Jonah and Great Fish

Dark nights happen to everyone. Some people’s dark nights are darker than others. Some seem so dark that light is a distant memory, a possible embellishment of the imagination. Some nights seem so dark that you question everything you believed to be true about yourself, your life and even God.

It’s in those deeply pigmented places that platitudes and cliche’s have a retching effect on the receiver. They sound shallow, hollow, devoid of life, empathy or reality. These are when prayers from the belly of the fish come forth from the belly of the soul.

When Jonah found himself in the belly of the great fish, he began to pray. Perhaps it was the first real prayer of his entire prophetic career. A prayer of earth. A prayer of terror. A prayer of surrender. When we finally pray a prayer born in the dark, we are at that place where we know we have no control, no escape, no salvation apart from  divine intervention. This is where real life begins.

Listen to Jonah’s prayer from this dark place:

…“I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple. ‘The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit,O LORD my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

Sheol means “the realm of the dead.” Sheol is a land of hopelessness. A place disconnected from God, hope, life. Sheol is a place where we cry out to God with groans that are to deep for language. What has been your Sheol?

We cry out…we shout…we argue…

We feel that God is nowhere to be found…

BUT…when all seemed lost, when the waters were covering us…

When the light was diminishing like a candle depleting its wax…

As the jail bars closed shut with a loud click and clang…

Then I remembered…

Then I prayed…

Then my prayer came to God…

When Jonah changed his focus from “Sheol” to the sovereignty of God, not only did His thinking shift, but his circumstances changed. As his words moved from self-focus, in the depths, to God-focus, who dwells on high, he was able to offer words of thanks and gratitude to God.

Prayers from the belly of a fish are spiritually defining moments used by God to form us. Even when we walk through the dark places, God is with us. Even when the valley seems endless, God reminds us that there is light. Even when the jail bars of Sheol click tightly, God’s voice shatters the cage.

Maybe, the reminder we need is that there is no big fish that is bigger than God.

3 Comments

  1. Incredible message! I love how when I take the focus off of “woe is me” and focus on the goodness, faithfulness and sacrifice of God, He lifts my spirit & comforts me. Thank you Monty for this reminder!! 🙂

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  2. Through the tears, I can only say Thank You. You know…as you and I have discussed on various occasions…(and, always I might add, quite amazed) this God thing IS REAL. J

    “a prayer of surrender..when we finally pray a prayer born in the dark we are at the place where we have no control……this is where life begins”

    I am never ceased to be amazed by your insight..or God’s sovereignty. I surrendered one year ago…and now, I am going to be married to a wonderful, God loving man! Who’da thought! SAVE THE DATE: SUNDAY, JULY 14th at 3 pm at the Mt. Si Golf Course. Without YOU, I am calling the whole deal off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love you. (seriously)

    I am truly praying for our church families who are in “that dark place” right now. ONLY GOD can ease their pain and give them peace. (But, thank God for YOU AND MARTY) but, take care of yourself, too. Love you….:)

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