Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.  But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint.  He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.” Jonah 4:6-9

I like to believe the book of Jonah is the beginning of his story, and he became more mature in his spiritual walk after this experience. The book of Jonah demonstrates God’s relentless pursuit of his prophet and God’s extravagant love for all people. Jonah does not understand this God; his whole world view has been shattered. He is angry, disappointed, and depressed. I can relate with Jonah; I have had periods of time where I was angry at God and not understanding the pain I had to walk through. For many years after our special needs son Joshua was born, it was nearly impossible for me to see any way that this situation could possibly be used for good. I had times of being angry and often I asked God “Why?”

As Joshua grew, and we learned how to care for him, and how to navigate the insurance and school systems, it became a little clearer to us. Each lesson we learned, we were able to share with other parents of younger children and ease their path through the systems. As we learned to trust in God and his love for us and for Joshua a little more each day, we were able to see how God provided for us. Often other parents would come our way who needed spiritual encouragement to stay the course, have faith, and look to God to provide for their child. God would orchestrate these meetings and conversations and we were able to comfort and encourage them.

Paul explains one purpose for our pain this way, “Praise be to the God and Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” II Corinthians 1:3-5

Take a walk today, talk to God about your personal pain, your personal struggles. Ask him to show you people in your life you are uniquely qualified to pray for, to encourage, to walk alongside in their pain. Spend some time praying for those people. Reach out and encourage them this week.

By Grace Hunter

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