God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry…?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.”— Jonah 4:9
Jonah had serious mental and emotional problems. He ran from God, defied God, resisted God, miraculously survived a storm at sea and being swallowed by a giant fish —and still wouldn’t surrender to a healthy relationship with God or anyone.
Then God finally persuaded Jonah to obey, to go to wicked Ninevah and preach repentance. Behold! The people listened, repented, and turned their lives around! Jonah succeeded! Today we would hail him as a great preacher, prophet, and reformer.
Was he happy?
No. He was mad. He resented God’s grace towards these “wicked people.” He pouted and brooded himself into a depressed and suicidal state.
God could have said, “Mission accomplished,” and moved on. God had more trouble with Jonah than with the whole wicked city of Ninevah.
Jonah succeeded, but his heart was wrong. God knew that, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
The Lord cared as much about saving this one surly, difficult servant as He did about saving a whole city.
The Lord God actually listened to Jonah, answered his questions, and reminded him of His grace. He taught Jonah the meaning of love.
Jonah felt angry enough with God to die, but he ended up in what was probably one of the most meaningful and significant counseling sessions ever recorded. He learned that God does indeed care more for what is going on inside of us than what we accomplish in the eyes of the world.
Most historic experts agree that Jonah himself wrote this book. He portrayed himself honestly as a defiant, resentful, angry man who struggled to obey God, even in the face of great success, depression, and confusion. But in the end, he learned the depth of God’s forgiveness and compassion, and recorded his story for all posterity.
If you see yourself in Jonah—if you have succeeded in accomplishing good works, but you know your heart is still not right, then be encouraged. God will not let you go. He loved Jonah enough to stay with him, and He will do the same for you and all of us.