What If I Don’t Want What God Wants for Me?

I was reading the story of Jonah today and it just made me think, “What if I don’t want what God wants for me?” Jonah 1:1-3 states, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”

Jonah summary

God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh and cry against it. Clearly that wasn’t something Jonah wanted to do as a part of his plans in life given he ran away from God. Of course if you’ve read through the story, that didn’t work out to well for him. He got trapped in a bad storm and eaten by a fish. He then prays to God for help, God gets him out of the fish, and he eventually does what God had told him to do.

I have to admit, I didn’t really understand the ending of the story that well. As best I could read, it seemed Jonah was mad that God showed compassion to Nineveh after proclaiming that Nineveh would be overthrown in forty days.  Then God shows through the plant that Jonah was happy for it giving him shade, that if he can have compassion for the plant even though he didn’t work for it or cause it to grow, shouldn’t God have compassion for the people of Nineveh, who do not know their right hand from their left, or many of the animals.

My thoughts on Jonah

If anyone can unpack that ending with a little more clarity than I attempted, feel free to do so. But to tie this all together, it’s all really interesting to me. Jonah didn’t want to do what God wanted him to do in his life, and ended up in bad situations for it. Jonah turns back to God and does what God wanted him to do, but he kind of still ends up dissatisfied as maybe he thought he would be when he chose to flee in the first place, though the text doesn’t give us any information why he chose to flee. Maybe he was concerned with what he would inevitably be dissatisfied with happening with the outcome of Nineveh being sparred by God, though that would be incredibly clairvoyant of him, so I would put that in the unlikely category.

What would have been really interesting to see in this story is what Jonah thought or responded to God after God said what He said about having compassion. Because there’s no more to the story than that, I can only assume Jonah understood the lesson that God was giving him. Perhaps what’s mainly to be understood is Jonah really had no reason to be displeased with the outcome from obeying God’s command, because good things happened as a result of what He did.

Conclusion

It seems ultimately if one doesn’t obey God the outcomes of our lives turn out worse for us. Even if the path one is destined to go on is not particularly one they’re thrilled about God allowing (or possibly directing) events to happen in a way that guides us in a certain direction, or in the grandest of ways directly commanding us to do a certain thing or take a certain path, it all inevitably leads to good results when one chooses to obey God. And of course good results are better than bad results.

What do you think of Jonah’s story?

Peace to all who are in Christ.

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21 thoughts on “What If I Don’t Want What God Wants for Me?

  1. Jonah ran the other way because he did not like the Assyrians. They were a cruel nation and the Israelites had dealings with them. Jonah knew that God was a merciful God (see Jonah 4:2) and would allow them to live even though Jonah felt they should die. He was being self-righteous and judgmental. Do we not become that way also when we feel that someone who deeply hurts us or did wrong to someone they deserve punishment and not mercy. Yet God does not reward us for our wrongs but shows us mercy even when we fo not deserve it. God was showing Jonah he had more mercy for the plant then for a human life.

    • Hi 1woman2women. Thanks for your comment. I had a suspicion it might have had something to do with the people in the city. God does mention their wickedness at the beginning of the story. Perhaps any of us would been tempted to want to avoid dealing with those types of people and flee somewhere else. Hmm, as I look at the beginning of chapter 4 again, I think I see your point in the verse you referenced. After the end of chapter 3 when God relented from bringing calamity on Ninevah, Jonah expresses in the very next chapter in the verse you referenced after the detailing of his displeasure for what happened, “therefore in order to forestall this I fled”, which I assume the “this” he wanted to forstall is God relenting in bringing calamity that as you stated, he knew God would potentially do this because as Jonah stated in the verse you accurately reference, “for I knew that you are a gracious and compassion God.” Very interesting stuff. And I can see how this would lead to a conclusion of Jonah being self-righteous and judgmental. Thanks for providing that astute observation.

      Peace to you in Christ.

  2. I feel pretty much the same way about the conclusion, but I have often wondered if Jonah just stayed mad at God because even with the story of Peter we are quickly told about Peter’s repentance. I think we are left “hanging” with Jonah so that we can apply his reaction to our lives in remembering that repentance and mercy are to be prized much higher than seeing the destruction of our “enemies” and I must admit, that for me, sometimes things we see in this world especially against the innocent, does indeed make it hard to remember that. But He truly wants “all to come to repentance” and this is a good lesson in that unforgiveness and anger will make us ineffective for the kingdom and Jonah as a prophet should have had much more work to do, maybe the Bible just does not record it or maybe this cost him his commission. Good post though!

    • Hi Nina. Thanks for your comment. You know, it’s an interesting point you bring up wondering if Jonah stayed mad. It never does state in chapter 4 that Jonah stopped being mad other than the joy he experienced from the plant shading him, until the plant withered and he was mad again. So interestingly you might be closer to the more plausible conclusion if we’re just going by what the text states. My statement of assumption I guess was based on the story closing with the lesson God gave, but all we see is God giving the lesson, and not a statement in the text that Jonah learned the lesson. Yes, definitely seems true that given repentance and mercy were the outcomes of this story, these things we should hold with regard as God seemed to try to convey to Jonah in the end.

      Peace to you in Christ.

  3. What I always loved about this story was the “fit” Jonah threw when God took away that shade tree. 🙂 How God simply never said one word until Jonah was through with the “fit.” He was telling God, “Just kill me.” “Just kill me.” God just let him continue on with it. After Jonah was through God spoke to Him as a Father, with some discipline, and Jonah then understood.

    I think what I learn from the story of Jonah most of all is how merciful God really is. How He is so willing to correct us without “killing us” though He could. He could of left the whale’s mouth open and Jonah would have drowned.

    I would imagine when Jonah was in that whale, he was thinking, “I really messed up, didn’t I?” I mean what else are you going to do in a whale but think???? 🙂

    I think if we do not do what God wants us to do, He kind of has a way to get it all accomplished through us anyways. Just like with the whale and the shade tree He did not let Jonah off the hook. (No pun intended) 🙂 He sent some signs which were kind of hard to ignore didn’t He, that He was sort of displeased? He does the same with us, we just have to recognize them. Good post and God Bless, SR

    • Hi SR. Thanks for your comment. Yes, the story does seem to show the mercy of God a lot through the mercy He displayed to the people of Ninevah, and of course Jonah as well. And that statement you make of God having a way to get whatever He wants accomplished through us anyway I suppose reflects the ultimate sovereignty of God. Indeed, God can certainly get a message across to His people as clearly as need be for one to understand.

      Peace to you in Christ.

  4. The purpose of Jonah’s prophecy is to show the sovereignty of God at work in the life of an individual (the prophet Jonah, and his concern for His own people and that the way to avert national catastrophe is a concentrated missionary effort toward all people).

    The book of Jonah reveals God’s sovereign rule over man and all creation. Creation came into being through Him (1:9) and responds to His every command (1:4, 17; 2:10; 4:6-7; Mark 4:41). Jesus employed the repentance of the Ninevites to rebuke the Pharisees, thereby illustrating the hardness of the Pharisees’ hearts and their unwillingness to repent (Matt. 12:38-41; Luke 11:29-32). The heathen city of Nineveh repented at the preaching of a reluctant prophet, but the Pharisees would not repent at the preaching of the greatest of all prophets, in spite of overwhelming evidence that He was actually their Lord and Messiah. Jonah is a picture of Israel, who was chosen and commissioned by God to be His witness (Isa. 43:10-12; 44:8), who rebelled against His will (Exodus 32:1-4; Judges 2:11-19; Ezek. 6:1-5; Mark 7:6-9), but who has been miraculously preserved by God through centuries of exile and dispersion to finally preach His truth (Jer. 30:11; 31:35-37; Hosea 3:3-5; Rev. 7:1-8; 14:1-3).

    Jonah’s theme is God’s mercy to the individual (Jonah, a Jew), a group (the heathen sailors), the heathen world power (Assyria, a Gentile nation), and His people (Israel).

    • Hi My Hope Is In Thee. Thanks for your comment. Yes, as I’ve thought about it more in reading these comments, the theme of God’s sovereignty does seem to be the major component of this story, along with people coming to repentance and mercy given as a result. Much bigger picture it seems than just that Jonah had other desires from what God wanted. I had forgotten that Jesus mentioned Jonah in the New Testament, and the illustration you note being conveyed in the verses seems plausible given the comparison Jesus was making. Everything else you stated seems scripturally accurate as well. I appreciate that you provided a verse with each understanding of things you expressed so I could see the verses for myself.

      Peace to you in Christ.

  5. My hope in thee. I was going to say I was going to say that about Gods sovereignty. We human beings think we can point our finger at God and say no. But God knew and loved him all the same.

    Love and sovereign is what i get out if it. Tuning into my Calvinist side lol. I am Pentecostal but do devotions with Calvinists and i see Gods hand on everything

    • Hi McDowell, thanks for your comment. It helps to put tags on your blog if you haven’t start doing that, so people can find your content in the wordpress search. Also interacting with other blogs helps to bring more attention to your blog as well.

      Peace to you in Christ.

  6. Maybe Jonah ran because God put it in his heart to. God used the 3.5 days in the wale as a clear prophesy of Jesus Christ. Sure, Jonah was still dissobedient, but as with Adam and Eve, God knew it would happen and even purposed it in order to bring about His will, and as with all who are in Christ today, all things eventually come together for our good. We think we do as we want or dont want, but God knows the end from the beginning and has a wonderful plan and purpose for this creation. We can no more eacape His will for our lives than Jonah could and even our dissobedience is predetermined for a purpose.

    • As far as Gods mecy and compassion, its a good thing for us, isnt it? When we consider this story in lite of shadowing Jesus, we might think of this story a little differntly in general.

    • Hi Amanda. Thanks for your comment. Yes, God has things happening the way He wants them to happen inevitably. It’s an interesting thing comprehending the idea of predestination and the idea of free will being simultaneous realities expressed in scripture. Quite mind-blowing.

      Peace to you in Christ.

  7. Great post.
    Just a few thoughts about Jonah.
    As a previous commenter said Jonah hated the Ninevites. He hated them because they were awful people. Jonah was right in his judgment. Unfortunately our ability to be right sometimes sacrifices our righteousness. Being right and having righteous judgement is often two different things. We can be correct in our judgment. We can be as right as rain and still not be righteous In our judgement. God values people, even the seemingly aweful ones. He paid the same price for them as He did for you and I. We all have the same created value. Jonah didn’t see that initially, but since the authorship of the book is attributed to Jonah, we must assume that he eventually got it.
    Great post, thanks
    Jack C.

    • Hi Jack. Thanks for your comment. Yes, there’s hypocritical judgment and righteous judgment. I suppose it was essentially hypocritical of Jonah to be angry at them being “let off the hook” since he himself was “let off the hook” from initially disobeying God. An excellent lesson for all of us to learn.

      Peace to you in Christ.

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