For many of us, Romans 8:28 is a go-to verse when we face trials. “All things work together for good,” it begins. We can’t deny that truth, but sometimes we struggle to see how any good comes from terrible things.
It is hard, even now, to see what good can come from this pandemic, but God will be true to His word. He will use it as His tool for good. We have to keep our hearts and eyes open to see what He does!
The story Jonah gives us an example of how God uses nature as a tool. This man knew God and knew what God had appointed him to do—to preach to Nineveh. But, Jonah did not want to obey. He gave in to his rebellious heart and went the opposite direction. God went to His toolbox to teach him a lesson.
In Jonah 1:17, God prepared a great fish. In the New Testament, Jesus called it a whale. (Matthew 12:40) Don’t you think that is a rather extreme measure? Surely, God could have used a different means to get Jonah’s attention? A thunderstorm, an earthquake, a still small voice? But no! God chose an enormous fish to make His point!
Later, toward the end of the story, in Jonah 4:6, God uses a gourd. Jonah loved that gourd! The shadow of its leaves protected his head from the beating sun as he sat pouting outside the city. I can just imagine him feeling smug and superior as he sat watching Nineveh repent and believing the gourd’s comfort was God’s hand of approval.
In Jonah 4:7, God pulls out a worm for His next tool. The hungry little thing ate the whole gourd plant! Can you imagine Jonah’s distress?
Then, in Jonah 4:8, God sends a hot and violent wind. Now Jonah is more confused. He had obeyed, why weren’t things getting easier? I don’t think Jonah’s little handmade booth gave him much protection. He was getting scorched!
Except for the short time under the shade of the gourd, I doubt Jonah appreciated God’s tools. He couldn’t see how any of this terrible stuff could produce any good. Still angry and grimacing at the repentance of the Ninevites, he wasn’t even afraid to argue his point with God. He felt justified in his anger and disappointment and the loss of his gourd.
Let’s go back a bit and look at these tools while we make some application to the situation we are currently facing.
God uses nature as His tool. Forget Mother Nature, better to be concerned about the Creator! He can use whatever tool he chooses to get our attention—I think He has our attention right now, don’t you?
God will also use nature to protect us and provide us comfort. That little gourd plant sprung up in a most unusual place—outside the city. Not in a garden or cultivated area. God’s comfort isn’t limited. He knows where we are and will seek to meet our needs. Sometimes, though, we get focused on the comfort instead of the Creator. Like Jonah, we put our appreciation in the wrong place; we rely on the wrong thing.
God used nature again to remove the object causing Jonah misplaced comfort. I don’t know if Jonah was a slow learner or so stiff hearted that he didn’t understand, but God had to come again with another tool of discomfort to get his attention. That hot, violent wind brought Jonah to his knees, not in submission, but to continue complaining and arguing with God.
Here’s the point—God can use whatever tool He chooses to get our attention. When He does, we are better to yield and place ourselves before the truth of His sovereignty.
Jonah might have lost his gourd, but he never lost his Lord. The same is true for us. Some of our creature-comforts might be lost or disrupted. We might be facing the tool of God in this pandemic as He moves to create something better. And if we are, that is God’s call! How much better for us to humbly yield and trust the Craftsman!