Annoyed Unto Death
But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed, “…it is better for me to die than to live.” – Jonah 4:1-3 (abridged)
Things that make Jonah so mad he could just die:
- being asked to do something,
- other people being saved from destruction,
- God loving other people,
- a dead bush.
Things Jonah does when he’s so mad he could just die:
- flounce out the door in a huff,
- complain loudly about somebody also getting something that Jonah already had,
- flounce out a different door in a huff,
- hurl himself on the ground in a huff,
- complain loudly about a dead bush.
Jonah must be a nightmare to be around, constantly annoyed at things nobody else finds annoying. And not just a little annoyed; so angry he wants to die. Dramatic.
He sure is fun to read about, though, mostly because he’s so easy to dislike. You already know the giant fish/whale/sea creature part of the story. The upshot of the rest of the book, which you can read in about five minutes: God is merciful, and Jonah’s a brat.
The story looks at first glance like a story about the reclamation of the Ninevites, but maybe it’s actually a story about the reclamation of Jonah. It doesn’t say, but I like to think that after all this, he experiences a conversion himself, that whatever it is in him that’s making him so constantly discontented releases its hold a little. I like to think that when you do the work God asks of you, it changes the world, but it also changes you.
Jonah’s a brat, but I love him. If even a guy like him can be an instrument of salvation, then there’s hope for the rest of you brats, too.
OK, OK, I’m the brat. Can I have some work that will help with that? Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Chaplain of the Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell University. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.