Tuesday, May 23, 2017

When God's Commands are Unpleasant

“I can’t do that.”
“But God told you…”
“Maybe I heard wrong. God would never ask me to do that.”

Perhaps these thought swirled in Jonah’s mind as he hailed a ship headed for Tarshish. The Lord had asked him to do the one thing he abhorred. The one assignment he refused to undertake. The one task he would not do.

Preach to the Ninevites.

Those wicked, violent, rich Gentiles. No. He would not do it. He would go in the complete opposite direction: to Tarshish. But as we all know, Jonah’s plans were abruptly reversed by a mighty storm and a great fish with an appetite for stubborn prophets. After several miserable nights in the fish’s belly, wrestling with God, Jonah eventually did what the Lord commanded him to do: preach to those wicked Gentiles.

How often we read this story and chuckle at Jonah’s foolishness in trying to run from the Lord. “What was he thinking?” we ask pretentiously. But have we ever run from the Lord’s will? Has the Lord ever commanded you to do the very thing you loathed doing? How did you respond? The Lord made such a request of me, and my reaction was not unlike Jonah’s.

It was a late Saturday morning and as usual we were all gathered around the breakfast table discussing the previous evening’s Bible study, held every Friday in our home. My sister Victoria, who teaches the young children, was lamenting her inability to prepare lessons every week.

“I’ve just been so busy with school, especially since end of the year finals are coming up. I simply don’t have time to properly prepare a lesson.” She dejectedly pushed the fruit around on her plate.

Mom was quiet. Dad looked thoughtful. Turning suddenly to me, he asked, “How full is your schedule Gloria?”

Immediately sensing where he was going, I desperately tried to come up with an excuse.

“Look, I know I’m taking a Gap year, but that doesn’t mean I’m not busy too. I’ve got a book project I’m working on, an essay to write for a contest, weekly submissions for a study book some fellow Bible Bee friends and I are working on… not to mention maintaining my blog! You can’t pile Friday night kid’s lessons on top of all that.”

Apparently, my parents believed they could. And so the dreaded verdict was pronounced.

“Starting next week, you’ll be teaching the kids until your sister is done with school for this year.”

The sun seemed to disappear. Dark clouds loomed in the sky. I wanted to curl up in a corner and cry.

There are few things in this world that I hate. But teaching is one of them. Unlike my wonderfully patient sister, I have little tolerance for children, especially young ones. The thought of sitting down and teaching them for an hour filled me with anxiety and dread.

Seeing the distressed look on my face, my father tried to assure me, “It won’t be that bad. Besides, Victoria needs a break and you could use the practice.”

But I barely heard him. My mind was in turmoil.

“No!” I cried inwardly. “God, no, I can’t do this. Please no!”

All throughout the following week, I pushed off preparation for Friday, hoping that miraculously my parents would change their minds or my sister would suddenly decide to prepare the lesson herself. Neither of those happened. My first Friday night kid’s lesson went terribly. I was completely unprepared.

Immeasurable was my relief when the study was finally over.

During subsequent weeks, I wrestled with God over the issue.

“Why God?” I cried every Friday morning. “You know how much I hate teaching. Why would you make me do this?”

The Lord works in mysterious and sometimes ironic ways. The lessons I was teaching the kids were based off the book of Jonah. As I began studying Jonah in preparation for Friday evening, the similarity between Jonah’s situation and mine were striking. As I told the kids about how foolish Jonah was in attempting to run from what God wanted him to do, I felt rather hypocritical. I too was trying to run from the Lord’s will. Slowly, the Lord began revealing to me the foolishness of my own attempts to escape the task He’d given me. Like Jonah, I realized you can’t run from God. His will is inescapable. Sometimes, His will requires us to do something distasteful, to “preach to Nineveh.”

Jonah’s Nineveh consisted of violent Gentiles.

My Nineveh consisted of squirmy kids.

The Lord may be calling you to a different kind of Nineveh. 

What will your response be to the Lord’s calling? Will you humbly obey, despite the urgings of your flesh to do otherwise? Or will you attempt to run and risk God’s rod of reproof?

Will you preach to Nineveh?


Starting this week, I'll be doing a blog study series through the book of Jonah. Be sure to look for the next post!


  1. So true! This sort of made me laugh, because I had almost the exact same thing a few years ago. :) So I want to encourage you--it will get better! I totally hated it at first but now I actually enjoy teaching the kids each week. :D

    1. It's good to know there's others who've gone through the same thing. :) Thanks for the encouragement! Teaching has become more tolerable... although I haven't gotten to the point where I enjoy it yet. :P

  2. Great post, Gloria! Your personal story really brought the message home. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series! (Ah... the memories of BB 2014... ;))

    1. Thanks Maria! (Hehe, yes! The lessons I'm teaching the kids are actually based off the Jonah Sword Study. :D )

  3. Teaching isn't really my cup of tea either, though I did enjoy teaching chess camp for a couple years. Hope the children all behave, and it all works out okay!

    1. Thanks Bethany! So far everything's been going fairly well.

  4. Wow Gloria! I really appreciated this post. It was convicting to me personally, and I want to say thank-you for speaking up about unpopular truth as well. I hope your Jonah experience proves to be a blessing in the end! xx

    1. Thanks Jessica! Praise the Lord you were convicted and encouraged by it.