After the storm
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you in your holy temple.”
I wonder how many prayers like this have been said over the millennia. By believers. By non-believers. By desperate people. By faithful people. By the innocent in prison and the guilty on the street. By those dying alone and those in the warm cocoon of their family’s loving presence.
Who could possibly count?
This particular prayer is the plea of Jonah (chapter 2, verse 7). It was a seagoing case of “out of the frying pan into the fire” – out of the stormy seas into the stomach of a huge fish. He so easily could have drowned when the frightened sailors threw him overboard in an attempt to appease the Lord, but God had other plans for this disobedient prophet.
As with any of us, it can be when disaster strikes and death looks like the only outcome that we utter this sort of prayer. Even if we are not on our knees or prostrate on the floor in physical terms, that does describe our mental position. We are desperate, and there is only One who can help us.
Back to Jonah. God heard his prayer and the fish vomited its messy uneaten meal onto dry land. Now Jonah is ready to proclaim the message he was given in the first place. He went to Nineveh and called on them to turn from their bad ways. And they did! What a wonderful result. Jonah has saved women, men, children, and livestock from death.
Is he jubilant? Far from it – he has what we might call a strop. He seems to think he has wasted his time going to Nineveh if the Lord was always going to spare its inhabitants. He has suffered a near drowning and a near digesting – and for what? He forgets that in the end God has saved him. He doesn’t see that he could have used this experience to preach powerfully to those who had turned from the Lord, or had never known the Lord. Imagine how convincing Jonah’s testimony would have been.
Back to the world today.
Will those whose lives have recently been made better or safer or happier by key workers on low wages and poor conditions, or neighbours they didn’t know, or volunteers from a charity they’d never heard of, or members of a church whose door they’d never darkened, resolve to live differently as a result of their experience?
Or, like Jonah, will the saving grace of God be quickly cast aside and blotted out from memory?
Let’s pray that after the demolition of society by the Covid-19 storm we will find ourselves sailing on the calm seas of justice and peace.
Let’s build back better.