor forsake you and come home. Unless it is God you are running toward, you’re headed for the storm.
And if it is a loved one who is running from God’s loving face, take heart and never lose hope. The promise that Jesus gave in John applies to every one of His children. The fish is coming. Keep praying and keep your eyes fixed upward. God will bring him home.
After all, there is a little Jonah is all of us, but there is a great God who owns our hearts!
To read more from Dr. Deb Waterbury, visit debwaterbury.com
Have you ever run all over your house looking for your glasses when they were on your head? How about screaming to the person on your cell phone that you can’t find your phone? A young mother just told me that she couldn’t figure out why her other three children kept looking at her like she was out of her mind when she asked them where their baby sister was…their baby sister who was perched happily on her hip!
The best one yet, however, was from my good friend who told me the other day that when she poured her morning cup of coffee she scalded her hand when she picked it up. Having not even looked at the cup before touching it, she looked down bewildered. That’s when she saw that she had poured her coffee into and long stem wine glass.
Life is often a madhouse, a series of seemingly random, but purposeful events that string together in something that seldom looks like pearls. Our life strings often look more like one of those pasta necklaces our children made for us in preschool.
In other words, it’s not neat. It’s messy.
My daddy used to tell me that I had two speeds in life: Stop and Hair on Fire. Unfortunately, I seem to settle in the one where smoke billows from my head. Do you?
As Christian women who “manage the house,” as Paul very aptly described it in Titus 2, how can we combat this? Because the truth is that as much as we might want to think that productivity comes in the “hair on fire” mode, it really comes in the “stop” mode.
Why do you suppose that the psalmist records our Lord as saying in Psalm 46:10,
Be still and know that I am God.
When you really think about the application of this verse in day-to-day terms, the truth is that none of us can listen to anyone while we’re spinning in life to the point of exhaustion and losing our glasses, children, minds, and coffee mugs! How can we expect the peace that surpasses all understanding from our Father when we aren’t at peace in our lives? (Philippians 4:7)
Sisters, no one can force you to look for this kind of peace. You must decisively choose to stop, even for a moment, and listen. God speaks to us every day and in so many beautiful ways. However, we simply will not hear Him if we are running around with our hair on fire, even if it is doing things that are ultimately good.
C.S. Lewis once said,
“The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day come rushing at you like wild animals. And the first job of every morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter voice come flowing in.”
As women of God, we are called to be women of excellence in His name, so of course, our lives are going to be full. But full doesn’t have to mean crazy. Full doesn’t have to mean running around like the proverbial chicken with her head cut off. And full doesn’t have to mean out of control.
Full means living to the best and loveliest extent of all that the Father has given us. Full means smiling in the running, singing in the busy, laughing in the chaos. Most importantly, though, full means living a life that ultimately points to the gracious love of our Savior. Full means that we do not lack joy or rest in the middle of everything we do.
In order for us to do that, sometimes we have to stop, take a breath, and look up. Sometimes we simply have to remember when Jesus said,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
It’s okay that sometimes you lose the child on your hip or that you grab a wine glass instead of a coffee cup. But when those times come, remember that perhaps it’s also time to stop, take a knee, and know that He is God.
You could feel the tension in the air while the eleven-year-old girl stood timidly, at the edge of the high dive, reluctant to take the plunge…
As the she stood there contemplating what to do, I could only imagine the fear and self-doubt that was racing through her mind. Even though parents and swim teammates were rooting for her and encouraging her to “JUMP,” she just couldn’t muster enough courage of her own to jump. (more…)
By Elizabeth Ryan
My son and I took a road trip to California over the summer and while we were there some friends of ours invited us to join them for dinner at their summer home in Coronado Island. It was late afternoon when we arrived at their beautiful home, our friends greeted us at the door and welcomed us in. As we made our way in I couldn’t help but notice a large cross hanging on the wall of the foyer. It was relatively a simple, contemporary style cross that was dark in color. As I admired it I could see that it had perfectly placed tiny dots of color that covered every inch. It was obvious that this was a beautiful piece of art, meticulously hand painted by an artist. After I studied the cross for a few moments, I proceeded into the next room to enjoy time with our friends.
As evening approached, my friend began to turn lights on throughout the house. I was standing in the kitchen when again the cross, illuminated by the light, caught my attention, this time even more profoundly than the first. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was in mid-sentence when I saw it. I was completely taken back by what the light revealed. (more…)
(by Dr. Deb Waterbury)
I love A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Some of us even read it to our children at Christmastime. It’s a good reminder for us to get our minds off of ourselves and onto others at this time of year. It’s a classic.
However, it just scratches the surface, doesn’t it? Poor Ebenezer Scrooge is pitied by the audience because he has so obviously missed what his nephew and the Cratchits know, what Dickens portrays as the “true meaning of Christmas,” but what really happened to Ebenezer was isolation and loneliness because of a hurt he suffered a long time before.
Remember the story? He wasn’t always cold and heartless and unkind and ALONE. He was mistreated as a child by his father, and then relationship upon relationship began to falter, because of greed and malice and pain, until he became the curmudgeonly man we all love to hate in Dickens’ story.
The truth of the story of Ebenezer Scrooge goes all the way back to relationship. It goes back to the breakdown of relationship between him and someone he loved, and this is unfortunately an age-old problem. It’s a problem for men and women, but as the sex who lives a veritable life based on relationships, this issue often permeates our lives–the lives of women. (more…)
ONE, TWO, THREE…..GO!!!!
Those were the famous last words I yelled at the 2013 Women’s Retreat I was both directing and teaching. One of the activities we had planned was a large scavenger hunt spread entirely around the resort where the retreat was being held. The plan on this particular afternoon was the 100+ ladies, divided into teams of 8-10, would do the scavenger hunt and then return after about an hour when the next lesson and small group activity would take place.
Great plan, right?
Well, little did I realize that scavenger hunts are HARD to plan. One wrong clue, one incorrect step, and the entire thing is flamboozled, which is the best word I can think of right now to describe what happened next–flamboozled.
Within about 5 minutes the first confused cell phone call came in from one of the groups. My assistant frantically looked at me and began exclaiming that the hunt wasn’t working and the ladies were all ending up at the same place. Nothing was working! She was panicking and I needed to make a decision immediately.
I told her to call each group and tell them to return to the chapel. I would go ahead and teach while she and the other workers fixed the problems with the scavenger hunt, and then it could occur after my message.
I turned from her and began to get my thoughts together, praying for guidance in this turn of events, when I noticed the volunteer workers around me. One of the young men there who was doing all of our sound and media was calmly taking action, seemingly nonplussed by this new occurrence. My assistant and others, however, were not so calm. They were panicking. This wasn’t the plan and the plan had to stay intact. What will happen?
Then the groups started arriving back at the chapel and I saw the same two manifestations of this new course in the participants. Some of the ladies came back laughing and smiling, simply enjoying each other’s company, while some of them came back clearly upset that the plan had not worked. Why hadn’t it worked? What was going to happen now that the plan hadn’t worked?
It just so happened that the theme of this particular retreat was “The Amazing Race” on Hebrews 12:1-2,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
As I watched the women return, I began remembering a scene from one of my favorite Steve Martin movies, “Parenthood.” In this movie, Martin plays a man whose life is not turning out the way he expected. His job is wrong, his children are wrong (and he’s just found out that his wife is pregnant AGAIN), his family is wrong, his friends are wrong… In essence, he was feeling much like some of these ladies at the retreat were feeling when the scavenger hunt hadn’t worked: What was going to happen now that the plan hadn’t worked?
In the movie, just when Martin’s at his wits end and about to go to a Christmas play that his daughter is in, his grandmother walks into the room and tells the now famous “Roller Coaster Story”:
Of course, we can see that Martin has missed the point, though his wife hasn’t. In the next scene, they go to the play, and Martin begins to see just how smart his grandmother is:
Why, do you ask, did this particular scene come to my mind as I prayed for guidance in my next message to these wonderful women? What does the message of “Enjoy the ride!” from a secular movie have to tell us, as Christians, especially in terms of our running this race called life?
Well, the answer to those questions became the new subject of the message I gave in the minutes following the scavenger hunt debacle. I began my message by telling the women about the scenes from “Parenthood” that you just watched. Then I told them that there were some of them who were a lot like Martin in the movie. I watched them. I saw them come into the chapel frustrated and somewhat put out that things hadn’t worked out as planned.
They were not enjoying the ride. They were certainly running the race, but they weren’t enjoying it. Why?
The simple answer is a lack of trust in God, because a Christian who truly trusts that she serves a sovereign and loving God who is wonderfully in control of every aspect of her life will enjoy the ride. She’ll enjoy it because she doesn’t worry or fret about the unexpected, knowing that none of it is unexpected to God. She’ll be able to run the race set before her not in constant agony over how things don’t go as planned, but in joyful anticipation of both eternity and the amazing ride God has planned for her.
After all, God promised us in Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
He know the plans He has for us! John Piper once preached on this verse and said that the word that the prophet Jeremiah used here for “plan” is actually the word we might know as “plots.” God actually plots for His children! That’s beautiful!
The point here is this: Christians should enjoy the ride of this life–every one of the ups and downs, ins and outs–because they are all part of the plan of the Creator of the Universe, plans that are promised to work for our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)
So life hasn’t turned out exactly like you expected? How are you going to respond to that? Instead of fretting and worrying, why not enjoy the ride of your life? God’s driving the roller coaster, and He is the perfect Operator.
Christian, Enjoy the Ride!