Jonah: my favorite angry guy in the Bible

Anger is an intense emotion that sometimes comes without warning or justification; however, learning to question the sources of anger can provide healing.  In the moment of anger, you are not likely to rationally evaluate these questions but returning to them later can help you to manage your anger in the future.

The story of Jonah is familiar (he is the guy who was swallowed by a big fish and spit out three days later) but if it has been a while, review the four short chapters found in the Old Testament in the Book of Jonah.  The Bible is filled with practical stories of people who struggled with the same things you struggle with today and provides practical application to your daily life.

Who was Jonah angry with?  Initially, Jonah’s anger and deep prejudice towards the Assyrians who were the enemies of the Israelites was revealed by his reluctance to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyria.  Many years earlier, the Assyrians had invaded Judea and scattered the Jewish people across many nations.  Later on, Jonah’s anger expanded to God himself when he complained that God spared the lives of the Assyrians instead of killing them with His wrath for destroying Judea.  Just like Jonah, the initial person we direct our anger towards may not be the true source of our anger.  Asking questions such as “Who am I really angry with?” and “What previous time does this anger remind me of?” can go a long way in helping to reveal the true source of anger.

What was Jonah angry about?  Jonah knew of God’s love and mercy which is why he did not want to go to Nineveh in the first place.  He did not want God to spare the lives of the Assyrians; instead he wanted God to show his wrath and eliminate them.  When Jonah finally conceded and went to Nineveh, he did so with the expectation that God take his revenge on the Assyrians.  Jonah did not want good to come to the Assyrians, he wanted harm.  Sometimes we too become angry when good comes to those whom we believe should be harmed or punished for their actions.  This is all too evident when a child becomes a victim of some evil, especially at the hands of someone they trust.  Ask yourself the question “What am I really angry about?”  Often it is not the most obvious answer; rather it is the answer behind the initial response.

 How did Jonah show his anger?  Jonah traveled in the opposite direction of Nineveh.  We call this passive aggressive anger which is doing the opposite of what another person wants you to do because you are angry with them.  Jonah then told the sailors to throw him overboard instead of going back to shore; basically he would rather die than do what God asked.  We call this aggressive and/or extreme anger which is acting in a manner to draw attention to yourself and your anger.  When Jonah finally agreed to go to Nineveh and preach, he did it reluctantly as demonstrated by his response when God forgave the Assyrians.  We call this suppressing anger which is ignoring the anger initially in order to keep the peace or obey someone but then becoming angry later.  Ask, “How do I show my anger: is it passive aggressive, aggressive or suppressive?”  Revealing your pattern of behavior when angry can help to identify times when the anger is not so obvious.

Where did Jonah show his anger?  At the beginning of the story, Jonah showed his anger to the shipmates when he asked them to throw him overboard.  His initial reaction to his anger was not the best.  At the end of the story, we see Jonah going outside of the city to complain to God about his generosity which is a far better alternative.  Often times, going away from the environment that makes you angry can help you to have a greater perspective on the true source of your anger.  Notice that Jonah was honest with God about his anger and did not cover up his feelings.  True prayer and communication with our Creator requires honesty on your part and in turn, God will communicate with you.

You can answer the “why” question of your anger better by answering the “who”, “what”, “how” and “where” questions regarding your anger first.  True anger management can only begin when we understand the sources of our anger and learn how to cope with intense feelings of emotion.  If you are struggling with your anger, talking with a counselor can help to shed some light on how to manage your anger.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

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Is Your Storm More Like Jonah, Job or Jerusalem?

Our recent economic times have hit many people hard with more people homeless, in the process of foreclosure, without jobs, working jobs well beneath their skill level or filing for bankruptcy than I have seen in my lifetime.  While it is easy to blame others for our troubles and in this economic climate, there are certainly factors beyond our control; we also must look at the actions we have taken to contribute to the problem.  Jonah, Job and Jerusalem all faced overwhelming difficulties and while we may not be swallowed by a great fish, have our home and family destroyed in a day, or have our king assassinate every family member in a feuding family, we can apply the lessons learned from their lives to ours today.

Jonah.  Jonah knew what God wanted him to do, he just did not want to do it so he took a ride on a ship headed for the opposite direction of what God wanted.  The result was a great storm nearly sank the ship, the crew confronted Jonah, Jonah confessed he was the problem and told them to throw him overboard.  Still defiant, Jonah would rather face death then do what God wanted.  The crew reluctantly did as Jonah asked and God in his mercy caused a great fish to swallow him alive.  He remained in the fish for three days until he repented and then God released him.

Sound familiar?  Have you ever known what God wanted you to do but you refused to do it and as a result were punished for disobedience?  Maybe you are in this place right now and are realizing that the storm you are in is a direct result of not being obedient to God’s commandments.  The good news is that it is not too late to do the right thing.  Perhaps your economic situation is the result spending more than you have or wanting things that are out of your price range (also known as envy, lust or covetousness).  Take a lesson from Jonah, only though do not wait until a fish swallows you up, and repent.  Decided to live a life based on being grateful for what God has provided instead of always looking over the fence to see what others have and wanting it instead.

Job.  Unlike Jonah, Job did not do anything to deserve losing all he had.  Instead Job found himself in the middle of spiritual warfare between God and Satan.  God knowing and trusting Job’s faithfulness allowed Satan to take his home, his wealth, his family and finally his health.  Job was left with three friends who questioned his every action and provided little comfort in his time of need.  In the end, God answers Job’s questions as to why He allowed such tragedy to happen by reminding Job that He is the creator of all things, the giver of all life, the designer of all forces of nature, the author of all wisdom, the provider of judgment, the source of all strength, the owner of all things, and the defeater of all evil.

Sound familiar?  Have you had everything taken from you and then turned to God to ask why He would allow such a thing to happen?  Maybe this describes you better than Jonah and you have searched your heart and actions for what you have done wrong and found nothing.  The temptation is to then blame God for the state you find yourself in and question His divine nature.  Instead recognize that there are spiritual factors beyond your control and influence.  What you can control in this environment is your reaction, your continued commitment to God, your faithfulness to His word, and your love of His commandments.

Jerusalem.  After the split of the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom following the reign of King Solomon, Jerusalem had a series of Kings both good and bad.  Repeatedly in Scripture we learn that God was displeased with the people and their continued offering of sacrifices to idols.  The idols took different forms and required different sacrifices from small tokens of money to live people.  Even the good Kings failed to completely remove all of the idols from the people and as a result God allowed the evil Kings to take over the land.  The evil kings would frequently assassinate to gain power, murder family members of previous Kings, and rule through intimidation and fear.  The people who were promised protection by God if they followed His commandments were left without protection from both their own Kings and neighboring nations.

Sound familiar?  Have you ever wondered about how our nation has fallen so far from the original design of the Constitution of the United States and why we seem to be in constant battle with other nations?  One of the mistakes the people of Jerusalem made was looking for the King to do the right thing and then to follow him.  The people had access to the Prophets of the time who willing spoke God’s truth to anyone who would listen from Kings to servants.  As a people we too can look into our own lives and recognize how we are part of the problem our nation faces.  Instead of waiting for the politicians to get it right, we need to get it right in our own homes.  Idols take different forms today but the concept is the same, it is anything that we trust for security or worship more than God.  It can be TV, video games, money, house, job, car, 401K, computer, news, internet, family or friends.  This is not an exclusive list as the point is to evaluate your own life and see if you have an idol you need to remove.

Tough times are difficult to weather.  Reflection into your personal life for potential causes of the tough times is even harder.  But if you evaluate your life using the lessons learned from Jonah, Job and Jerusalem by acknowledging the problems, repenting from the problems and renewing your faith and commitment, the blessings and promises of God will stand in the end.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.