“Then the LORD God provided a vine…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. But God said… ‘Do you have a right to be angry about the vine? You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.’” Jonah 4:6-10.
Life certainly offers its own version of this story. We don’t have to look too far to see these elements played out in our day to day lives. We constantly stack our circumstances against the circumstances of others. ‘Why did she land that job when I worked much harder? How come he has loved ones who lived so long when I experienced a devastating loss? Why does she get to enjoy the love of a partner and I don’t?’ While these questions are human nature the more concerning question lays much deeper in the heart.
The lacking element behind these questions is the same that was behind Jonah’s anger – an absence of genuine gratitude. Everything comes from God, both in blessing and duration. He created all things and only God determines the duration of their existence in our lives. Like the shade God provided for Jonah, God provides our provisional needs to help us in our discomfort. However, when we lack sincere gratitude for the things God has given us and the length of time we have been given them, the worm of ingratitude will gnaw away at our hearts. It will work its ugly way into every situation and affect our relationship with others.
None of us truly deserve anything God has given us and certainly have no rights to tell Him how to handle our blessings. Genuine gratitude begins with a humble heart and an acknowledgment that God is sovereign in His wisdom and His decisions. Why are we so quick to praise Him when He takes away the bad but blame Him when He takes away the good? He is the giver and taker of all things and we must be willing to trust Him regardless of our outcomes.
I have often wondered if Jonah had mistaken the provision of shade as a blessing for completing his work at Nineveh (despite being dragged to Nineveh to begin with)? It is a curious question as if Jonah thought it was a recompense for work complete, then he would have more of an expectation of God's provision while he waited and watched. Gratitude stems from an understanding of grace (an unmerited favor) as opposed to an earned recompense. I guess that makes God's lesson of his grace for spiritually blind people all that more powerful.