Steven Furtick - Why Am I So Miserable?
Do you know that that's where a lot of our misery comes from? We have our own ideal and imagination of how things were supposed to go. When anything contradicts our imagination and ideal, we feel like we have a right to be angry because it didn't meet our rules. "Don't you see, God? I was supposed to be married at age 23 and I'm 23-1/2. Tina got married and she dresses like… She's not even that holy". So he goes out and sits down, and the Bible says he made himself a shelter because it was a hot day. Not Charlotte, North Carolina, hot. Certainly not Toronto, Canada, hot. It was Middle-Eastern hot. I'm talking about 110 degrees. He needed a shade so he made a booth for himself, a little shelter. He went outside the city. That's significant. He went outside the city God sent him to before God released him.
No matter what shelter you make for yourself outside of God's assignment for you, it will never sustain. He sits down and he's mad and he has a bad attitude. If I've learned anything about God from the story of Jonah when God sent the whale to swallow up a man who was in the water because of his own disobedience, it's that God doesn't wait for your attitude to get right before he gives you his attention and takes care of you. Now Jonah is sitting under the shelter he made, and God does something interesting. It is the second time the word manah appears in the book of Jonah. It says in chapter 4, verse 6, "The Lord provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah's head". Gives his bald head some shade.
I like to picture Jonah bald. It just dramatizes the story a little bit more. I think about being bald and how hot his head would be. Then the Lord covers his head with this castor oil plant over his head. He's sitting there, and he likes that plant. He doesn't care very much about people, but he likes plants. For everything Jonah has seen God do, he still doesn't get it yet. He got outside of the fish that was a miracle, but he never got outside of himself. The most miserable place in the world to be trapped is not in the belly of a whale; it's inside of yourself, inside of your selfishness. A lot of believers get delivered from their sin, but they never get delivered from themselves, so all of life is spent in the shade of you trying to find your own comfort. "O Lord, thank you for the plant. Isn't this a pretty plant"? "Yeah, but how about all those people"? "Oh, people are unpredictable. I like plants". The Lord said, "I knew you liked plants. That's why I provided the plant. Now that I see you're more focused on the plant than the people, I have to take the plant away".
Look at the third thing God provides. He provides the whale to deliver Jonah, the plant to comfort Jonah, and here comes the worm. If we were writing the story, we would not use the word manah to describe this worm, because watch what the worm does. The Bible says, "At dawn the next day God provided a worm". God provided a worm? I heard about Jonah and the whale, but what about the worm? Can we see the worm? This is that thing in your life that comes along just when you've gotten yourself comfortable, just when you've figured out how life is supposed to be, just when you've gotten your retirement account where it's supposed to be. You have your little comfortable situation.
Jonah is settling in as a spectator in a situation where God has called him to be a participant. He's sitting outside the place of his assignment and he has a shade over his head, and here comes the worm. The worm made Jonah furious. Jonah got so mad at God about the worm. Not only did God send a worm, but after God sent a worm to destroy the plant that was shielding Jonah from the sun, God provided the fourth thing. He provided the whale. He provided the plant. He provided the worm. Then the Bible says in verse 8 he provided the wind. It's a Sirocco. It's a kind of wind that beats on you so hard you have to run for shelter. God is making sure that Jonah can't stay outside of the city and find shelter. At the time, Jonah is furious. "Why did you take my plant away? Why did you take my boyfriend away? Why did you take that thing out of my life? Why did you make me go through that"?
Don't tell your story too soon, Jonah. If you see it through the lens of a God who loves you, you're going to see that the whale and the worm were working together to serve a purpose in your life. At some point, after Jonah has gone back home, he sits down to tell the story of what happened when God sent him to Nineveh. By the time he tells the story, he says, "You know, at the time I thought it was misery, but it was actually manah. It was all God's provision". I don't know how Jonah finally got this perspective, because the book of Jonah doesn't tell us. When the book of Jonah ends, he's still sitting there with the sun beating down on his head. He's still sitting there trying to figure out what to do. At some point he sees it. "The whale that delivered me and even the worm that destroyed the thing that was comforting me…it all came through the hand of God who knows what's best for me".
I don't know how he got this perspective. I know he didn't talk to James, because James didn't write his epistle until hundreds of years later. If he would have talked to James, James could have told him about joy. "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds," when you see worms crawling up and creeping over your head trying to destroy the comfort of your life. God is not trying to kill you. He's trying to keep you alive. Nothing can grow in your comfort zone, so from time to time, God is going to have to let something come in your life that destroys your comfort so you can fulfill your calling. Now Jonah sees, "The same God who rescued me with the whale sent the worm to deliver me from myself". But he didn't talk to James. James wasn't around. James could have told him, "Every good and perfect gift comes from above". Everything that comes into your life can be a gift if you know what to do with it.
My friend didn't know that at the time he lost his daughter. Losing his daughter wasn't the gift. The difference he's making now telling others they can have hope too is the gift. You won't know the purpose of the worm if you write your story while you're in it. We watched a young lady get baptized in our church today who went through some horrible things, but she has some wisdom. She found out the purpose of the worm that took away her shade was to send her back into Nineveh to rescue others who need to be saved. I need somebody who this teaching is resonating with to begin to praise God for his purpose and provision in your life.
I know Jonah didn't get a chance to talk to Jesus. I was imagining, "What if Jonah could have talked to Jesus"? Jonah is explaining to Jesus… He's like, "Man, you don't know what it feels like to be me". Jesus said, "Oh really? Try me". Jonah said, "No, man, for you it was easy. You're the Son of God. For me it wasn't that easy. I had to go down from my comfort to a place to minister to people who were my enemies". Jesus said, "Oh really? Tell me more. I kind of did the same thing when I left the comfort and the prestige and the pristine environment of heaven to be born of a virgin and wrapped in flesh. I came to my own and they received me not. They nailed me to the cross, and from the cross I uttered the words of forgiveness that became the redemption of the world".
Jesus said, "What else, Jonah"? Jonah said, "Well, you don't understand. I had to spend three days in a dark place. I had to spend three days in a place where it looked like there was no hope". Jesus said, "Really? Then what happened"? Jonah said, "Well, after three days I got spit out". Jesus said, "Well, I know something about deliverance coming out of dark places after three days". Don't you see it? Jesus is our greater Jonah, our deliverer, and all things work together for the good. The cross and the crown. The whale and the worm. If you never memorize another Bible verse, do Romans 8:28. Read it until your eyes cross over. I mean, read it, read it, read it. Read every word and then think about that word and think about the next word. "For we know that all things are good". Errr! Paul is not that naïve, and neither is God.
There's nothing beautiful about the worm when it's chewing through your plant. That's not what we're saying. That's not my message. My message is that the God of the whale that delivered you is also the God of the worm. The whale, the worm, and the will of God. The whale and the worm were a tag team assigned to Jonah. When the whale got done dropping Jonah off in Nineveh, he said to the worm, "Dude, you're it". The echolocation went out and hit the worm. The worm said, "All right, I'm going to be in position, because we both have one job: to get Jonah back to the place of his assignment". Once his shade was gone, he had no choice but to go back into the place where God wanted him to be. The whale, the worm, and the will of God. We know that all things…all the whales, all the worms, all the big things, all the little things, all of the blessings, and, yes, even the burdens too, all of the things that feel good and all of the things that hurt like hell… God said, "I'm going to use all of it". Every dark thing, every destructive thing…all of it. All things work together for the good of them that love the Lord. Does anybody love the Lord in this place?