Just because we can’t see exactly what He’s doing doesn’t mean God isn’t working in a monumental way.
I was reminded of this recently while reading through the story of Jonah. This book of the Bible opens with the Lord giving Jonah a message, telling him to go to the great city of Nineveh and announce his judgment there because the people were wicked. Instead of glad obedience to be used by God in this way, Jonah did the exact opposite of what the Lord asked. He traveled in the other direction and bought a ticket to board a boat. The Bible tells us that not only did Jonah not listen, but his intentions were to even escape the Lord’s presence! (Jonah 1:1-3).
So God sent a powerful wind Jonah’s direction, resulting in a terribly violent storm that threatened to sink the ship he was on. As the other sailors panicked, Jonah felt convicted and owned up to his disobedient attempt to run away from God (Jonah 1:4-11).
His response in the next few verses jumped off the page for me: “‘Throw me into the sea,’ Jonah said, ‘and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.’ Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God. ‘O Lord,’ they pleaded, ‘don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.’ Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.” (Jonah 1:12-16, NLT)
As the readers, we know how this story ends. Jonah didn’t die. The very next verse tells us that the Lord had already appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah and spare his life. After three days and three nights, Jonah repented and obeyed God by going to Nineveh as he had originally been commanded. As a result, the people of Nineveh turned from their evil ways, and God relented of the disaster he had said he would do to them (Jonah 1:17, 3:3-5, 3:10).
But these men in the boat with Jonah, the ones who threw him overboard to his seemingly certain death, likely never knew any of that. I can’t help but wonder if they carried this guilt with them their whole lives. How often are we tempted to do the same thing—continue to carry shame over mistakes that we’ve confessed and repented of unto the Lord?
What if those people we hurt long ago were involved in a story much larger than we’ll ever have eyes to see? What if the ways they’re able to minister to others now are a direct result of the way we caused them pain? What if the people currently hurting us are still running, haven’t been thrown overboard, and don’t yet recognize the great rescue plan God has in store for them?
We think we know so much, when we truly know so little. We only see sections of the puzzle, but God has designed every piece and defined its borders! He is sovereign. He holds it all in balance, down to the rotation of the earth spinning on its axis. Surely He is trustworthy with both our damages and our damaging.
And He is faithful to keep His promises. He is working all things out for His glory. One day, all will be redeemed. All will be restored! Hold fast to this hope.