4 Signs You Might Be Running Away
I'm fascinated with the story of Jonah and it has nothing to do with the fish. Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against the fish—it plays a critical role in the story. I just find it too challenging to relate to.
Jonah, on the other hand, is easy to relate to. He's more dramatic that I am, but I see himself in his story nonetheless. Jonah is a runaway and I too have my moments of running away from God.
I've never boarded a ship destined to Tarshish, but I've developed other ways of turning away from God. I'm guessing you've done this too because most of us are experienced runners. Most of us can spot a runaway without much difficulty, but it's harder to see this in ourselves. Based on Jonah's story, here are a few signs that might help you discover if you've begun to wander.
You're willing to sacrifice a lot for a questionable purpose
Jonah flees to Tarshish which is noteworthy for two reasons: it's in the opposite direction from Nineveh and it's clear across the Mediterranean Sea. Jonah's voyage would have been very long and very expensive which signals he's willing to sacrifice a lot to avoid Nineveh (the detail about Jonah paying the fare in Jonah 1:3 helps us understand this point).
The call to follow Jesus is intertwined with the call to live sacrificially. However, it's possible to sacrifice things that don't move us closer to Jesus. We must ensure that our sacrifices truly have God-honouring purposes before taking action.
When you make a costly decision, do you invite others into your decision-making process or do you have a habit of doing this on your own?
You use your feelings to justify your actions
It's not uncommon for people to experience physiological side effects when something in their life is unhealthy. But the absence of indigestion or sleepless nights shouldn't give us complete confidence that our direction is perfectly aligned with what God is asking us to do.
Jonah manages to fall into a deep sleep while his shipmates are being terrorized by a vicious storm. We should be careful not to elevate feelings of peace or comfort as the primary indicator that God is pleased with our actions. It could very well be that our obedience to God will cause use to experience feelings of trepidation (see 1 Cor 11:23-33 for a list of hardships that the Apostle Paul endured). It's important that we listen to what our bodies and emotions are telling us, but we must make God's instructions our ultimate guide for taking action. In other words, listen to your heart, but don't follow it.
Can you think of a time when your feelings moved you away from an action that God asked you to take?
Your words and actions don't match
Jonah's life is devoid of congruence. He describes the Lord as the God of heaven who made the land and the sea (Jonah 1:9), but his decision to sail away makes his words sound suspicious. After all, would Jonah have really tried to escape the Lord on a boat if he truly believed that God had dominion over the water?
We can be tempted to say words that our hearts don't really believe and that we aren't really willing to live by. This indicates that we are no longer following after God, but drifting in a different direction.
Do your words flow from your actual beliefs and your intended actions? Or do you find yourself saying things just because they sound like the right words to say?
You're not motivated by the things that matter most
The storyteller waits until the end of the book to tell us why Jonah ran. By this time, Jonah's frustration has boiled over into anger and a request to die (Jonah 4:2-3). Jonah rejected his assignment to Nineveh because he didn't want to see the Ninevites spared. His desire for justice (as he defined it) superseded his desire for people to be saved (which was God's ultimate goal in this story).
Can you think of a time when your desire for something honourable became more important than something that is most important to God's heart?
The story of Jonah is filled with practical applications and if we're honest, we'll see that his life isn't that different from our own. Instead of continuing to your runaway destination, I encourage you to be honest with yourself about your true motivations. This may expose an area of your life that has not been surrendered to God and it may also give you a clearer sense of what God has in store for your future. As you consider these things, you may find it helpful to think more intentionally about your personal calling. MinistryLift has published several blogs on this topic and we offer training videos and workshop options as well. Feel free to contact us to learn more about these resources.
Keith Reed is the Associate Director of MinistryLift for MB Seminary.
Image source: ThinkStock