A dip in the sea would not be my choice of escape, but it was Jonah’s
Ever likened your grief journey to something that makes sense, like a roller coaster ride? Those of us in survival mode understand the ups and downs, twists and turns of grief. Perhaps Jonah knew a thing or two about a bumpy ride, and, like ours, it was not of his choosing.
I haven’t had a deep-sea experience equal to Jonah’s, but riding the turbulent tide of emotions after my firstborn died by suicide might be akin to the rough ride he took inside a giant fish. First, let’s set the stage for Act Two of this story.
The book of Jonah chronicles the real-life experiences of this Old Testament prophet, including a few days of R & R in a “mammal motel,” after he decided to ditch God’s “mission impossible” assignment. God had a job for Jonah to do in the city of Nineveh. Jonah said he would go, then changed his mind and hightailed it to the harbor where he boarded a ship heading to Tarshish, the farthest port in the opposite direction. (You may read Act One, Jonah: The Man Who Ran, posted May 20, 2017, in my blog archives.)
He paid for the trip and went on board. He wanted to go to Tarshish to get away from the Lord. Jonah 1:3b
Jonah paid his fare, climbed the gangplank, and settled himself down in the hold of the ship rather than on deck with other passengers. Perhaps he thought that he could hide from God in that dark place. Suddenly, a terrible storm came up and threatened the lives of all on board. The crew moved quickly to lighten the load by throwing cargo into the broiling sea. At that point, Jonah appeared from his hiding spot. He told the men to throw him overboard, and the storm would stop. It was a preposterous suggestion, but the men did as instructed and tossed Jonah overboard. The sea immediately became calm. Before Jonah could gulp too much sea water, he was swallowed by a huge fish.
Wow! It would be frightening, to say the least, to come to one’s senses inside the belly of a whale. For three days and nights, Jonah sat amid the slimy mix of seaweed and gastric juices. To make matters worse he was probably seasick from being tossed about like a rag doll with every leap of this giant of the sea.
I can imagine Jonah felt around in the dark (and it would be dark . . . whales don’t have windows) for any protruding skeletal part to hold onto while taking the wildest ride of his life. Sleep was unlikely in his “prison cell,” so Jonah had plenty of time to think. He probably pondered his recent decision to lie to God by first saying he would obey, then secretly doing otherwise.
God did not need sonar to pinpoint which fish entombed Jonah. He knew exactly where His prophet was because He put him there. No doubt Jonah was learning a valuable lesson. When he was finally coughed up on land he set off to Nineveh to do the errand God had assigned to him in the first place. This would have been a hard lesson in obedience which, undoubtedly, Jonah never forgot.
I was not tossed into the sea like Jonah, but I fell into a sea of grief when I lost my firstborn to suicide. I wasn’t stuck inside a whale’s belly, but I crawled under a “rock” while in the throes of deep pain and depression. After everyone returned to their homes and my hubby returned to work, I felt very much alone. In some ways, the solitude may have been as uncomfortable to me as the whale’s belly was to Jonah, and just like Jonah, I had some processing to do.
I knew no one who was going through what I was going through. Where could I turn? Who would understand? My mind was in turmoil as these and other questions swirled in my head. The God I had always relied on had allowed my precious son to take his own life. He had the power to stop him, so why didn’t He? This is one of my “why” questions which remains unanswered directly, however, God has helped me to understand and accept my son’s death.
In the twelve plus years without my firstborn, my grief journey has never stayed the same. Some days I float on calm, peaceful waters. Other days my grief turns stormy with choppy waves threatening to capsize me, but through it all, I can honestly say that the healing process has inched me forward baby step by baby step. This is not to say that I don’t “revisit” the various stages of grief. I surely do, but my emotions have not forced me back to the beginning when the pain of it was shocking and horrific.
Please take heart if you are new to your grief journey. I get the horror of it when tragedy strikes, and it takes lots of time to realize what actually happened. There is no schedule for how long we stay at the beginning of sorrows; one stays until one is ready to take a baby step forward.
Just as God kept His eyes on Jonah, He keeps His eyes on me. I didn’t feel His presence in the beginning, but I came to know it and be comforted by it. It took time for me to grasp that the God of heaven knew exactly where I was, and perhaps, He was right beside me in my hiding place.
Please know that your higher power is aware of who you are and where you are. He knows how you feel. He knows all about the stormy sorrow that saturates your soul. Trust that you are covered in comfort and peace.
The Lord has become my stronghold. My God has become my rock of refuge. Psalm 94:22
Scripture shared from GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)