“Right up to my eyeballs in ‘you’ve got it right’!” Yes, there’ve been a few sanity-sapping & life-threatening crises in my life, when things looked bleak. There’ve been moments (and I know there ‘will be’ moments) when I felt life flowing out of my shoes into the gutter, overwhelmed by the results of my own mistakes, venom of outside attack, and seemingly sheer bad luck. What can prepare you for such perfect storms?
In The West it’s an age of self-indulgence. All too easily our children grow up believing the world revolves around ‘me, myself, I’. Perhaps a bygone age went to the other extreme and came down too hard on children, but we’re at the other extreme today, many young people growing up ill-prepared for the rough and tumble of life, quickly concluding “It’s just not fair!” when things go wrong. “Suck it up and get on with it, life isn’t fair!” is the hard-bitten answer of some.
In the wonderful fishy tale of ‘Jonah’, Jonah is sinking in seaweed and fish sick, rummeling around the stomach of a whale-like fish. He knows that it’s his own fault, after running from God’s Will, which is a preaching date with the much hated Assyrians in Nineveh (present day Mosul, Iraq). ‘Jonah The Moaner’ aptly describes Jonah’s miserable persona at times, but caught in this oceanic do-or-die ‘belly ache’ Jonah proves he’s been taught well. Lines from at least 10 Psalms give him the necessary language and context, with which to accept his dire circumstances and cry out to God for help (Jonah chp 2).
He starts with gut-wrenching lament, sorrow for his situation, and ends his prayer with thanksgiving that he’s part of a bigger God picture. His faith is well placed for, 3 days later, the fish vomits Jonah onto dry land and back on track with God.
“Self pity is easily the most destructive of non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.”
(John Gardner) All things considered, we in the West have much to be grateful for; we are among the 8% most wealthy in the world, but when it comes to gratitude and recognition of our need for God’s help and bigger picture, we’re paupers.
I’ve friends who rock up at psychic fayres to give ‘Psalm Readings’ rather than ‘Palm Readings’, and very positively received. Ambrose described The Bible’s book of Psalms as a ‘spiritual gymnasium’. A Psalm a day helps you work, rest and play. The Psalms give you permission to let your belly rumble but don’t leave you there, lifting our eyes and heart to The One Who wants to include you in The Greatest Story ever told!