A Dark and Dank Place

A huge storm of emotional upset, physical pain, or even relational conflict - could it be a sign of our disobedience? After boarding the ship to Tarshish, in clear disobedience to what God had asked Jonah to do, there comes a huge storm - rocking and tossing the ship every which way. Amazingly, Jonah is able to sleep deep down in the hull of the ship, almost 'sailing through' the calamity his disobedience seems to be bringing into the lives of the others around him! Have you ever stopped to consider this part of the story of Jonah? As I read this passage today, I had to stop and pause over this one because running away from God is seldom the answer to our problems and it creates problems for others in our lives. The harder and farther we attempt to run, the worse the problems seem to be magnified in our lives. Try as we might, God really cannot be escaped! There is just no hiding place from God!

Then they grilled him: "Confess. Why this disaster? What is your work? Where do you come from? What country? What family?" He told them, "I'm a Hebrew. I worship God, the God of heaven who made sea and land." At that, the men were frightened, really frightened, and said, "What on earth have you done!" As Jonah talked, the sailors realized that he was running away from God. (Jonah 1:8-10)

Look at where we find Jonah - in the depths of the ship. He is not just content to "get away from God", he is in deep hiding - a dark and dank place indeed! This is probably more telling about what really happens when we run from God - we feel the need to "duck and take cover" wherever we think we will not be discovered - even if it is quite a 'dark and dank' place! This has been the pattern observed since the beginning of time. Adam and Eve ducked into the bushes and "made cover" in order to take cover! What comes as a surprise to me is just how comfortable Jonah was in his disobedience! He actually slept through the storm of a lifetime! It is truly a dangerous place to find oneself - so comfortable in our disobedience that we just don't see the effect it has on those around us, much less the effect it has on us! Sometimes we think our disobedience only affects us, but I want to challenge us here a little. Truly, our disobedience has far-reaching effects, sometimes unrealized by us. We may not fully appreciate the impact it has on those God has placed in our lives - our loved ones, our friends, and even those God just brings across our paths for brief periods of time. Jonah did not know these folks on his trip to Tarshish - they were just innocently headed to the next sea port alongside this Hebrew traveler, unaware of the hazards which lay ahead for them. The truth is quite plain - no man is an island unto himself! Sin has an effect on us and others!

Here's the thing I want us to see this morning - Jonah was discovered by those on the journey with him. The moment comes when we will be discovered - the question is really who will do the discovery. Will it be God, personally touching us, and us responding to him in gratitude for his grace and mercy? Or will it be someone God brings across our path, opening our eyes to our "running" and "hiding" from what he has asked of us? Either way works, but I tend to think the first way is a little better! The grace of God cannot allow us to hide forever - God will find a place, a time, and a way to bring the discovery of our "running" to light for us. I know this for a fact in my own life - every time I have "run for cover", the discovery of my hiding place is assured - there is no place too dark or dank God cannot find me out. I also know this - God's grace is sufficient! Whenever we realize we are running from God, the opportunity also exists to run "directly into his open arms" of grace! No sin is too great - no amount of disobedience too far reaching for his arms to encircle us. No shame is too deep - no amount of sin's effect too hard for him to restore! It may be your moment of "discovery" today - the moment your 'dark and dank' place is uncovered. If so, don't turn and run - reach out and be embraced! His grace awaits. Just sayin!

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