I had a time machine once. Still, my questions about why God allowed certain things to happen in this world went unanswered, so I traveled back in time to ask Jonah.
I landed beside the road, catching him in the middle of his long trip home, and interrupting what looked like deep contemplation. My ship’s landing nearby hardly seemed to phase him, and I could only assume that he was still in shock from his little detour inside the big fish.
“Jonah!” I called to him and hurried across the hot, rocky sand, waving my hand and grinning like a fool. He started to back away from my approach, finally reacting to my drop from the sky or maybe the fact that I knew his name. I slowed my advance, eager for him to talk to me and not run away.
“Uh . . . are you from the Lord?” Jonah asked, sounding nervous and resigned.
“No. Well, maybe. But probably not.” I laughed a little, so relieved that my Automatic Internal Interpreter worked. “I’m from the future, thousands of years from now!”
He lifted an eyebrow at me and his head tilted a little. I noticed that his clothes were a little worse for wear after his ordeal. His turban was askew and his face sunburned.
“Could I ask you something, Jonah? A question that has plagued me for as long as I have known God in my life?”
The expression in his eyes brightened. “You know God?”
“He is my Lord, but sometimes I don’t understand how He works.”
Jonah’s dry laugh carried an under current of pain and confusion. “And you’re asking me? Do you have any idea what the last week has been like for me?”
“Actually, I do. God wrote the whole story down, so that His people could read about you and be encouraged.”
“Learn from my mistakes, you mean,” he countered thoughtfully. His eyes looked beyond me for a long moment, then came back to pin me with intent . . . very prophet like. “What is your question?”
“W-well,” I stuttered, fumbling completely once the chance arrived. “The bigger question is about why God allows certain things to happen, but of course, it really comes down to this: If you could go back and change everything—borrow my time machine, and change all your choices this last week . . . would you?”
“W-what? Don’t you want to think about that for a second?”
Jonah shook his head, smiling, his eyes warm. “You just told me that God’s people centuries from now are reading my story and finding encouragement. Tell me, what did you learn from my story?”
“I see God’s control, His love, his power and patience. Sovereignty.”
“Exactly, and you have answered my question. As I was walking I sought God’s purposes in all the drama of the last week. If my story helps so many people—and I’ve learned my lesson about how much God cares about people—than I must decide that it was worth it, or I drive myself insane. If God cares this much, to go to all this trouble to teach me and use me for the Ninevites, than I better start caring more, too. Don’t you think?”
“Yes, but . . . but, Jonah! Wouldn’t you change one thing? Obey sooner?”
“What kind of story would you have then? How would you have seen God’s sovereignty in my life? I’m an object lesson and a prophet. Now let me ask you, are you going to go back and change something in your life?”
“I thought I would, but I was sort of doing a survey of other people first, to find out if it was a good idea or not.”
“What do you think now?”
Deeply disappointed, I stared at him. His smile turned knowing, then content and peaceful.
“Thank you, Jonah.”
I left him to his journey, and I moved on to the next target. I talked to Job and David, and soon I realized I wasn’t going to get the answer I wanted. These men knew that God’s hand was on them, and their trust was stronger than ever.
What did that say about mine? Finally, I knew that I could continue questioning things I was'nt supposed to know the answer for, or I could trust the results and God’s timing.
So, I took my time machine home and parked it. That doesn’t mean I never questioned God again, but I never forgot the peace in Jonah’s smile.
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