I wanted to look at one specific story to talk about this and it’s coming from none other than Jonah and the whale. Now we all have a pretty good premise of the story: Jonah runs away from God; he ends up in the whale and then gets out of the whale. The End. It seems like a pretty simple story when you know the basic plot points. So, it poses the question, what does this have to do with self-reliance?? Here’s where the story gets interesting. We all know that Jonah was running away, but was he not being self-reliant in the process? Jonah was supposed to go to Nineveh and willingly chose not to do. He personally made the decision after hearing from God, to not do what he was called to do. This is why self-reliance can be harmful. We begin to neglect God’s plans for our own.
When God gives us direction, it isn’t always at the most opportune times. It could be that we have a certain agenda we are trying to follow or maybe were stuck in a place that we cannot really get ourselves out of. However, we have some sort of belief that we can get ourselves out and we can do so without the help of anyone, even God. When Jonah was given this direction, I don’t think he was willing to shift his plans to go to where the Lord was leading him. In being independent, he used his own power to make the decision. He did not choose to humble himself to God’s plans. In the NIV version of the Bible, the header for Jonah 1 says Jonah Flees from the Lord. He doesn’t just ignore God, but he runs away and willingly! He runs away from God in order to be independent of what he is being called to do. But no matter how long we flee from God, he is always there waiting for us to return.
Another reason why self-reliance is problematic is that this lifestyle chooses not to trust in God. God’s plans for us are always better than our own. Even when it angers us or we don’t believe it, they are. He knows what’s best. But in Jonah’s case and in my case as well sometimes, we choose our own route. That can lead us to problems, right?? For Jonah that meant getting thrown out of the boat he was hiding on and to make things worse he is eaten by a whale.
But, the good thing about finding strength in the wilderness that we place ourselves in is that you can seek God and he will listen. God is always ready to listen to us. He constantly desires to hear us speak to him. When we are so wrapped up in ourselves and our own independence, we don’t speak to him in the right way. It was only when Jonah was thrown into the wilderness is when he speaks to God. Rather than running away anymore, this isolated space gives him time to pray. In the whale, he says, “But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit” (Jonah 2:6). He realizes that his life is not his own, but it belongs to God. Therefore, whatever agenda God has is what must be walked out, no matter how hard that may be. In order to find our strength, we must learn to give up ourselves and rely on God for direction.