In this time of our country, especially during election season, there are many mixed feelings that start to develop in our hearts and minds. Anger and worry set in at the state of our country and we wonder what our future may be, we get frustrated at the candidates that we have to choose from, we post every feeling and disagreement we have on social media and we voice our opinion on how we think our country should change. I’ve seen and heard how some are so overwhelmed by the thought of our country never getting back up from the pit we are in. Many have even said that they would rather just leave America and never come back. And I’ve heard Christians say, “Why can’t the Lord just return and take us home.” This is not only what I’ve heard from others, but what I’ve said, what I’ve thought, and what I have prayed. I have felt these feelings were good desires, even righteous! Until recently. God showed me my own ugly heart. First, it started with a quote from C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters which reads:
My Dear Wormwood,
Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in constant state of angst, frustration, and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure that the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognising there is a problem with himself.
Keep up the good work, Uncle Screwtape
This quote hit me like a ton of bricks. God was showing me something I’ve never been convicted over before. Then, as I was listening to a recent presidential debate and remembering all the posts and articles I’ve read in the past few months, I became so burdened for my country and longed for what it used to be. “One nation under God.” But my sinful self played off the burden God had given me and started to point the focus inward. I started to think what I had thought numerous times before; the very thoughts I shared a moment ago, “Lord, how long will you wait before you return and take us home? I can’t take this anymore. I want out. Wouldn’t it be better to live in another country? My country is dying!” Then as the Holy Spirit does, it fought back my selfish thoughts with God’s Word. These words came with a special kindness and quietness. The words, “remember Jonah” flooded into my mind. As soon as these words came, I was confused but kept thinking through the events of the story. I thought through Jonah’s rejection of God’s command to go to Nineveh, his running away from God, his trial of being in the belly of a fish for 3 days, his repentance, his journey back to Nineveh to warn them that God would destroy them, Nineveh’s repentance, God’s mercy on Nineveh, and then, Jonah’s response to their repentance and God’s mercy:
“And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Jonah 4:2-3, ESV
Nineveh was a wicked city full of people that had turned from God to their own ways. Yet, they repented when they heard God’s warning and God had given them mercy. Jonah was angry that God did not destroy Nineveh and asked God to take his life. Jonah could not bear to see the people of Nineveh be saved and thought he would be better off dead. That was it. I suddenly was so ashamed of my thoughts. I desired for the Lord to return soon, but never thought about how my want for His return was not about the glory of Christ, but on the relief of my own personal trials and circumstances. I was so convicted. I’ve always thought that when there were hard times in my life and I responded with, “Lord, I just want you to return,” that my thoughts were righteous and even good. But yet, the Lord convicted me and reminded me that any good thought or deed that I do is all because of Christ’s work alone and not of my own doing. My ways are tinged with sin because I am a sinner. I was amazed and thankful that God would be so kind and merciful to someone so focused on self. He lovingly showed me His mercy and long-suffering for America and for the world through the conviction of my “Jonah heart.” I am thankful God’s Word gives us examples of imperfect people, like Jonah, so we can identify with their mistakes and see the mercy God has given us.
Today is the day of salvation. God is warning us that our time is short, but that He is merciful. In the midst of all that is happening in our country and in our personal lives, we can share the Good News of Jesus Christ. God is loving and long-suffering. Our world needs to repent and turn to God.
“For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:10-13, ESV