"But the LORD asked, ‘Have you reason to be angry?"
Have you ever been asked to do something you felt wasn’t turning out well or the way that you wanted it to? Or have you ever been in a situation that, no matter how hard you tried, just seemed to keep getting more and more difficult, that seemed to be beyond you but you could’t wriggle out of doing? Welcome to the world of Jonah.
In our first reading today, Jonah has completed the work the Lord asked of him, and, surprise!, it turned out well. At least, according to the Lord. But Jonah is still frustrated. ‘This is exactly what I said would happen,’ he cries, ‘I knew you would relent!’ So he sits to watch and see what will happen. Maybe he will still be justified, and Nineveh will finally get what it deserves. Instead the Lord sends him a gentle lesson using the world of nature. A plant grows over him, sheltering him from the heat, but then quickly dies. Jonah, again disappointed by what is going on around him, says, "I would be better off dead than alive."
The story ends with the Lord explaining to Jonah why his thinking is wrong. But what are we to do when we are faced with situations that we feel are beyond what we are capable of dealing with or turn out in ways we don’t want or expect, when we cry out with Jonah, "I would be better off dead than alive."? We can take the example of Jonah as a starting point and initiate a conversation with God, that is, pray. Is there a better prayer than Jonah’s "take my life from me."?
It took almost 800 years, but God us gave an answer. Joining us in the person of Jesus, God lived through the day-to-day frustrations of life on Earth. Jesus was fully human and so experienced all that we that we do, except sin. This is how He instructed His followers when asked about prayer:
Father, hallowed be your name,
Remember that your relationship with God is as intimate as that of a child and a parent. That your Father’s very name is sacred and that this holiness is your birthright.
your Kingdom come.
Allow God to work through you to create His kingdom here on Earth. Follow His will, not yours.
Give us each day our daily bread
Know that you will be given what you need day by day to accomplish the tasks He sets before you.
and forgive us our sins
Accept His forgiveness for everything you have ever done.
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
And extend that forgiveness to everyone you meet.
and do not subject us to the final test.
And finally know that there is no challenge that you will be given that you cannot accomplish with His help.
Talib Huff is a volunteer at Christ the King Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, California.