by Allison Martin
Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.
Everybody knows those people. They are found in every sphere of life: work, church, and family. They can be frustrating on a whole different level. They irritate, bring drama where there wasn’t any before, and just complicate things in general. It seems like everywhere they show up, they either make trouble or shake up your perfect little world. It seems like everybody knows a Jonah.
After all, that about sums him up, doesn’t it? His arrogance led him to disobedience, and his selfishness put an entire boat full of innocent sailors in danger. Everything was business as usual until Jonah invited himself on board. That’s where the trouble starts.
Even Jonah knows it. He has enough clarity to realize that he is the source of the problem, and uncharacteristically offers a solution: “Throw me overboard, and everything goes back to the way it was.”That must have been tempting! It stands to reason that when you get rid of the troublemaker, the trouble goes away.
So what the men do next is really quite remarkable. As the waves roar and the ship groans from the beating, “nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring it to land”. They were given an easy way out of the storm Jonah caused, and yet they do everything in their power to keep from taking it. Compassion stirred within these pagan sailors when they realized that to throw him overboard would be the end of his life. Jonah had done nothing but make their lives miserable, and yet they couldn’t just toss him over without a fight.
Maybe that’s just convicting to me, but it seems like that’s the opposite of what we tend to do. Often, we’re quick to toss people out at the first sign of something that irritates us. Paul tells us that love is patient and bears all things, but can the same be said of us?
Everyone on the run from God causes problems for those around them. God often rocks their boat to get their attention, and if you’re in close proximity, there’s a good chance your boat will get rocked a little bit too. Our first reaction may be to toss them overboard: avoid them as much as possible and try to forget about them.
But this story illustrates another way: Keep rowing. Keep reaching. Keep praying, and making an effort, and being the good example they need. Eventually, God may remove them to teach an unforgettable lesson. But while you still have influence, use it. You just never know what God might do with a Jonah.
Jonah was a trouble maker, selfish, and no one’s pick for Most Valuable Prophet. But God had a plan to change and use him to save an entire city. My prayer is for eyes to see hidden potential, grace to withstand the storm, and the strength to keep rowing.