The Bible offers great metaphors for the ups and downs of a life of faith. If a huge obstacle is cleared in our lives, we might say someone “parted the sea for us,” alluding to God using Moses to part the sea for the escaping Hebrews. When we face a difficult task, David’s battle with Goliath gives us the metaphor of “facing our giant.” Those who feel especially close to God might say they’re “on the mountaintop,” recalling Peter’s desire to stay on the mountain with Jesus after his transfiguration.
Today’s story from the saga of Jonah gives us another helpful metaphor for life’s struggles. While none of us have been swallowed by an enormous sea creature (at least I hope not!), most of us have been through experiences where we felt stuck in the deep, dank darkness of a fish’s belly. In the story, of course, Jonah is literally swallowed by a large fish and spends “three days and three nights” inside it (Jonah 1:17).
In our passage for today, Jonah does what we would probably do: he prays. But his prayer is different from what we might imagine. Rather than proclaiming his innocence, begging God to save him, or even asking forgiveness for the actions that put him in this fish’s belly, Jonah prays as if God has already saved him. Instead of dwelling on his predicament, he praises God for deliverance and offers thanks to God who has answered his prayer and brought him up (Jonah 2:2, 6).
Jonah has a lot to make up for. He blatantly disobeyed a command from God. We might think his deep-sea experience will change him for the better, but we will see in future lessons that he still has a lot to learn about God’s ways. For now, though, his attitude of prayer is one we can emulate.
Next time you’re facing something so difficult that you might as well be trapped in the belly of a fish, try a different kind of prayer. While God will hear and answer our deepest cries for rescue, we can honor God and gain a new perspective on our situation when we pray with knowledge of what God has done, recognition of what God is doing, and faith in what God will do.
• Have you been through something that you could describe as being trapped in a fish’s belly? What did you do in this seemingly hopeless situation?
• How do you tend to pray when you or someone you love is struggling?
• Why do you think Jonah chose to pray as if God had already rescued him? How does this kind of faith factor into your prayer life?
• What is the difference between faith in God and presuming upon God?
• If God doesn’t remove you from the “belly of the fish,” what are some other forms God’s rescue might take?
Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University (BA in English, 2000), has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theatre productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she always has one book going and several more waiting to be read!
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