Theme of the Week: Stress
Bible Verse: When the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” Jonah 4:6-11
Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:21
After Jonah reluctantly obeys (and poorly at that) the word of the Lord that came to him, he takes his angry self outside the city and builds a shelter. His anger and self-pity are understandable, if not justifiable. The people he most hated, the enemies of Israel, had been offered a chance at salvation and saved from judgment.
Despite Jonah’s attitude, God continues to show him grace by giving him a plant to shade him from the relentless heat of the sun. But the gift was temporary. God orchestrates a worm to eat the plant, which removed the shade and He brought in a hot wind. Imagine opening the hood of a broken-down car on a hot summer day.
Think about how Jonah may have felt. He hated the people of Nineveh, he was resentful towards God, and was in emotional despair and suffering from heat exhaustion. Jonah, reasonably, responds in frustration and anger to the sudden removal of a temporary comfort after a successful but undesirable missionary journey.
God doesn’t provide another comfort, rather, he broadens the context; he helps Jonah see something bigger. “You have been concerned about this plant… should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh[?]”
Broadening the context should not be used to discount or belittle the pain, discomfort, and stress that we experience. But trying to see a bigger picture can put things in an appropriate context. The clinical word for this is reframing.
Stress has a way of becoming overwhelming and all-consuming. Broadening the context is one way that helps us see a problem for what it is, without inflating it into the all-consuming monster it can feel like. When we as believers read how the Lord introduces context to Jonah’s personal peril, we are meant to think and feel an “oh yeah” sort of relief towards our own discomforts and stressors.
Reframing doesn’t make the stress go away, and we are never to belittle the experience we have, but by broadening the context, we ready the heart and mind to deal with what is before us.
Prayer: God, it is easy to have tunnel vision, to focus so intently on the problems in front of me that I can’t see anything else. Help me to take a step back and envision a larger picture. Help me to see all that you are doing in my life and in the world.
Reflection: Think of a situation or relationship in your life that could benefit from a broader context. Take a step back from focusing directly on that problem to look at your life and what God may be doing elsewhere. Where can you see his good work and what he might be trying to do in and through you?
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