1 But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. 3 And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Our anger and frustration at how things happen in our lives and the lives of our children may or may not be justified, but it is not often helpful; however, it is understandable and a normal reaction to have when things are not going our way.
In today’s reading Jonah, the reluctant prophet, is mad at God because he disagrees with how God is handling the situation in the city of Nineveh, Jonah feels God should not be showing the city so much mercy, and instead should be dealing with Nineveh much more harshly. I have had times when I was told I was going too easy on my daughter, and needed to send her a stronger message when imposing discipline or consequences, and those who chided me were probably right, but it is often hard to be harsh with those we love so much, even if we know it is for the best.
So too I imagine, was it difficult for God to be too harsh on the people of Nineveh…as they too were beloved children of God, so instead of destroying the city God sent Jonah to try to bring the people back to their faith! However, God first had to get Jonah and the same page, and like a reluctant child he got mad at God and started stamping his feet in anger and saying that God was not being fair.
How often have we, as parents, heard the same thing from our children: that we were not being fair? Our children may have also stamped their feet, even thrown things and said hurtful words to us, all out of their own frustration or anger…yet in spite of the pain we may have felt we took their anger, and never stopped loving them! Love is always stronger than anger for us towards our children and for God towards us as well; just as God never stopped loving Jonah even though he was angry with God for being unfair.
Sometimes it does seem as if God is being unfair, like when we or our children run into a time of bad luck, when nothing seems to be going right. Maybe like Jonah we become upset when the bad decisions of others seem to go unpunished while good people suffer.
Anger and frustration are normal human feelings…even if they are unpleasant and cause us trouble on occasion. The good news id that just as our love for our children is strong enough to endure their anger, God’s love for us is so powerful that nothing can stop it, not our anger, frustration, or even our sins! Immersed in God’s grace, we are forgiven!
As for God not always being fair…maybe that can also be a good thing; it certainly was for Nineveh, as the city was spared the wrath of God and given another chance! With our children we too are often unfair: for every time we have laid down a harsh punishment, how often have we gone easy on our kids, cut them a break they may not have deserved? I have gone easy on my daughter at times not due to weakness, but due to love, as I do not like to punish, and would much rather forgive.
I believe it is the same for God, who loved us so much that we were given the gift of grace, love and forgiveness in Christ! It is with this gift that God is most unfair with us, as through Christ we too are spared the full force of God’s wrath, and instead surrounded by the full measure of God’s love; and this gift is given to us freely…even when we do not deserve it, even when we are mad at God or feel that God is not being fair (which often works in our favor)…and that is good news indeed!
Let us Pray:
God, thank you for not always being fair with us, for offering us forgiveness rather than wrath, love over anger! Help us to share these gifts with others by showing love and forgiveness to all those around us, especially our children! Forgive us for times when we, like Jonah, feel angry or frustrated with you…and help us to move beyond these feelings to see how it is when we are immersed in your grace that we find the truth of your love for all of your children.