It doesn’t take long for a human being to encounter failure in their life on earth. From the toddler trying to walk in vain because her legs are not yet strong enough to the 6 year old who is confronted with poor academic results. These two examples are not usually met with disillusion, hopelessness and feelings of defeat. However, later in life, failure rears its ugly head in ways that are not seen as cute or easily fixable. Addictions, broken relationships and financial turmoil to name a few are examples of scars that failure has left on us.
Jonah 2 tells us of a gentleman that found himself in quite a jam, in the belly of a fish no less! Now, I don’t know what situation you find yourself in but I think finding yourself swimming in the gastric juices of a fish is pretty tough.
Jonah had failed. He had tried to run away from God in vain and after a dramatic turn of events he found himself faced with the reality of his failure. His response to this situation tells us how not to respond to failure:
Confusing denial for hope
The waters closed in over me to take my life… weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains… whose bars closed upon me forever; (v5-6a)
Jonah is under no illusions about the situation that he is in. He admits that he is in a jam that his own best effort cannot lift him from. I wonder what you do when you are faced with evidence of failure in your life. Do you wallow in denial, acting as if nothing is wrong and putting up a face for the world to see?
God invites us to admit our failure and not to confuse denial for hope. Denial overlooks reality. Hope accepts the evidence presented and looks to God for help.
Escaping to idols
Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. (v8)
When we are faced with failure in our lives we are most vulnerable to look to other things for hope and affirmation. Technology, shopping and travel are some of the things that our culture readily offers us as ready escapes from the reality of our failures. The Bible, however, does not see this as just escape routes but idols that we create in order that we may get a sense of acceptance and approval.
Scripture has a stern warning for us in this matter; we forsake all hope of lasting love and approval that we can only get from God. Indeed, these escapes can give us temporary relief but that is it, only temporary relief. After a while, any comfort that was there vanishes and we are where we were before.
Underestimating God’s grace
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish (v.1)
…Salvation belongs to the Lord! (v.9)
Centuries after this account was recorded, Jesus Christ would use the picture of Jonah being in the belly of the fish to describe his own death, burial and resurrection. (Matt 12:40)
You see, we have all failed God by our acts of sin. This failure warranted death as just punishment. So Christ came and died in our place on the cross. This means that all who acknowledge their failure and put their trust in Christ will have his impeccable record counted as theirs. This is what the bible means by justification by faith (Rom 3:21-26).
Friend, whatever failure you find yourself in, you could never out-sink God’s grace. Call out to him from your belly of the fish, will you?
God, I admit that I have failed in ……….. I repent of any idol that I have carved in my effort to escape the reality of my failure. I hereby accept Jesus’ death in my stead and accept His righteousness in exchange. Amen.