But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1: 17
Sometimes, while in the middle of running away from God, He provides an opportunity for us to pause and reconsider our desire to flee His presence and His will. Like Jonah, who did not want to abide by the Lord’s command for him to go to Nineveh and preach salvation unto them so they could leave their lives of wickedness only because Jonah didn't think they deserved God’s forgiveness; we sometimes are in disagreement with our Heavenly Father’s wishes and we try to run away. The Lord’s plan, however, will unfold, in spite of us and our unwilling hearts.
No matter how much we cover our ears to block God’s whispering He always finds a way to catch our attention, even if it requires placing us in the belly of a great fish. This big fish may have different shapes for different people. For some, the big fish is a hospital room. For others it may even be a jail cell. For many it is, perhaps, being laid off work having to be stuck in the house alone. Some others find themselves in shelters after losing everything to a mighty storm. And sometimes it might be something less dramatic like being snowed in for a few days or having a cold. It could really be anything, but the Lord always “provides” a place and a moment where and when we have no choice but to listen to what He has to say to us, ponder it and eventually, move to action.
My most recent “big fish” has been my own house. I've been forced to be in my home with my family for a few days due to a delay in our Christmas plans. We were supposed to leave for my country of birth, Panama, 4 days ago, but the Lord had other plans. Our flight was cancelled and there were no other flights to Panama until 5 days later. We found ourselves driving back home with nothing to do in our calendar so that’s exactly what we have been doing. In the midst of the busiest time of the year for a mother of 2 young boys, God has provided a respite of 5 days of doing nothing and it has been wonderful.
The trip to Panama meant a lot of stress for me due to the difficult circumstances that wait for me there, so even though I long for my family, I was not looking forward to the things I had to do there during the days leading to Christmas. Instead, the Lord changed it all and He has provided my family and I with a few precious days to refuel our energy, enjoy each other’s company, calm our nerves and specially, to listen to His voice.
The last few days have been quiet enough for me to sit down and hear what He has to tell me. For years now, I have been struggling with forgiveness. Particularly during the days in preparation for our trip to Panama, the resentment I feel for those who have wronged me has increased. Our Merciful Lord, however, has provided this opportunity for me to reconsider my grudge. I have heard Him telling me about the need to find forgiveness in my heart even if I think those I need to forgive don’t deserve it. No one ever does! That’s the point. I don’t deserve to be forgiven either, but by His Grace I am. The same way I must extend that undeserved forgiveness and grace to those around me. God is working a change of heart in me the same way He worked it out in Jonah inside the belly of the fish.
As Christmas approaches at the speed of light, I pray the presence of the Lord is born in us again and that no matter where we are right now, we take the chance to listen to His whisperings because chances are; He has placed us where we find ourselves today, for just that very purpose.