Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "There Is A Green Hill Far Away"1 (Lyrics)
Jonah 4:7 – But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. (NIV)
Today, I'd like to spotlight those little annoyances which subtly chew holes in our orderly lives. Perhaps, it's yet another telemarketer or an insensitive remark. These may not feel like a big deal, or they may trouble us greatly. Regardless, we don't instinctively view them as God's special instruments for drawing us to Himself. From that perspective, we can call them "those blessed worms".
That's not how the Bible prophet Jonah viewed his own "blessed worm" encounter. Because we might find ourselves identifying with Jonah's feelings, it's worth examining this portion of Scripture, from Jonah 4:5-10.
A worm had chewed up the vine which provided shade for Jonah. This exposed Jonah to the scorching heat, and — most significantly — to his hard-heartedness. God, the divine therapist, strategically used this minor crisis to zero in on Jonah's problem. Essentially, God told Jonah, "You are more concerned about yourself than about the entire population of Nineveh. You are so utterly self-absorbed that you have no mercy for those lost sinners! You are more absorbed in your own interests than theirs — or Mine!"
Compare that to our own "blessed worms" encounters. Like Jonah, we may get ticked off. Perhaps, we excuse our over-reaction, blaming it on circumstances or stress. Did we sense God's Spirit tapping our consciences and tenderly convicting us of our selfishness? Did we discover ourselves to be more concerned about our own interests than about the interests of others, including our troublers? Did we humbly accept God's verdict and admit our need for mercy?
Did we enjoy the taste of God's tender forgiveness? That's when we would appreciate those "worms" as intended: as blessings provided by God.
James 1:2-3 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds [those blessed worms], because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (NIV)
Jonah's angry reaction exposed a particularly devious motive that we must not overlook. Jonah longed to see vengeance on the wrongdoers while expecting favourable treatment for himself. Jonah had no taste for mercy for others, or even for himself. His self-centredness had corrupted his entire sense of justice.
We may discover this bent in ourselves only after we've experienced deliberate mistreatment. We instinctively want punitive action: "Teach them a lesson!" Of course, that's not an expression of God's heart for sinners. If we had God's heart, we'd grieve for our offenders and long to see them transformed and mercifully restored to God.
We will never know if Jonah eventually appreciated that pesky little worm. Maybe, he finally saw the light years later, after several more such blessed worm encounters. If not, well — that would have been the biggest tragedy of all.
How you and I react to "those blessed worms" depends on our longings. Do we want the heart of God? Do we want to experience Christ's love to the fullest? If so, then we might pray like this:
Prayer: Lord, I long to be fully rooted and established in Your loving nature. Help me to appreciate whatever means that You use to help me to reach this goal for my life. Amen.