The False Security of Manipulation
But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. Jonah 1:5
Most of us who have known addiction, have learned to scheme, hide, and lie, convincing ourselves that we can get away with behavior that we know should lead to severe consequences. Enslaved to evil, we become manipulators of events and people, in an effort to get what we want and get away with it. With some success, we become confident in our ability to bend the world to our will. Behavior that should keep us up at night simply becomes routine.
This is where Jonah found himself in today’s passage. Having been commanded by God to preach in Nineveh, Jonah refused. On a ship, en route to Tarshish, the opposite direction from Nineveh, Jonah ran from God. Armed with a false sense of security that he’d successfully fled God’s presence, Jonah went to bed, sleeping comfortably on a bed of his own defiance.
Jonah should have been a sleepless wreck. He should have been pacing and wringing his hands in fear – if he knew what was coming. Believing himself to have outrun God though, Jonah basked in his successful manipulation and slept through the very storm God sent to intercept him.
The problem for Jonah, and for us, is that while we may avoid consequences for a time, we cannot outrun God forever. The lesson of today’s passage is not that we will be swallowed by a giant fish when we disobey. The lesson is that when we follow our own way, abandoning God, we are heading into a storm of our own creation. When we sleep comfortably in our ability to do what we want and get away with it, we embrace a false security that will inevitably lead to misery.
If we want to attempt to out-manipulate God, he allows us to try – and fail miserably. If though, we want to sleep soundly, knowing the true peace of God, then we must learn to daily abandon our path for his. We don’t need to live like Jonah or the addict, running from consequence. We can, if we will follow God, experience the authentic rest and peace that only he can provide.