When Cast Away or Quarantined, Don’t Forget God…
So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea….
Jonah 1:15, KJV
You may have heard the story of the obsessively punctual FedEx executive Chuck Noland. He was en route to an assignment in Malaysia when his plane crashed over the Pacific Ocean during a storm. Chuck was the only survivor on the flight. He washed ashore on a deserted island. When his efforts to sail away and contact help failed, Chuck learned to survive on the island. He remained alone, isolated, a castaway for years. He did make one friend: Wilson, his handmade volleyball kept him company! Would he ever return to civilization and reunite with his loved ones? That’s the story of the legendary blockbuster movie called “Castaway”, starring Tom Hanks.
Being castaway would be a terrible experience. Not only would there be the fear of drowning in the deep sea, there is the feeling of abandonment, isolation, and struggle to survive.
In the story of Jonah, he’s been thrown overboard, and to make matters worse, he’s swallowed by a whale. What every castaway needs to learn is that when they feel far from God, cast aside, isolated, and abandoned, they need to remember a few things about God and his promise to believers. We can find these promises in the story of Jonah. There are three we will cover briefly now.
For God to appoint a whale as he did was actually an act of grace. As Dr. John Hannah rightly noted:
This prayer by Jonah was not a plea for deliverance for there were no petitions in it. The prayer is a psalm of thanksgiving (v. 9) to God for using the fish to save him from drowning. The prayer was made while Jonah was in the fish’s stomach (v. 1) but it was written of course after he was expelled from the fish’s stomach. Sensing that the great fish was God’s means of delivering him, Jonah worshiped God for His unfathomable mercies. Jonah praised God for delivering him from death (cf. Ps. 30:3) in a watery grave. (Bible Knowledge Commentary)
QUARANTINED IN THE BELLY OF THE WHALE
As a Christian, you may at times feel trapped, isolated, and alone. Maybe during quarantine, you felt locked down, scared, and missed your family and friends. Maybe you felt swallowed up in the belly of a whale. Your home held you captive for months on end. What if God meant it for good? Sometimes I think we fail to see how God can use these Jonah-like experiences for good.
3 WAYS GOD CAN USES THE CASTAWAY AND QUARANTINES
First, we need to see what Jonah came to see. The fish was sent to gobble him up to save his life, not to take his life! It was an act of grace. God was bringing him back, not trying to pay him back! As a believer today you must realize that God’s calling on your life is irrevocable. His preserving power and love in your life is eternal. You are assured that you are forever his and nothing can separate you from his love. God will never forsake you nor leave you. The work he began in you, he will be faithful to complete. (Psalm 30:3, Jonah 1:9, Jonah 1:17, John 10:28, 1 Peter 1:5, Philippians 1:6)
Secondly, you need to realize how God uses affliction to get your attention. He not only will preserve your life, but he also has a great purpose for it as well. He will never waste a single experience. He promises to use everything for your good (Romans 8:28). This is why James says that we are to “count it pure joy when we face trials” (James 1:2-4). Or why Paul tells us that we can “Rejoice in our sufferings” knowing what’s produced in our lives are godly virtues such as character and endurance! (Romans 5:3-5) God’s purposes are at play in our lives even when we feel we are in the belly of the whale. Jonah’s life was being changed. His purpose was being renewed and his passion for the Lord rekindled. God wants to use your castaway experience for a greater purpose if you let him.
Lastly, you need to realize God’s plan for you is to be in his presence. Jonah ran from God’s presence. God’s presence is mentioned three different times in the book of Jonah (1:3, 1:10). Each time it refers to Jonah’s disobedience. He literally ran away, fled from the presence of God. Yet, being a prophet, he was well aware of God’s omnipresence (Psalms 139). Ultimately, he didn’t care. Until that is, he was forced to reconsider his actions inside the belly of that whale. God wanted Jonah back in his presence. Just as God wants you in his presence as well. The third person of the trinity is the Holy Spirit. He’s actively involved in our daily thoughts and actions. And it’s through prayer that we can connect with him as Jonah did.
Pray to God now. Take some time to thank him for preserving your life. He’s promised you eternal life (John 10:10). Thank him for giving you a purpose in life, and using even the bad things for good (Romans 8:28). Lastly, thank him for his presence (1 Corinthians 3:16).