On July 18, 1983, a US Air Force captain disappeared from Albuquerque, New Mexico, without a trace. Thirty-five years later, authorities found him in California. The New York Times reports that, “depressed about his job,” he’d simply run away.
Thirty-five years on the run! Half a lifetime spent looking over his shoulder! I have to imagine that anxiety and paranoia were this man’s constant companions.
But I have to admit, I also know a bit about being “on the run.” No, I’ve never abruptly fled something in my life . . . physically. But at times I know there’s something God wants me to do, something I need to face or confess. I don’t want to do it. And so, in my own way, I run too.
The prophet Jonah is infamous for literally running from God’s assignment to preach to the city of Nineveh (see Jonah 1:1–3). But, of course, he couldn’t outrun God. You’ve probably heard what happened (vv. 4,17): A storm. A fish. A swallowing. And, in the belly of the beast, a reckoning, in which Jonah faced what he’d done and cried to God for help (2:2).
Jonah wasn’t a perfect prophet. But I take comfort in his remarkable story, because, even despite Jonah’s stubbornness, God never let go of him. The Lord still answered the man’s desperate prayer, graciously restoring His reluctant servant (v. 2)—just as He does with us.
What, if anything, have you tried to run away from in your life? How can you grow in bringing to God the pressures that overwhelm you?
Jonah initially ministered to the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23–28). God reassigned him to minister to the Assyrian city of Nineveh and to warn them to repent or face God’s judgment (Jonah 1:1). After Jonah refused this new mission and instead fled in the opposite direction (v. 3), God disciplined him by causing him to be swallowed up by a big fish (vv. 4, 17). Jonah 2 records the prophet’s prayer of repentance when he was inside the fish. Jesus used this event to foreshadow His own burial and resurrection: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40; Jonah 1:17).