“Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, `I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice” (Jonah 2:1-2).
Jonah had tried to run away from God. This prophet refused his assignment to preach to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh (Jonah 1:1-3). God sent a storm on the sea to stop Jonah’s escape to the far-flung outpost of Tarshish at the edge of the known world (Jonah 1:4). He was thrown into the sea and an especially prepared giant fish came to swallow him and take him back to land. In the belly of the great fish, where it was dark, smelly, and confined, he hit bottom. He was now in the best position to find God. He was as low as a person could get, so he finally turned his attention his highest purpose in life, that is seeking God, instead of avoiding Him.
Sadness and suffering, trial and trauma, despair and death are harsh realities in this fallen world. When God cursed the earth in Genesis 3 due to the sin of Adam and Eve, then disease, disappointment and death became a part of life (Gen 3:17). Jonah learned when he was down to look up by faith and hope. “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD…Salvation is from the LORD” (Jonah 2:7, 9). Life’s deepest problems may be the very occasion that we feel our need for God the keenest. Jonah could hold to God’s Hand, by faith, and climb out of the pit of his problems.
“When you come to the bottom, you find still find God” (Neville Talbot). “If I should say, “My foot has slipped,” Your lovingkindness, O LORD, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul” (Psa 94:18-19). In trials and trouble, or even when we walk “through the valley of the shadow of death,” how comforting to know that God’s promises in Scripture are a never failing source of help and hope.
Finally, we look forward to the day in heaven, when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).