Comfort & Courage
No one knows for sure what plant gave Jonah shade. We do know that Jonah received comfort from the plant mentioned in the 4th chapter of Jonah. He had taken comfort from little else. He fled from the assignment given to him by God, got swallowed by a big fish, and was vomited out to travel to Nineveh to proclaim a message from God. I don’t think Jonah gets many points for courage when God essentially dragged Jonah to Nineveh. Plus, he took no comfort in the fact that the inhabitants of Nineveh repented from their evil ways. Which makes me wonder, from where do comfort and courage come?
I am quickly reminded of James 1:16-18, which says that every good gift comes from God. So, since I believe comfort and courage are both good things, it stands to reason they both come from God. Another thought I have is that you can be blessed with one without the other. One can have courage while not feeling comfortable. Likewise, some are comfortable but not very courageous.
The leafy plant
In the story of Jonah, God has more compelling questions for Jonah. He provided a leafy plant to shade Jonah. It grew up in one day, and God caused a worm to eat and kill the plant the next day. Jonah became upset. He was already upset that God gave the people of Nineveh another chance. Now he was upset about the death of the plant that had kept him cooler.
Jonah 4:9-11 reads:
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?”
Bigotry can destroy our comfort and courage
Jonah knew the inhabitants of Nineveh sat at the epicenter of the seat of power in the Assyrian kingdom, a kingdom that oppressed the Hebrew people. Jonah didn’t want to aid a threat to his people. God used a bigoted prophet like Jonah to save thousands. Perhaps God got through to Jonah, and his bias and bigotry melted some, for it negatively influenced his comfort and courage.
Perhaps Jonah was jealous. God is the God of the Hebrews. Jonah didn’t want to share what the Hebrews had going on. I relate to Jonah’s mindset. God made me, and he continues to help me. There is no room or time for God to help others in my tiny little mind and my small little world. The whole world is all about me. Yet sometimes God drags me kicking and screaming to dry land. I arrive onshore, an emotional mess, dripping in my emotional fish vomit, having been consumed by situations of my creation that are as large as any sea creature. Yet, a patient God uses selfish me to reach people who live outside my comfort zone.
For example, I was recently asked to create a prayer calendar for elected leaders and those running for office. Of course, I only wanted to ask people to pray for the leaders I like. But, we should pray for our enemies too. May God give us the comfort and courage to do so.
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