My first semester in college, my family made a move to another state. It was difficult for me -- I didn't want to live there and I fought it tooth and nail. However, God had other plans. Turns out it WAS the best place for me and my family. I grew and I matured, both as a young adult and as a Christian. I can guarantee that my parents and each of my sisters would say we are where we are now because of that move. That experience shaped us and formed us into the people we are today.
What I couldn't see initially, though, was the big picture. All I saw was that I was being asked to move away from all my friends. I was being told that I was now living in a big and unfamiliary city instead of the small town where I had graduated from high school. The physcial move actually happened during my first semester in college..... I went home for Thanksgiving to a place I had never been before and I place I did not want to be.
The big picture, though? God knew there was a particular church there just waiting for me. A church full of special people that pulled me in (and, in the beginning, they literally pulled!), they befriended me, and they loved me. They supported me as I graduated college and started my first job, moved into my first apartment (along with another dear friend I had met in that church) and as I met my future husband and moved away to be closer to him. They supported me in my Christian walk and prayed with me. Thru that first job I had out of college, God gave me many experiences that helped me to grow. And, he even led me to my husband in that first job in that city I never wanted to move to in the first place.
God proved himself faithful, full of grace and compassion. He showed me that above all He loved me and only had my best interests in mind. But, I first had to allow God to work and I had to get a few miles or so down the road in the journey to see the full story.
The story of Jonah is like that, too. If we only look at the first chapter, we see a God that tells Jonah to go to a city he didn't like and to warn people he didn't like of impending judgment. Jonah runs the other way and winds up in the belly of a whale. From that alone, we don't see what many would perceive to be a loving God, do we?
But, if we read on to the end and get the full story, we see a God that is loving and compassionate, full of grace and mercy. In Jonah 4:2 we read of a God that is "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, and one who relents concerning threatened judgment" .
I've started a study on the book of Jonah and am looking forward to all God has for me as I read more about the "big picture". I hope you'll join me as I study and share. I'm planning to start out by reading the full book of Jonah, then diving a little deeper into shorter passages one at a time. I'm using the study guide from the "Coffee Cup Bible Series" by Sandra Glahn entitled "Kona with Jonah".
I'll be back next week with some more after I've read the "full story"! :)