The Jonah Syndrome: Part 1
While riding my motorbike to the gym today, I felt God put it in my heart to study and share about Jonah, entitling it: “The Jonah Syndrome.” Quite pleased with the creative title, I Googled it to see if it has been used before. Apparently, it has, and not just once or twice. Sigh… there are no more original thoughts left in the world, but there are still good thoughts recycled, so here we go. I am not going to read those other articles, sermons and commentaries, although I normally like to go into a subject well researched. I am electing to just read, listen to the Lord, and share my thoughts based on my observations and previous knowledge about the story. Reader, beware.
Jonah has it rough. Along with Peter and Thomas, Christians love to beat up on Jonah. Now, the criticisms are not without merit, but I think much can be learned of Jonah… especially, the Jonah inside each of us. Specifically, I want to focus on what I am going to call “The Jonah Syndrome”. This is the act of intentionally not listening to God’s voice. I propose that this malady is much more prevalent than any of us would like to admit.
I am a huge fan of “The X-Files.” Don’t judge me. It was a truly brilliant sci-fi series and featured well woven plots, acting and creative story lines. In Season 3, there is an episode, “Revelations” that has a great closing line. I won’t go into detail about the episode, but the events shake agent Dana Scully, bringing her to make confession to a priest for the first time in many years, and this dialogue ensues:
Reverend Finley: Sometimes we must come full circle to find the truth. Why does that surprise you?
Scully: Mostly, it just makes me afraid.
Reverend Finley: Afraid?
Scully: Afraid that God is speaking… but that no one’s listening.
The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. – Jonah 1:1-3
Jonah is a prophet. He doesn’t just hear from God, but He is chosen by God to be God’s voice to the people of His generation. He is in ministry, if you will. God speaks clearly to Jonah, giving him a missionary call to bring His message to another nation. Jonah has no problem hearing God’s voice, but he has EVERY problem with obedience. After receiving clear communication he gets on a boat… and goes the exact opposite direction of where God has told him to go. Why does Jonah disobey? Well, he has some pretty good reasons. For starters, the Assyrians liked to take their enemies and impale them on long wooden spikes sticking out of the ground. It’s probably not exactly like the summer mission trip you did when you were 16. He is also probably dealing with issues of racism and spiritual pride, as we will learn later in the story.
Hearing God’s voice is great. You feel connected, spiritual and your quiet times are filled with a sense of purpose. Spiritual passion and fervor is on the rise, and everything seems solid. Then, one day, it happens: God speaks, and you no likey. At this point, you reach an internal crisis; do you obey, or disobey? Due to conscience, many of us do not reach the point of complete disobedience, so we delay and distract ourselves. We wallow in indecision, pledging to get around to some decisive action soon, but before too long, our indecision has brought us to the place of disobedience.
To be continued…