Most days, I love people — all kinds of people. I love hearing their experiences and even the opinions they have that differ from mine — MOST of the time, that is. Unfortunately, however, when I get annoyed with people, I get REALLY annoyed and tend to withdraw. I have noticed that there are times I wish people would be forced to recognize how truly wrong they are and bear the consequences of their misdeeds (or incorrect judgments, as the case may be!). Although I preach compassion and mercy, I must confess that, in the secret part of my heart, buried deep, I harbor some degree of ill-will toward people who consistently refuse to admit they have done wrong. I have found myself even excusing my attitude by describing myself as a person who is passionate about truth and justice. I insist that people should be willing to recognize their wickedness and straighten up before they are allowed to be released from guilt and judgment. (Never mind that I have only RARELY had to bear the consequences of anything I have done wrong!)
When I persist in this type of judgmental, condemnatory reasoning, I find myself becoming increasingly isolationist — unwilling to engage others in meaningful conversation, unwilling to participate in my customary activities. Even if I invite others to my private, self-righteous pity party, they don’t want to accept my invitation! Suddenly I realize that I have put myself in a very lonely position outside the reach of the pulse of human relationships; I find that, just like Jonah, I am sitting under the shade of my own personal gourd plant. (It gets pretty lonely under there!)
When the people of Nineveh repented, God forgave them. However, Jonah refused to rejoice and decided to pout instead. He wanted the Ninevites to get what they deserved, as they had sorely persecuted God’s people. If I am honest with myself, i must confess that I am not very different from Jonah; on occasion, I have relished the thought of someone who has hurt me “getting what was coming to him.” Instead, I should rejoice when that person repents.
God, in His mercy, allowed the gourd to shrivel up; it withered and could not longer provide the shade Jonah needed from the hot sun. God truly is merciful to us; He not only forgives us of our sins, but also causes everything else in which we take refuge to wither. Our only recourse is to run into His arms. I am so grateful for His mercy! He ensures I can only rely on Him, for nothing else is dependable, and nothing else can comfort, heal, forgive, and protect the way He can.
Lord, show me where I have been seeking shelter in things that are not from you. Cause those things to wither in terms of their capacity to comfort, protect, and sustain me. Deliver me from pouting, self-absorption, self-righteousness, and judgmental attitudes toward others. Help me to rejoice when good things happen to other people , no matter how badly I feel they have behaved. Let your love consistently be shed abroad in my heart. (see the book of Jonah and Romans 5:5) Forgive me for my selfishness, and help me to see people with YOUR eyes. Help me to be merciful, just as you have been merciful to me! (Luke 6:36)