“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.” (Jonah 4:1)
We are quick to question God, to call him to account, to address him with our list of grievances and gripes. We routinely ask him to bless us, guide us, and shower us with gifts galore. And with the very same tongue we accuse him of falling short, of not meeting our expectations, of acting unbecomingly. We chastise God as if he is a student at fault deserving a detention and we are the principal in charge of doling out the appropriate penalty.
We are in good company. Jonah did just that. He detested the assignment God commanded him to carry out and fled from God’s presence to the opposite end of the world. God scooped him up from the bottom of the sea, spared his life, and Jonah finally made his way to Nineveh to issue the warning of God’s judgment on the city. The prophet despised these pagans whom God loved, but “when God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).
Jonah pitched a prophet-sized fit and demanded that God kill him since he had predicted this unwelcome turn of events. With one perceptive question, God wrestled the prophet to the ground: “And the LORD said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?'” (Jonah 4:4) Clearly, the prophet of God did not trust the character of God. Do we? God uses this Scripture to probe our own hearts, asking us similar questions: “Do you do well to be angry with me? Do you do well to be anxious? Do you do well to be fearful, my child?”
“Do you do well to be angry when I have taken away something you desperately wanted to keep? Do you do well to be angry because I gave you something you never wanted in the first place? Have you forgotten that I know what is best? I alone see the end from the beginning, and I am able to redeem for great good those inexplicable places that you are not yet capable of understanding. Is your anger with me simply because you cannot comprehend my ways which are so much higher than yours?
“Do you do well to be anxious because you face a challenge you would rather avoid, forgetting that will provide you endurance, to humble you, to grant you a heart of compassion for the world! Do you do well to be afraid because you feel out of control, because your circumstances make you appear weak and vulnerable? Do you not know that in your inadequate places I am supremely strong, that you are forced by the unknown to lean on me?” When you are dependent, looking to me for daily bread and daily direction, I am able to accomplish great things through you. But you must trust me with this. You can.”
God reprimands us through his words to Jonah and in his similar charge to Job earlier in the Old Testament. “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge…Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding” (Job 38:2,4). God declares to Jonah, to Job, to us: “Who exactly do you think you are to scold me? Listen to yourself for a minute. Watch your words. Remember who I am!”
“Do you do well to be angry?”
Elizabeth A. Mitchell
Photo Credit: Bill Mitchell