The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. Jonah 2:5-6 (NIV).
Jonah is acknowledging that HE was sinking down, that the consequences of his rebellion had taken him as low as he could go. He had tried to run away from God and it had brought him lower than he had thought possible. Indeed, at that time, he had traveled deeper in the sea than any person had ever been before.
Yet through it all, God was there. God sustained him. God heard his prayers. God would deal with Jonah’s life as He saw fit. Jonah was alive for a reason and he had hope – both a wish and a promise – that God wasn’t through with him yet. That God would bring him out of the depths for some unknown purpose.
That’s a concept understandable even in our world. I’m reading a great book about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien that my friend, Tom, sent to me. It’s about how their faith after World War I shaped their lives and their literature (specifically the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings). You can’t read those books without immediately grasping both the heavy Christian themes woven into the stories AND the focus on war as the cruel, refining experience that it is.
The book describes in detail the horrors both men endured fighting on the Western Front. If you’ve never read much about that war, I encourage you to at least once, if only to learn what hell on earth must feel like. It was years of front-line service in a flooded, fetid, rat-infested trench, under constant fire only 500 yards or so from an enemy who would gladly kill you just for sticking your head up. Tolkien survived the Somme with his Catholic faith shaken but intact. Lewis was an atheist at the time, yet the hellish conditions he endured made him question the very nature of hope. Years later, he confessed his belief in Christ as the only logical outcome for someone who based their life in reason.
Jonah had reached that same conclusion without coming under enemy fire or comprehending Jesus Christ as a man. Only God could take him to safety; only God could bring life out of death in the abyss. Centuries later, these simple truths still govern our skeptical world of spiraling sin. Like Jonah, Tolkien, and Lewis, it seems we only learn our desperate need for God when we’ve sunken as close to hell as we can get. Yet even there, the Lord beckons us.
For further reading: Job 17:16, Job 28:9, Psalm 30:3, Psalm 69:1-2, Jonah 2:6
Lord Jesus, only You bring life from death.
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