Do you ever wonder if you have missed out on God’s calling for your life? I used to really stress about this. In fact, I tried all kinds of things in an attempt to make sure that I did not miss out on God’s plan. I prayed, I fasted, I spoke to friends, I went to counseling and I tried anything I thought God might want me to do.
Due to this desire to make sure I did not miss my calling, I worked as a jewelry designer, a bookkeeper, a paramedic, an outdoor education instructor, a pregnancy crisis counselor and a television producer. I accepted jobs with non-profits and churches and in places where “Jesus Christ” is only spoken like a swear word so my job could be my mission. And the above list does not even begin to touch on all the vocational and personality tests I have taken and the self-help books I have read. All of this in a desperate attempt not to miss out on anything God has for me.
While I’ve spent my time and energy trying to find my calling I’ve seen some of my friends spend their time and energy trying to run away from their calling. I had a literature lecturer in school who pointed out that in most stories, there is a character who is on the run. He challenged us to look at what the character was running towards rather than what the character was running from. I’ve been thinking about calling and running in light of the story of Jonah a lot lately.
God told Jonah to go a place called Nineveh. God was pretty clear that this was his plan for Jonah. The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it…” I mean God practically told Jonah, “This is your calling, this is what I want you to do for me.” Every time I read this I think, “God, could you do that for me? Could you tell me in audible words what you want me to do with my life?” I like to think that I’d be thrilled if that happened to me, but it seems that Jonah didn’t like what God told him to do.
The Bible says in Jonah 1:3-4, “But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” Jonah didn’t really like God’s calling for his life so he tried to go in the opposite direction.
One dark stormy night, on the voyage away from Nineveh, Jonah was thrown off the ship into the sea. But God sent a whale to swallow him like plankton. Jonah stayed in the belly of the rather large mammal for three days and three nights until God ordered the whale to vomit Jonah onto a beach just outside of Nineveh, the exact place that Jonah had been trying to avoid.
The problem for Jonah was that it was the only place in the world that God wanted him. Jonah thought he was running from God, and his calling, but instead he was running right into the arms of God.
There are so many reasons I love the story of Jonah. In fact, now when I stress about whether I’m doing what God wants me to do, I go back and read it because the story of Jonah reminds me of these three things:
God won’t let us miss his calling on our lives.
If Jonah - who was actively rebelling against God’s calling on his life - was guided by God to the exact place God wanted him to be, then God will make sure I find my calling too. Think about this a bit. Jonah ended up right in the exact place God wanted him even though he was running away from his calling. God sent a whale to take him to the place he needed him. If God can do something that outside of human experience to make sure Jonah doesn’t miss his calling, then I’m pretty sure he’ll get me to where he wants me to be (hopefully without having to live in the digestive juices of a whale).
There is nothing we can do that is too bad for God to give up on us.
I like that story because it reminds me that God can find me anywhere, that there is no where I can run that is too far for God to reach.
I like that story because it exposes how I don’t need to run away from my problems, that if I run into the arms of God he will give me the strength to see them through.
In fact Jonah ended up running right to the exact place God wanted him to be, even while Jonah thought he was running away from his calling.
God is consistently, and lovingly, guiding us to the exact place he needs us to be right now.
I forget that I am a beloved child of God all the time. I forget that I a person who is greatly loved by God. I forget that “Beloved” is my very identity. I imagine I’m not the only one. I have a friend who even has it tattooed on her arm so she never forgets. Henri Nouwen once wrote, “We are the beloved sons and daughters of God just as Jesus is the Beloved Son.” How crazy is that? God loves me – and you – as much as he loves Jesus. As much as he loved Jonah. You are a person who is greatly loved. We are God’s beloved. Knowing that God will send a whale even when I run from him, instead of towards him, reminds me that he is a God of love. God isn’t trying to trick you and me into missing out on the best he has for us. God is consistently, and lovingly, guiding you to the exact place he needs you to be right now.
I used to stress about missing my calling but now I just read the story of Jonah. And tell myself, “Relax, if God wants you there, he'll take you there.” Just ask Jonah.
Wendy van Eyck is married to Xylon, who talks non-stop about cycling, and makes her laugh. She writes for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, ever believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday through a foreign land with just a backpack. You can follow Wendy’s story and subscribe to receive her free ebook, “Life, life and more life” at ilovedevotionals.com. She would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.
Publication date: October 22, 2015