The Absence of Joy

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.  And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country?  Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.  Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.

Jonah 4:1-3

In the beginning of the fourth chapter of Jonah, we find one of the strangest prayers in all of the Bible.  Jonah is displeased and angry that the Lord spared the people of Nineveh after they repented of their evil ways.  He then goes on to say that the Lord’s great mercy and grace is the very reason that he rebelled against Him in the first place.  He knew that this is what would happen and, apparently, he knew better than God what should have happened.  Then, he gets to the end of his rope in verse 3: “…it is better for me to die than to live.”

Have we ever been there?  Maybe not quite that drastic, but have we ever just felt worthless?  When God didn’t do what Jonah thought He should do, Jonah probably felt rejected.  God told him to tell the Ninevites that they would be destroyed for their evil and Jonah was depressed when He changed His mind, due to their change of actions.  Jonah wanted to see the people destroyed.  When it didn’t happen, he went to the extreme of “it is better for me to die than to live.”

What caused Jonah (and what causes us) to get to that point?  I think it is simple.  Jonah started looking at himself before he looked at God, and before he looked at the people of Nineveh.  I have seen the acrostic “JOY= Jesus Others You”.  We have joy in our hearts and lives when we put the Lord first in His proper place, and when we put others above ourselves.  That is where we find joy.  On the other hand, the opposite is also true.  Joy will be absent when we put ourselves first.  Do we have joy today, or our we like Jonah again?

4 responses to this post.

  1. Ben . . .I had forgotten that acrostic! Thank you so much for reminding me. 🙂 God bless you as you put Him and others first today!


  2. Thanks Ben

    How can we, the created, tell the Creator what He’s better off doing? I’d say that Jonah had quite the nerve! 🙂 ( Of course, you could toss me in the story and I’d likely do the same thing 🙂 As someone said, you can tell Him what He ought to do – that doesn’t mean He’ll do it! )

    I have been chewing on this for a bit… Deb, I was taught that acrostic in Sunday School too but as I got older I substituted the Golden Rule. Sometimes we go to great length to look after others but neglect our own needs. With His help, I’m learning how to balance / juggle what’s needed, trying to keep myself and those He’s placed in my care on the same page. I’m no good to myself or anyone if I’m so tired that I can’t function. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it but I’m learning that ‘me time’ doesn’t mean I don’t help others… it means I need time to plug into Him and recharge so sometimes I have to say no to doing something expected of me.

    So lately I’ve been singing Hillsong’s “Show me Your way” … that way I can be certain I’m doing what He wants instead of what I think I ought to be doing for myself or others. (Hope this makes sense. Will be happy to clarify if I’ve thrown you for a loop 🙂 )



    • Jonah did have a lot of nerve, but, like you said, I would probably do the same thing given the opportunity. That makes perfect sense to me. This may sound weird, but it is possible that constantly doing things for others could be coming from a source of selfishness. We can start swelling with fleshly pride at how “selfless” we are. It’s a tricky thing, but staying close to the Lord is the only way that we can know we are doing the right things with a right heart and attitude.


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