Before I knew I was pregnant, I was reading Jonah’s story to my 2-year-old, Eliza, from her little kid’s Bible, and something snapped into place: I would have a son, and his name would be Jonah.
It was like the sound of a seatbelt buckling, or when you dig a hole and drop a post into it – a perfect fit. I can’t explain it any better than that.
The catch, though, was that I already had carefully crafted names for ten potential Phelps children (approved by my husband), and Jonah was never on my radar. When I went to Dave with absolute certainty of “Jonah”, he wasn’t convinced. “I need to wait and make sure it’s right,” he said.
I puzzled over this for months. I knew God was trying to teach me something from that story of the stubborn prophet who God used to save thousands of people. Why on earth would he want me to name my baby Jonah? So random.
A week before my due date, The Crossing started a series called Life: On Mission – a 5-week series based on the book of Jonah. I could hear God chuckling up in heaven at his little pun; there was Dave’s confirmation.
What could this little boy have in his future? Before God even began forming him, He knew him by name. He knew the day he would arrive; He knows now when he’ll take his first step; He knows what he was created for. This boy has a future.
This is true for every human life.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I [God] know the plans I have for you, plans to bless and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
This future didn’t start when we were born, though. It was before that, according to Psalm 139:14-16:
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.”
Jonah (the prophet) was called by God to bring a message of salvation to a city full of lost and evil people. He ran from his purpose at first, but God got his attention (pretty dramatically) and put him back on course. In the end, 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness turned from evil and began a life with their Creator, a God who is gracious and compassionate, slow to get angry and full of unfailing love.
Regardless of the magnitude and severity of your mistakes, God sees you – just like He saw Nineveh – and wants to bring you into the light. He loves us with unfailing love. This theme is echoed through the entire Bible, ultimately shown by another man sent to bring people living in spiritual darkness into the light of love and grace: Jesus.
I don’t know what my new little man has in his future, but I do know that God has a plan to bless and not to harm him. The day that this boy chooses on his own to follow Jesus and walk into an abundant life of grace and hope and joy and peace… Only that day could possibly better than this one, the day of his (first) birth.
I know that some of you reading this don’t believe the same things as me, and that’s just fine. But, let me just say, without any agenda of trying to win an argument or prove that I’m smarter (because I’m probably not): The God of the Bible is real.
All I know FOR SURE is my own experiences, and over and over again, God has shown up in my life in countless undeniable ways, and my life is full of joy.
I’ve tried living life without Him, and I get by – but it sucked to know I would be alone in every situation I faced. My own efforts – or those of other flawed humans – would be my best hope for success and meaning in life.
When I follow Jesus, I know that all things work out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), that I can trust Him and He’ll make my next steps obvious (Proverbs 3:5-6), that I can commit all my plans to Him and He’ll make them succeed (Proverbs 16:3), and, more than anything else, every wrong thing I’ve done or will do in the future is already forgiven and being manipulated into something for my or others’ benefit (Psalm 103:12, Romans 8:28). That is the power and unfailing love of this awesome God.
When Jonah lived up to the calling God placed on his life, the world changed. I am convinced that when you step into the calling God placed on your life, whatever it is, the world would change, too. Give this God a chance to blow your mind –not just with how amazing He is, but how amazing YOU are, too – and how much he freaking loves you.
May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him. Romans 15:13
Written by Karli Phelps