I had failed again. At least that’s how I felt. My involvement in a ministry project that I had poured my heart and soul into had come painfully to an end. A similar situation had unfolded in my life only eighteen months earlier. And as I sat in the ruins of what remained from all I had invested in, I wondered how I had ended up in this familiar place once more.
The months following were difficult. Leaving the place that had meant so much to me left me feeling confused, discouraged, and doubtful of God’s call on my life. Maybe He didn’t desire to use me in His work after all. Maybe my contributions weren’t all that positive. Maybe I was wrong about where I had heard Him leading me to serve.
I now affectionately call those days my whale-belly dwelling. We remember that story about Jonah, right? When he heard God’s voice calling him to something, he decided he wasn’t interested, tried to run away from God, and ended up in time-out inside the belly of a great fish. I’m quite certain that of all the possible scenarios Jonah had imagined about where his life would go, existing inside a large sea creature had to be near the bottom of the list. But there he was. And there I was in the darkness and mess that was my reality — wondering how I got there and what I needed to do to get out.
It has been my experience that God often uses our difficult circumstances to speak to us. In the book of Jonah, we read how Jonah cried out to God from his disappointing surroundings. That’s what I eventually did as well. I repented my pride, confessed my sorrow, and asked God to speak truth into my life. I didn’t like where I was, and I wanted to be somewhere that was lighter and more peaceful. I knew God was the One who could point me in a better direction.
I didn’t get vomited out onto the beach as Jonah did, but I did get catapulted into a new season of ministry. God opened my eyes to how I was using a natural gift of planning and organizing as an idol. Yes, that sounded harsh to me at first, too. He had been calling me into a season of strengthening my teaching and writing, but much like Jonah, I had been running away from that calling to stay in a place more comfortable for me.
Realizing my misstep was disappointing and painful. But God responded to me much like He did Jonah. He released me from the confusing cold and darkness, ushered me into a season of light and clarity, and then affirmed the same instruction He had been offering for a long time. “Deliver the message I have given you.” Jonah 3:1 (NLT)
If you are in a place of undesirable circumstances, hear this encouragement. God loves you. He is speaking to you. He is still at work in your life. These days may not be easy, but neither are they in vain. The Light is often the brightest after we have experienced a whale-belly dwelling.
Find the story of Jonah in Jonah 1-4.
This post is chapter 1/7 of The Ways God Speaks To Us.