I might have insomnia. Some nights…sometimes for many nights in a row, sleep eludes me.

There could be many explanations for my strange behavior. Perhaps I am just not tired. Maybe I feel the need to organize my closets, cupboards or Tupperware drawer (type A personalities do this. I know, it’s strange). But more likely than not, my inability to fall asleep has to do with my reluctance to forgive someone for something that was said or done to me. Sometimes I’m reluctant to forgive myself for an offense I committed. Either way, in the dark of the night, when everyone is fast asleep, I find myself face to face with God. And it’s uncomfortable, to say the least.

Sometimes I’ll try to run from this uncomfortable feeling by watching a movie or listening to music. Other times, I’ll physically run—on the treadmill or even outside. I just need to move. I need to escape my own thoughts. But chances are, that no matter how I busy my mind and my body, when I finally tire and the music stops, I still have to confront the same challenge—God has called me to forgive, and I am reluctant to do so.

This dilemma of my mind draws me to the story of Jonah. “Jonah and the Whale” was how it was first presented to me in Sunday school. But the story is about more than just Jonah and a big fish. It’s about God, and how he loved his reluctant prophet so much that he pursued Jonah, even when he ran. God saved Jonah from sure destruction and harm in the most unusual way… by tucking him away in a big fish.

You remember Jonah.

Jonah was a prophet who God called to preach to the Nineveh, home of the Assyrians. The Assyrians were reputed as a brutal warriors, known to torture their enemies. I can understand why Jonah would have been reluctant to go there. Jonah probably knew he would never come out of that city alive if he went on his own.

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.‘ But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” Jonah 1:1-3

Jonah ran in the opposite direction from where God called him to go. God let Jonah run away, but he didn’t get far before God pursued him.

“Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.” Jonah 1:4

The storm tossed the ship. The sailors were terrified, but Jonah pretended not to notice. Maybe he was organizing the Tupperware drawer in the bottom of the ship. J But when he could no longer ignore the storm raging outside, he asked the crew to throw him into the sea. He saved the sailors from sure destruction. He’d decided that death by drowning was surely better than death at the hands of the Assyrians. He chose drowning over public speaking. (No comment.)

But God pursued him, even in the depths of the sea.

“Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah 1:17

What I love about this story is that God sent a storm. God provided a fish. God pursued Jonah, even though he ran. Like it or not, God does not turn away from us just because we turn away from Him. He uses whatever it takes to turn us back.

Jonah eventually went to Nineveh. And the Bible says the Assyrians turned from their evil ways and repented. The Assyrians tried to run but God provided Jonah, a reluctant prophet, to save them from themselves.

Oh that God would use me in a powerful way like that. Oh that I would listen and obey when he tells me to forgive a wrong that was committed against me. Oh that I would realize that perhaps I am the one who is reluctant.

How many more days (or sleepless nights) do I need to spend in the belly of a fish?

Like Jonah, we may feel the urge to run. Wherever your Tarshish may be, that far-away place where you can finally be alone, it pales in comparison to the “with-God” life that we can have here if we will just stop running.

Lord God, thank you for continuing to pursue me, even when I keep running away. I am so tired of spending time in that fish. I humbly ask for your forgiveness for my disobedience and I seek your direction. Please, run with me. Show me how to do what you have called me to do. I know that you are developing me for a purpose not yet known, and I trust that you will help me get there. In your Holy name, Amen.

One Response to "How I stopped running from God"

  • Mark says:

    Dear Jo,
    May name is Mark from Sydney. Recently, I came across your article on “How I stopped running from God”.
    I am writing simply to thank God for using you write this article and to thank you as well for following His call.
    My walk with God was pretty active until recently, I was diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Many things have changed and I then found myself not being able to do most things that I used to as I was just in bed most of the time. There was even a time that I my family thought that my time to depart this world was getting nearer. But thank God, He gave me the courage to endure and regain my strength back. As I was recuperating from this near death experience, one night whilst in bed with my wife, she then decided to confess something to me because she felt that I had to know the truth. She told me that about seven years ago that she had a one night stand with a former colleague. At first, my initial reaction was that “it’s ok, everyone makes mistakes” I had to console her as she was crying and felt so guilty about the mistake and for keeping it to me for so long. We prayed afterwards and recommitted our relationship with God.
    That was four weeks ago. And until I came across your article, I was like Jonah, running away from God because I failed to establish what was bothering me. Was it the past infidelity of my wife? Was it because I knew her ex colleague and was so angry at him? Was it because if the fact that my wife was lying to me all these years? Or perhaps I was blaming myself for what happened to her? All these things were in my mind and it kept me inside the belly of the fish. I couldn’t sleep for weeks. It took a toll on my health, my relationship with my family and above all my walk with God. I became angry and withdrawn. I didn’t attended Church service and have decided to “have a break” from everything by going away even though I didn’t know where to go and how to do it since I was restricted from doing strenuous activities. It then went into my mind that, like Jonah, I was better off dead and lost at sea. I didn’t know what to do anymore. Although at the back of my mind I knew that God was allowing these things to happen to prepare me for something. I knew that I had to simply surrender EVERYTHING to Him and trust that He knows what’s best for me and to fulfill His purpose in my life.
    I was still suffering from sleepless nights but not as bad as the past three weeks. This was the time I read your article. And I was blown away by how every bit of it was directed to me. (Except the tupperware bit though)
    I read it over and over again because I didn’t see it as you telling your story but God talking to me. It was life changing.
    For the first time in four weeks I was able to have a good sleep. I realised that I had many issues in terms of unforgiveness to everyone involved in what happened to my wife, that, including myself who somehow contributed to it. I also had issues with pride and above all, fear. Fear of going into the unknown where God wants me. I have since learned to trust Him from His perspective and not mine where I thought that a walk with God is like a walk in the park. I realised that this could only be possible if I allowed God to be the Captain of my ship and allow Him to sail where my life needs to go.
    I am now looking forward to having continuous good sleep every night.
    Thank you once again for sharing your story and for allowing God to use you.
    May you be blessed more.

    Kind regards

    Mark

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