If Only…But…


Wendy Sue Pankey

Key Scripture: Jonah 1:1-3

“For the word of the Lord came to Jonah…saying… ‘Arise, go’…but Jonah rose to flee the presence of the Lord…”

How often have I said, “If only…”? If only God would speak to me. If only I could hear God’s audible voice. If only I knew exactly what God wanted me to do. I’d like to think that if only I heard directly from God with specific step by step instructions, then I would respond with, “Yes, Lord! Let’s do this!” 

It’s easy for me to read the whole story of Jonah with all of the commentaries and opinions and evaluations and wonder what Jonah was thinking. How could he respond like that? He had a very clear directive from God and he chose to not only flee, but to hire a boat to take him the opposite direction and away from the presence of the Lord. 

Oh, Jonah, how could you? 

Here I am, with the word of the Lord at my literal fingertips, and even without an audible “Arise, go…”, I know what He is asking me to do daily. Every time I disobey or ignore or get so busy I ‘forget,’ —I am fleeing the presence of God, just like Jonah. 

Whether it’s the Ten Commandments, the Great Commission, or any of the various directives we find in scripture, some days I am Jonah. I choose to ignore what I know to be true. I choose to walk away from loving others. I choose not to share God’s love. I choose not to show grace. I choose to make assumptions about the motives or actions of others, while justifying my own. Just today I found myself being both judge and jury over how someone was behaving, and that’s not my job or responsibility. 

Do I love the way Jesus asks me to? Do I see people the way Jesus sees them? Do I pray for others from a place of hope for their salvation and eternity?  Or do I find myself, like Jonah—hearing and knowing His word and yet fleeing from His presence?

It’s much easier to look at Jonah and shake my head. It’s easy to read his story and think I would never respond the way he did, but when I look in the mirror I’m confronted with my own similarities to his character.

We are all given a choice. We can face the battles within our own hearts and minds and continue on a path of fleeing, or we can allow it to draw us back to God’s word and His presence again and again. 

I want to choose His presence more and more. What will you choose?

Steps of Faith: God, I’m sorry for how often I choose to flee your presence and how often I choose not to hear your voice. Help me to see others, including myself, with your eyes. Help me to love the way you love. Help me to choose your presence and spend time in your word so that your voice is the loudest. Thank you for your gifts of salvation and forgiveness and grace. 

Deeper Walk Scripture: Matthew 22:34-37, Mark 2:17, John 15:4-11

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