Some of my favorite descriptions of words, phrases, and grammar come from Lemony Snicket. I gushed about his books a couple weeks ago, so check it out if you haven’t. One of the descriptions he talks of is the saying, “in the belly of the beast.” It speaks of a figurative feeling one gets when in the middle of an unfortunate circumstance, but in scripture, there is a literal event where one particular individual is in, “the belly of the beast.” Jonah was a man who God called for a great mission, but he trusted his own power and not God’s. Because of this, he believed he could not accomplish it, so he ran. Isn’t that a perfect picture of what we do in our own lives? I’m a victim of it, we have a situation we think we can’t overcome, so we run, we retreat from the promise on the other side of facing great peril. The truth is, we rely too much on our own strength when we should be trusting God. We have a God who created the universe and loves us. You’re right thinking you can’t get through it, but God can. No matter what you’re facing, God can. The calling that looks too big? God can. The mountain in your life? God can. When it feels like the world is against you and there is no hope? God can. We can learn much from Jonah, we can learn how to act in the belly of the beast.
Jonah is a funny character, he was given a mission to be a light for the people of Nineveh, and God was ready to wipe out this group if they didn’t stop their evil ways. Jonah was overwhelmed because he was living out of his own power and not Gods. He ran, in the opposite direction. God sent a storm to the ship he was fleeing on, in that moment he was convicted, this trouble was caused by him, so he volunteered to be thrown from the ship. Then this is where the really wild moment happens, a big fish swallows Jonah up. Jonah was both literally and figuratively in the belly of the beast. A good piece of truth in this is that sometimes we create the storms we find ourselves in. Whether you’re in a storm you created or one that you were thrown into, we have a choice. Jonah does something amazing in the belly of the beast and it is a choice we all must face.
Pray in the midst of darkness.
There is a moment in the darkness we all encounter, a moment where hope begins to fade and all seems lost. We struggle, words are said both to us and us to others, depression creeps in, fear begins to rip the flesh from our bones. We fall down, down, down into darkness. There is a choice, and it makes all the difference. We can let the darkness consume us, or we can cry out. Jonah chose what we all need to choose, to cry out in prayer to our sovereign savior. Jonah 2:5-6 says, “The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit.” Poetry. In the moments we face where it seems like the darkness may win, we must cry out to the light. I encourage you in the storm you face, pray out loud, cry out to light the light, and choose to trust in the one who commands the beasts. You may find yourself in the belly of the beast, but God commands the beasts. Jonah 2:10 concludes the chapter by saying, “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah on to dry land.
God used the beast in Jonah’s life to bring him where he was always meant to go. Pray in the darkness.
Remain humble in the presence of God moving.
Jonah then steps into his calling, saving the people of Nineveh by telling them God wished they would turn away or they would perish. Jonah was convinced they would not, but God’s plan was so much more powerful. God had compassion on people he was ready to wipe out. I’m sorry to say, this is not where the story ends. One would think Jonah would have learned that God’s plan is better, but sadly, he made the mistake that we can often make. Jonah didn’t believe the people could be redeemed, he was angry that God did not kill them all. I won’t be able to answer the questions in your life, but what I can tell you, is that God’s plan is bigger than you. God has a place and purpose for you, but he is above all things, he is constantly moving and working. We need to be humble in the fact that God has you where you are for a reason.
He will use you in the belly of the beast and he will redeem the beast.
He is God, and we won’t fully be able to understand him. The thing we must remember is to hold true to a great and loving God, a God whose grace overflows when we don’t deserve it. It can be easy once we make it out of the belly of the beast, to be prideful of our resilience and strength during that time, but the truth is, we need to remain humble. Your strength would have made the beast devour you completely, God was the one who commanded the beast and have the power to come out unharmed. Remain humble because God is moving in all things.
Right now, you might be in the belly of the beast. You and your spouse can’t seem to salvage the relationship. Finances make it tough to get through the mountain of bills to pay. You might be in an internal battle with depression of thoughts of suicide. You may be in an abusive relationship, either physical or emotional, and need to get out (you do, more information below, there is hope and you are so worth loving). You might be facing continual cycles of rejection and others can’t see the skills you bring to the table. In all of these beasts, God is moving. He hasn’t given up on you. Last week looked at the power of forgiveness, God wouldn’t have sent his son to die and rise again in order to pay for your sins if you were not worth it. In this moment of darkness and moments to come, cling to the light. Remember that God will use the beast to transport you to your purpose, and God will redeem the beast.
God loves you and God has power over the beasts in your life.
Today I mentioned some serious forms of abuse. Physical and verbal abuse as well as sexual assault and rape are serious, and if you are in a situation like this, you need to protect yourself and live free from this. God wants you to be in a situation where you are protected from the person doing you harm, and there is always hope. Please contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline online or at 1-800-799-7233.
I also spoke on depression today, and when I mention it, I know how dark life can seem. I know that you feel alone and hurt, but there is hope. There is always someone there for you and I never want you to feel like you have no other option. If you are feeling suicidal thoughts, I want you to call this number (844) 359-6685
There is never shame in getting professional help and I am a mental health advocate, please get in contact with NAMI (1-800-950-6264), or message me and I can direct you to some great resources.
There is hope, and you are so worth loving.