Faithfulness when Distressed
by Pr. Dave Mann
I once met a Christian brother who had been through many difficulties in his life, but he still maintained a very cheerful and faithful relationship with the Lord. I was quite impressed with his disposition. At first, my response was simply to hope that I could be like him someday if I should encounter challenging times myself. However, later I learned that the enrollment into the classroom of faithfulness in times of distress begins not in the distress itself but in times of joy. When we are going through pain and sorrow, the heart is not open to new ideas. But when we have the time and the cup is full, we are ready to learn. It is during the practice reps, that the athlete can train for new techniques, not during the game.
We don’t know much about the prior life of Jonah, but we do see that he was ready for the difficulties that swallowed him. In the first verse of the book that bears his name, we read that the word of the Lord came to Jonah. It would seem that this experience was not new to him. Permit me to speculate a bit: he was not a novice in hearing the voice of God. So, when this flawed prophet disobeyed, he knew how to return to the Lord. He knew how to draw near to God even in his distress. Chapter 2 was Jonah’s prayer of repentance and leaning upon the Lord. A good study Bible will list numerous cross-references for the verses of Jonah’s prayer in this chapter. With a little thumbing back and forth, you will find that virtually every verse of Jonah 2 is an echo of the prayers found in the Psalms. Jonah had already practiced repentance and faithfulness to the Lord in times of distress.
Are you in a time of joy and confidence at present? This is the moment to get in some reps for praying through sorrow and pain. In the future, when you are swallowed up by angst and difficulties, you will know what to do. That day will come sooner or later, and your prayer will not feel strange.
Lord God, we look to you in the good times and in the bad. Thank you that you never forsake us. Though I may not be experiencing hardship at this moment, I pray the prayer of a man who was swallowed up in difficulties. Hear me as I pray: “I called out of my distress to the Lord…” I join my Amen to Jonah's.