“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” (Philippians 1:29)
No one wants to struggle, to hurdle challenges that are beyond our ability to scale. We don’t greet suffering with open arms, but rather grimace with clenched lips, attempting to run far away from its presence, dodge and evade its approach.
But like that great fish that swallowed Jonah whole, our painful places are often the vehicles that carry us from where we find ourselves to where God requires us to be. In Jonah’s case, a large-mouthed monster opening its jaws and sucking him in would never have been his first choice. Death might have been easier to handle than the miserable insides of the fish’s cavernous interior.
But God sent that sea creature directly to swallow Jonah and transport him to where he needed to be. Without God’s radical intervention, Jonah would have perished in the waves, and the people in Nineveh might not have heard the call to repentance. Our own struggles might be a swallowing up or a being stranded inside unrecognizable, confining walls. But when God is directing the outcomes, he is in the middle of rescuing us and using us for some great purpose we may never fully comprehend.
In Daniel’s case, after years of serving God and being faithful to minister in a pagan court, he was hurled through the air as a late-night morsel for a pride of ferocious lions. Imagine for a moment how this daunting experience revolutionized Daniel’s life.
For the rest of his days he knew with certainty the sensation of lions breathing an inch away without so much as delivering one scratch to his body. Daniel understood first-hand that God rescued him using an angel to shut the wild animals’ mouths. Daniel experienced God protecting him in the middle of the pit, in the midst of menacing claws. Specifically, because of what God allowed, Daniel was forever convinced that, “The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
God will not allow the cruel bite of sorrow or the gaping jaw of hardships to destroy us either. When we are thrown into our own lion’s den, we need not fear. Dangerous claws and wide-opened mouths are no match for God’s intervention in our lives.
He asks us to trust him, to believe he brings good from hard places, to know with absolute certainty that his presence is more than enough for anything barging through our door.
“But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you” (Acts 26:16).
Elizabeth Ann Mitchell
Photo Credit: Dave Hoefler on Unsplash