Do you remember the Old Testament story of Jonah? He was called by God to deliver a message to the people of Nineveh (at one time one of the largest cities of the world.) He chose to ignore God’s prompting, until finally he was swallowed by a whale. This apparently got his attention, and Jonah decided to accept God’s task and deliver the message. Later, Jonah was back on dry land, message delivered, task done and Nineveh repentant. Yet instead of celebrating, he wandered off by himself, pitched a tent, and indulged in a full-scale pity party. I've always thought this Bible story was a little strange. Jonah was chosen to be a part of God’s amazing plan then afterward, after the success of his mission, he became angry and depressed.
Jonah's story came to mind this week because, I could relate. After completing my chemotherapy and radiation treatments I felt a deep sadness, purposelessness, and let’s be honest, self-pity. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling this way. I was cancer-free, shouldn’t I be happy, and dancing the “in-remission” jig? There were so many others, personal friends, that hadn’t received an all-clear diagnosis. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t more thankful for what I was given. What was wrong with me? Also, I had the amazing God-led experience of writing a book for other women facing cancer and was blessed with beautiful, encouraging responses. Yet I went straight from the mountain top down to the valley. I felt like Jonah. God gave me a message to deliver, and now that it was done I felt alone and sorry for myself. And I was tired, physically and mentally, not wanting to experience any more pain, mine or others. So after hearing about another friend’s hard cancer prognosis, I had a serious talk with God.
“I don’t see the point of all this suffering,” I said. “Furthermore, I think you could find someone a little more qualified to help others with cancer. I don’t think I am making much of a difference and let’s face it, the lessons you have taught me I quickly forget and have to learn over and over. You could use someone a little more apt to practice what they preach.” Poor me.
Thankfully, God is patient. He let me vent. He let me spout off and rant. Then calmly, steadily, he set me straight, and delivered a zinger. “It’s not about you.” The thought shocked me. It was so clear. “It’s not about you.” Wow. Message received. It’s not about me. It’s not about my qualifications, abilities, successes, shortcomings or even my attitude. God gave me a task and God would see it through. All I needed to do was focus on him, and he would do the rest.
Often we give ourselves heavy burdens and focus on our own strengths or weaknesses. The yoke I was creating for myself was hard, too hard. God let me know that it was not his yoke. He did not need me to reach others with cancer, but he did want me to love others with cancer. God would do the rest. He would carry their burdens, their pain, and through it prove over and over that he is faithful, ever-present, a savior, loving, a God of comfort and hope.
Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30.