I’m doing a study of Jonah. Even if you aren’t familiar with the Bible, Jonah is one story you’ve probably heard of. Hint: he’s the one that got swallowed by a whale. It actually doesn’t say “whale” – just that it was a “big fish.” But really? While drowning and subsequently being consumed by any water creature, does it matter what it’s called?
Here’s the cliff notes: God told Jonah to go preach to a group of people he hated so they could be saved. Instead of obeying, Jonah ran. Like with Usain Bolt speed. Only it was in a boat. During a storm, Jonah was thrown overboard where God sent the big fish (or whatever we’ve decided to call it) to swallow him whole, and save his life. If you’ve ever heard the term “come to Jesus meeting,” this was the ultimate, except it was with God the Father. Let’s just say Jonah got the point and after repenting, God made the fish puke Jonah out so he could get on with what he was supposed to be doing. (I’m not making this stuff up. Puke. It’s in the Bible.)
The part of the story I was reading this morning is the time while Jonah is in the fish. God saved his life from drowning but he wasn’t exactly in enjoyable accommodations. Jonah didn’t know how the story would end. At the time, he was surrounded by what I can only imagine was nasty, and we’ll just leave the mental picture of fish guts at that. But as Jonah prayed that God would save him (again), he thanked God.
I’ve been looking at the same words for an hour. “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.” Praise is easy when you feel it. It’s easy to be grateful when you are looking at a happy ending. But what about when you are still in the belly of the fish? What about when your situation still hurts? You aren’t dead, but that doesn’t make it feel any better. Your marriage is still over. Your heart is still broken. You still don’t have a child. You’re still single. You’re still…. Fill in the blank.
If you’ve known me for more than 5 minutes, you know that I don’t love being a stay-at-home-mom. That is not to say I don’t love being a mom. Motherhood has challenged and stretched and made me better than I ever knew possible. I love Brynna Grace with a love so strong I can’t even mention it without bringing tears to my eyes. It’s the stay-at-home part I struggle with. I was never the girl who said “all I ever wanted to be was a mom.” I never saw myself here and even after 4 years, it’s no more comfortable. The joy that many women describe feeling even on the hardest days is not my reality. Days that suck just suck. And as with most struggles, there are many who would rather be in my shoes than theirs. But God knows what any good fashionista does – the best shoes weren’t designed to be comfortable.
As I looked at those words in Jonah this morning, I heard God ask “Even if your situation never looks different, will you praise Me? Will you see the blessings all around you or will you, instead, wallow?” Of course, I said “wallow.” LOL I’m kidding. (kind of) I SAY I’ll be grateful for what I do have and not focus on what I don’t have. But in the real world, that’s harder than it sounds. That’s why it’s called a sacrifice. It costs something. It requires that I let go of a little of that bitterness that makes up the shell protecting my heart.
In Jonah 2:9, he says “Even though it’s not what I want and it’s hard, I will give thanks. I will obey because you are God and I am not.” (that’s the Regina translation)
So I’m choosing to give thanks that…
* I have a little girl to stay home with
* She is healthy and smart and strong
* I, too, am healthy and able to care for her
* I’ve gotten to see every “first”
* I get to hold her when she gets hurt
* I am the one she wants to tell secrets to
* We have the resources to allow me to stay home
* I stay HOME – in a beautiful house with more than we could want or need
* I’m able to maximize our family time because laundry, cleaning, etc are taken care of during the day
* Brynna will always know that what’s best for her is more important to me than what’s comfortable
* I have the flexibility to be there for school drop-off and pick-up, plays, recitals and gymnastics
* We have a dependable car to get us to those places
* I am loved by a Father who doesn’t stop loving me when my responses aren’t what they should be
* I am saved by a grace I don’t deserve
So what’s your answer? Will you give praise even if it’s hard? Will you acknowledge that He’s God and you aren’t? It’s not easy and it won’t magically make tomorrow look different than today. But when you look to God, you’ll always find that He’s been looking at you the whole time.
“Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His Name.” Heb. 13:15