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In a dark place?

Been looking a little down lately? Maybe it is because you are hanging your head in shame, or perhaps you are just tired. Regardless of the reason, there is something that is suggestive by our present 'look' - something isn't quite right with us. In moments of rebellion, there comes a time of realization - the moment in time when we realize just how far we have drifted from what God would have wanted for our lives. In that moment, we often look up - simply because we have come to realize there is just no help found in looking down! If we looked down - we'd only see our problem, our shame, our tiredness, and our helplessness! When we look up - we see our hope for deliverance, renewal, freedom, and joy!

I was as far down as a body can go, and the gates were slamming shut behind me forever—Yet you pulled me up from that grave alive, O God, my God! When my life was slipping away, I remembered God, and my prayer got through to you, made it all the way to your Holy Temple. Those who worship hollow gods, god-frauds, walk away from their only true love. But I'm worshiping you, God, calling out in thanksgiving! And I'll do what I promised I'd do! Salvation belongs to God! (Jonah 2:6-10)

As far as we can go - what an apt description of the distance we have placed between God's direction in our lives and our obedience to that direction! Doors slamming shut forever - or so it seems in our finite understanding of the place we find ourselves dwelling emotionally, physically, or relationally. Yet...in the midst of our despair...God is never far from us - despite the distance created by our disobedience, he never is all that far away. It is indeed a shame for us to get to the place where our "lives are slipping away from us" before realizing how much our disobedience has actually cost us. Jonah is an example to us of the possibilities of redemption - grace where it is least deserved given without reservation. In the place of rebellion, we don't realize how much of "life" is slipping away from us. It may not be our literal "life", but it is indeed our spiritual, emotional, or relational life. We don't sense the loss associated at the points between God's direction and our continual resistance to his will. Yet, this "drift" is real - and it has a way of "distancing" us from God.

Jonah was in such a place. I have no idea what type of fish swallowed him up - nor am I going to speculate on this one, or debate anyone on the possibilities of this being a literal fish that swallowed him. I do know scripture says God prepared a place for him - a place for him to come to the realization of his need and the actual distance he has allowed to be created between himself and his Lord. This is God's way! He knows the exact point of our turning and he prepares the exact place for the "dawning" of our awareness of our intense need for restoration. We may not get swallowed by a big fish, but I am sure we have all experienced some "big fish" moments - those 'lowest of low' places in life! The "stuff" we are experiencing in that place just isn't all that pleasant - it smells awful, it makes us feel awful, and it gives us a sense of darkness which just envelopes us on all sides. No wonder we are looking down!

The "big fish" moment may be what some refer to as "coming to an end of our rope" or "reaching rock bottom". Whatever the expression, the need is the same - deliverance, freedom, grace given without measure! David finds himself in the misery of covering up his sin with Bathsheba, torn apart by his having compounded it with the murder of her husband. His bones ache, his mood is foul, and he has no joy in all the luxuries he is surrounded with as King of Israel. Sin has this effect - it robs us of the pleasures we once took so much for granted. I want us to consider that it is even God's mercy that allows for us to get to the place of "rock bottom". He also provides a way for us to get on solid ground again!  "Then God spoke to the fish, and it vomited up Jonah on the seashore." Out of darkness, God brought sound footing again! Look at when God does this, though. It is not when Jonah first goes overboard - there has been a passage of time in which Jonah comes to a place of realizing he has been running from the very thing God desired for him. David had this same "span" between his disobedience and God's sending Nathan to him to tell him the story of his sin and the hope for his deliverance.

We often need this "span" in order to come to a place of submission because our rebellion is so deep. We just don't recognize our misery until it has become our undoing. Truly, this is a sad reality, but one we see played out in life after life - including our own. Yet, there is hope beyond our imagining! In the moment of "rock bottom", God is prepared with the next move! In the moment of our cry for help, his actions are swift on our behalf. This is the God we serve - merciful, moved by compassion, and swift to provide for his children. It is far better to never reach the place of distancing ourselves from God - but if we have, we can rest in the assurance of his grace! I don't know what "whale" has swallowed you whole, but I do know the seashore of God's deliverance awaits! All it takes is a cry for forgiveness! He does the rest! Just sayin!

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