From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.
When I was three or four years old, we had a dog named Peppy. It was part little dog and part another little dog, but I loved that dust-colored dog. My father was the pastor of First Baptist Church of Las Animas, Colorado and a lady from that Church came over to visit my mother, who was a stay-at-home mom of three young children. The lady’s name was Mrs. Hightower. There are only three things I remember about Mrs. Hightower. One, she was a very sweet and kind woman. Second, this story I am going to tell you. And third, she was as large as a mountain.
She came in and sat down on our couch. I remember my mom trying to shoo me and my brother away so they could talk. But I stood my ground in front of Mrs. Hightower. My mother kept shooing. I kept standing. Finally, my mom said what is wrong, Joe? I said, “I can’t find Peppy.” My mother said, “Go look in the laundry room.” I did. And I looked on the back porch. The bedrooms, upstairs, kitchen—everywhere. I came back and stood vigil in front of Mrs. Hightower.
Finally, Mrs. Hightower looked at me and said, “What’s the matter, darlin?”
And as serious as a lawyer I said, “You are sitting on my dog.”
Her face blanched, she set her cup of coffee down and struggled to get up and sure enough, there was Peppy between the cushions with a look of desperate despair on his face. Mrs. Hightower apologized profusely saying that she thought poor Peppy was a throw pillow.
Peppy was never the same. Peppy sat out on the porch and stared into the distance and eventually had a nervous breakdown.
Ever feel as if the world has sat on you and you are all alone?
In the old flannelgraph story of Jonah, imagine a conversation God might have had with the great fish.
God: Hey, fish…
Fish: Yes, Lord?
God: “Go pick up Jonah. Directions will be given on a need-to-know basis and I’ll tell you where to drop him off.”
Fish: “Yes, Lord.”
God: “And Fish? This is an important detail.”
Fish: “Yes, Lord?”
God: “Swallow, don’t chew.”
Fish: “Yes, Lord.”
Guess what Jonah does in the fish? He prays. From the guts of the fish, Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. And in the belly of that slimy, smelly, moist gastronomical mess, Jonah found God was already there waiting on him.
“I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me… Jonah 2:2
When you are in over your head, trust God to remember you and you pray.
Don’t forget to pray.
There is a Jonah I knew named Don his wife of 25 years left him and he was a bachelor for about 10 years. He and I would talk and he would ask about remarriage after divorce and what the bible had to say about it. I walked him through those teachings. He just couldn’t make himself date again. He took Jesus’ words very seriously and literally and he didn’t want to marry again if God forbade it.
We finally came to a position on the teaching of Jesus on divorce and remarriage he could live with and stay faithful to the Bible.
In time, he met a beautiful woman named Connie. They were perfect together. They dated for almost two years as mid-fifty-year-olds. Just trying to make sure they had made the correct choice. I married them. She made the most wonderful pecan pies and when she found I loved pecan pies, she would look for any excuse to make her pastor a pie.
Then one day Don called me and said that the test came back positive and that Connie had a brain tumor. She went through all of the horrible treatments to save her life. It kept getting worse and worse. We had a service at our church we called a “Body Life” service and we invited anyone who wanted prayer for healing to come and request it. We would anoint them with oil and pray. Never promised anyone they would be healed. We simply asked God to heal our friends.
I had begun to study Richard Foster, a famous Quaker author, and one of the things he taught was that we should pray for God to reveal His will to us before we pray for another person because the Bible teaches that if we pray anything that is according to God’s will he will grant our requests. I began to do that.
That Sunday evening, Connie and Don stepped out of the pew and began to come down the center aisle. She had a scarf wrapped tightly around her bald head. Don held her arm and walked slowly down the aisle with her. It took her a while to make it down to the front. That gave me time to pray for God to reveal to me his will for Connie and Don.
So I prayed.
And God said she would be healed—in heaven.
When they stood before me at the front of that church for prayer healing, in almost the same spot the day I married them, I knew she was going to die, but in keeping with their request, I anointed her with oil and prayed for her and asked God to come close to her and Don and reveal his glory in their relationship and in their life.
Connie died four months later. They had been married less than a year.
I went to sit with Don in his grief and said, “Don, I am so sorry. I don’t know what to say.”
He said, “God is with me, pastor. I feel him in this pain. He knew this was coming and He let me marry her. I hurt like I have never hurt in my life, but she belongs to the Lord, and I will see her again one day.”
I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me…
That’s the story of Jonah. You may feel as if the world has sat on you and that you are all alone, but you would be mistaken.
Trust God to remember you.
Don’t forget to pray.