Have you been feeling doubtful or questioning something lately? Are you having reservations or feel hesitant about a specific situation? Do you have an increase in feelings of aversion and unwillingness? If you answered yes to these questions, then most likely you have been diagnosed with “The Jonah Syndrome.”
The Jonah Syndrome is based on reluctance. Challenging and difficult times in our lives leave us feeling or experiencing “doubt, hesitation, objection, questioning, unwillingness, aversion, and reservations – these help give a clearer definition to the word, reluctance. Certainly, we’ve all been there as human beings and it’s usually not a good place to be –simply it’s uncomfortable.
Can you recall a time when a task, project or situation has been daunting, intimidating, overwhelming or down right frightening. Often times we don’t want to face it or deal with it.
The Jonah Syndrome is based on the Old Testament’s Book of Jonah. It’s the story of a reluctant prophet named Jonah. He tried to run from a formidable task, but he couldn’t hide. He tried to escape, but was always found. Ultimately, God lead him to the realization that the best way to deal with the challenge was to ask for guidance from God and accept it.
If you haven’t read the story of the Prophet Jonah, consider doing so or read it once again. It’s a short story – only 4 chapters, 48 verses and just over 1,300 words. Yet it tells us all we need to know about life lessons. The story mirrors our spiritual journey and showcases God’s unique loving and compassionate relationship with mankind.
Jonah’s experience can be summarized this way:
Chapter 1 – Jonah runs from God
Chapter 2 – Jonah prays to God
Chapter 3 – Jonah speaks for God
Chapter 4 – Jonah learns about God
Jonah’s life changed with three words, “Go to Nineveh.” It’s amazing how three words or one sentence can change your life. Just think how a phone call, text, e-mail or letter can change your life in a second – receiving good news changes you one way and receiving bad news changes you in another way. All in the twinkling of an eye!
In our lives today, we are all faced with various types of “go to Nineveh” situations, those specific things that we really need to do, but are reluctant to do so.
So with Jonah and those 3 words that God uttered, “Go to Nineveh” – the Jonah Syndrome begins. Simply put, Jonah did not want to go. Nineveh was a horrid place. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria and the Assyrians were cruel people. It was a wicked place. Unspeakable atrocities occurred there. God sent Jonah there to “preach against their wickedness.” It wasn’t going to be a warm and fuzzy experience and Jonah knew it. God wanted Jonah to attack the problem head on.
How does Jonah handle the situation? He goes the opposite direction from Nineveh. God wants Jonah to go East, but he goes West. He finds a one-way ticket and takes the first boat available to Tarshish, a far travel from Nineveh (it’s about 2,000 miles distance from Tarshish to Nineveh).
It’s amazing how God provides for Jonah each step of this journey.
After a tremendous storm tosses and turns the boat he is on, Jonah decides that it’s best for the other fisherman to throw him overboard. So there, in the middle of the vast sea, God provides a giant fish for Jonah to shelter in for three days. In the belly of the giant fish, Jonah has the realization that he needs his Creator. In thanksgiving, Jonah remembers and calls upon the mighty Lord God.
God tells Jonah a second time, “Go to Nineveh” and of course this time Jonah has a change of heart. He has already been through hell and back and truly has the epiphany that God is the sustainer, comforter, and director of his life.
A self-confident, faith-tested and spiritually energized Jonah goes to Nineveh. With power and strength of the Lord on his side, Jonah preaches repentance and converts the people of Nineveh to become believers in the one God.
Having been tested to his most outer limits, Jonah succeeds in his ministerial call as a prophet and delivers the news to the people of Nineveh, as a messenger of God.
The beauty of Jonah’s story is three-fold. It’s found in the unwavering companionship and faithfulness that God has with his children. It’s realized in Jonah’s faith journey and his allowance of his body, soul and mind to embrace God. And lastly, the story of Jonah provides us with inspiration, encouragement and a template when we too are called to “go to Nineveh.”