Encouragement for Today
Marybeth Whalen, Proverbs 31 Speaker Team Member
Psalm 121:5-6, “The Lord watches over you — the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.”
First of all, let me say that I am mathematically challenged. My brain seems to be missing the part that can process and understand numbers. I am so bad at math I had no choice but to major in English in college. Good thing I met and married an engineer. I always say that between the two of us, we have one good brain. (Which is what God intended, I am sure!)
My math ineptitude, however, has not prevented me from coming up with my own formula for life. I call it the TRIG formula, and it is a wonderful solution to life’s many problems. TRIG stands for “Totally Rest In God.” Other than being able to balance my checkbook, the TRIG formula is the only math I need. It adds up to peace in the midst of chaos and serenity in the turmoil that surrounds us.
Jonah was someone that faced chaos and uncertainty in his day as well. When God called him to preach to his lost neighbors, the Ninevites, he did what many of us would do: he ran away. I’m sure most of us know what happened to Jonah as a result. His fear of the unknown and bitterness towards the ungodly Ninevites led to a rather scary experience – in the belly of a whale – that God used to get his attention. This is the first evidence we can see that he was not following the TRIG formula in his life.
Jonah eventually did as God asked and preached of God’s love and redemption to the Ninevites. Jonah 3:5 says, “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” Jonah 3:10 goes on to say, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.” Jonah was an excellent evangelist and affected an entire nation with his message. He was the Billy Graham of his day. Yet, his heart was troubled by what happened to the Ninevites as a result of his message. He felt resentment that they were so easily forgiven and harbored bitter feelings towards them. He focused on his circumstances and could not Totally Rest In God. His anger and resentment churned inside of him, poisoning his mind and body.
The end of the book of Jonah reveals a scene that is often left out of the Bible stories we hear. It is a scene, however, that most of us can identify with if we are honest with ourselves. Jonah, in his anger, goes and sits to wait and see what will happen to Ninevah. He was hoping for the destruction of the city and wanted a ringside seat. Jonah 4:5 says, “Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter (emphasis mine), sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.” He was clearly trying to rest — but he was resting under a shade of his own creation. Jonah 4:6 says, “Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it to grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.”
It was time for God to teach Jonah yet another lesson. In the very next verse, God sends a worm that kills the vine. With the vine gone, Jonah’s shelter grows weak and the heat blazes down on him. The Scripture says that Jonah grew faint and wanted to die.
Jonah sounds a lot like me — a slow learner. Even after he is released from the belly of the whale, he still is quick to revert to his old ways. Instead of totally resting in God and God’s plan, he wants things to be his way and tries to seek out his own resolutions. I am a lot like Jonah. I allow my limited view to taint the bigger picture that only God can see. I allow my negative feelings to sabotage the good works God has in store for me. Most of all, I let God down by building my own forms of shelter. My shelter might be material possessions, a well appointed home or money in the bank. I love the story of Jonah and the vine because it so clearly illustrates how foolhardy it is to rely on such things. God showed Jonah that He could provide a much better shelter. He also showed him how quickly He could remove that shelter when our hearts are far from Him.
God wants to be our shelter — a place of rest and shade. He wants us to come to Him when we are hurting and pour out our feelings to Him. When we do this, He will provide a shelter from injustices, misunderstandings and hurts. He will cause the resolution we seek to spring up, just like the vine. May we all demolish the pitiful, substandard, human forms of shelter we have tried to erect and find the real shade our souls are longing for by learning to Totally Rest In God.
My Prayer for Today:
Lord, please help me to seek Your shelter when I am upset and not to rely on shelters of my own design. Please help me to wait on You to grow the perfect place for me to rest. I need to find rest and relief in You, Lord. Thank You for being that to me each day, even when I don’t recognize it as I should. Please help me to remember that. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Write down any forms of shelter you have erected in your life that God is showing you today. Ask God to help you tear those down and replace them with a shelter from Him. Thank Him for being a living, active God who is at work in our lives each day.
Am I totally resting in God today?
Am I aware of the shade He is providing me, or am I continuing to harbor bitterness and resentment over my circumstances?
How can I “demolish” the forms of shelter I have placed my trust in that are not from God?
Isaiah 25:4, “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” (NIV)
Psalm 143:1, “O Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness, come to my relief.” (NIV)
Deuteronomy 33:12, “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.” (NIV)
Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Who Holds the Key to Your Heart, by Lysa TerKeurst
Intimate Moments with God, by select authors
The Best of The Proverbs 31 Ministry, by select authors