At the crunch
Jonah 4 (NRSVA)
1 But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. 3 And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ 4 And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ 5 Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.
6 The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’
9 But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’ 10 Then the Lord said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’
In the heat of the moment when we find ourselves:
…across the coffee table from grandad and he’s just put you in checkmate for the seventh time
…minutes away from securing the trophy when our pal concedes an own goal
…as a prophet, spewed out of a very big fish, and feeling at the end of our tether…(see Jonah 1-2)
You’re going to want to blow off some steam!
And that’s fine. But we should to do so safely and respectfully… or at least put the pieces back together again when we don’t manage to.
In sports, in games, and in life — it seems the key is not ignoring or suppressing our anger. Rather we have to learn to control it, to have a sense of humour and a sense of proportion. Sometimes in life we are put into checkmate and it feels like we’ve got nowhere to turn and we’re trapped. Awful things feel awful, there’s no point denying it. But there’s no point denying our way back from the awfulness either.
The book of Jonah ends with an unanswered question, that makes me think — what would the sequel look like? Jonah thirty years later as a laidback prophet, chilling out in a seaside bar in Joppa cracking whale jokes? Or would he be a bitter old dude in mouldy flipflops still muttering about whatever happened to his favourite plant? Or maybe he'd be off helter skleter somewhere else with another message to deliver… but this time with a bit more of a sense of perspective? Sill passionate, still wild, still angry — just not angry enough to die... Instead angry enough to live in a happy moany old prophet way...
Help us in our flashes of frustration and bitterness
when we feel
Help us to control our anger
and not let it control us.