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(Part 6)


In today's reading, Jonah gets angry with God, because the conversion of Nineveh was greatly displeasing to him (Jonah 4:1). Because of his anger, he wanted to die (Jon 4:3). Later Jonah again was angry with God, when the gourd plant giving him shade withered. Again he wanted to die.

Many afflictions happen to us that cause us to react in negative ways, at times even against God. We fail to see God's purposes. We disagree with what has happened, and consider things only according to our own perspective. We have set ways of accepting how God should act in the world, and if things do not happen our way, we react negatively. We become sorry for ourselves. Wittingly or unwittingly, we reject the very plan of God.

Typhoon Ondoy caused great damage. Among our brethren, one lost his father in the flood, a couple lost their house and all possessions, necessitating their entrusting their 5 children to other persons temporarily, still another had to wade through waist deep water (in other parts even deeper) for two days to reach his home and loved ones. There were of course over 300 deaths, and countless homes and personal possessions destroyed. Around the same time, in other parts of the world, there was the earthquake in Indonesia and the tsunami in Samoa that caused great damage and loss of lives.

How does one afflicted by such calamities react? It is proper to grieve and shed tears. But one must also learn the lessons that God is trying to teach. Detachment from possessions? Concern for our fellow men? Care for nature? Redemptive suffering? Reverential fear? Trust in Jesus?

One who has suffered must first of all place his suffering in perspective. Is he still alive? Others lost their lives. Is he still healthy? Others have been injured. Does he still have his home? Others have lost everything. Is he still living in the same place? Others have to relocate and enter into an uncertain future. Despite suffering, God is still there for us!

Further, one must never take it out on God. There can be a great temptation to do so. After all, does not God control nature? Why does God allow the innocent to suffer? But God's question to Jonah is His same question to us: "Have you reason to be angry?" (Jon 4:4). "Have you reason to be angry over the plant?" (Jon 4:9). Jonah said yes he has reason to be angry. This is in contrast to Job, who did not complain against God. And Job, in humility, finally accepted that he would not be able to fully understand God's ways, and simply accepted God's majesty and sovereignty. God then restored and blessed him twofold. On the other hand, we do not know how Jonah's story ends.

We need to trust in God's justice and righteousness, especially in the midst of affliction. His ways are not our ways. He is the Almighty! His plans are always for our good. God can comfort us, as He would want to, just as He provided Jonah a gourd plant for shade from the heat, which made him very happy. But God also sent a worm to attack the plant the next morning so that it withered, and without the shade Jonah became faint due to the heat. If this happened to us, our response should not be that of Jonah, who got angry and wanted to die, but that of Job, who said: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" (Job 1:21b). Job did not sin, nor say anything disrespectful of God (Job 1:22).

Jonah knew about God. "I knew that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, loathe to punish." (Jon 4:2b). But he did not act in accordance with his faith. When the chips were down, so was his faith. God told Jonah: "You are concerned over the plant which cost you no labor and which you did not raise; it came up in one night and in one night it perished." (Jon 4:10). All good things come from God. At times, God allows the bad things to happen. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. "We accept good things from God; and should we not accept evil?" (Job 2:10b).

Whatever happens to us in life, whether good or seemingly bad, God is there for us. He is our comfort and He is our salvation. Let us simply trust in Him, knowing that He is just and righteous.

God bless you all.


(October 06, 2009)

"For to me life is Christ, and death is gain." (Phil 1:21)

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