“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” Jonah 2:8 (NIV)
Wrestling the downward pull of the water, I propelled myself upward until my head broke the surface. Gasping for air and shaking, I doggy paddled until I reached the mossy bank of the swimming hole.
It wasn’t fear of drowning that had me trembling. Out in the water, my father had taken the one thing I believed I needed to feel safe – a pair of inflatable plastic armbands. I’d been hiding my ability to swim without them and was furious at being exposed. I was a girl with deep-seated trust issues, more comfortable being held by flimsy floats than swimming free.
At the time, I had no idea the magnitude of my father’s gift. He knew what I needed or, in this case, he knew what needed removing. My temporary comfort could not sustain me and must go.
My propensity for self-protection followed me into adulthood, overriding any understanding I had of my dad’s love or my heavenly Father’s immeasurable grace.
Even now, I can sense its intrusion, showing up in the way I take charge of a situation, control conversations, or set strict boundaries where none belong. It threatens to drag me under until I find myself drowning in doubt, hard-pressed to believe God is for me.
In these moments, I feel a bit like the prophet Jonah who God exposed after he refused to preach to a city known for its evil posture towards God’s people, the Jews. Jonah finds himself without the boat he depended on for escape, landing instead, by God’s providence, in the belly of a giant fish with no way out.
His plans unsalvageable, Jonah acknowledges his predicament and turns to God in prayer. In Jonah 2:8, he declares, “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” And that’s what I’d been doing every time I grabbed after something powerless to save me – refusing God’s grace.
But, in the final words of Jonah’s prayer, I find great hope. He’s expelled from his fishy tomb onto the shore after professing, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9b NIV)
So it is often for me. At the end of my rope, after God moves my current comforting obsession from reach, I am turned back to His love – until, again, I trust in Him alone. Perhaps you can relate?
God’s desire for us to swim free in His grace requires more than the removal of undependable props. It is realized through our utter dependence on Him alone for our salvation. Only He can enter the roiling waters of our lives, surround us with His mercy and buoy us with His love.
Jonah’s story and our stories ultimately point to our need for Jesus — the only one who can meet us in our deep longing for forgiveness and set us free. Surveying the landscape of our lives, firmly rooted in His mercy, this beautiful truth emerges — our doubts are but specks in an immense ocean of God’s grace.
Gracious Lord, remove from my reach all that is imprisoning my trust in You today until I can again say with confidence that my salvation comes from You alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Is there an area in your life where you have turned away from God’s loving mercy and instead embraced old comforts and habits? What practical steps can you take to turn back to Him today? I’d love to hear from you and pray with you! Share your thoughts in the comments.