One day a mother put her child in time out, and the child sincerely thanked her mother for it as she walked toward the corner. After serving her five-minute sentence, she stood up and approached her mother with a sincere apology, explaining the heart attitude behind her transgression and resolving to be more like Christ in every way. The daughter also thanked the mother for loving her enough to correct her right away.
You may not be familiar with this story and that is because I made it up. Quite possibly, there may be children somewhere that can immediately appreciate the love that fuels proper parental discipline. In fact, if they do exist, the whole family should be studied. Successful discipline is an area of parenting that often confounds me. First of all, I have to make sure I am not disciplining “out of anger.” Then, the child has to understand what their offense was, and the method of correction I choose should dissuade them from repeating said offense. Next, I have to make sure that this method of correction can be carried out depending on where we are and what we have been doing. Lastly, if there is more than one child involved in this transgression I have to go through the whole process again because sometimes what works on one child does not work on another. I am sure I am missing some steps in this already too-detailed explanation of parenting, but it doesn’t matter because my focus is not on how to be a good parent – it’s on how to be a good child.
The preacher at my church spoke from the book of Jonah the other day. I will be honest – I didn’t hear much of what he said because I was in the nursery with my youngest. However, I turned to the book and right away noticed something that I had never paid attention to before. After Jonah disobeyed God and was thrown into the water we see the following:
Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. | Jonah 1:17
Maybe you are more insightful than I am and thought about this already but when I read this I suddenly thought, God put Jonah in time out! Jonah was being a disobedient child and as his Father, God specifically chose the best method of discipline to correct His erring child. Jonah needed to be in the belly of a fish to think about his actions so the LORD prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah.
It took Jonah three days in the belly of the fish before he started talking to God. Then Jonah prayed and confessed his mistakes and bad attitude. It took three days of swimming around in gigantic fish guts before he called out to God for help! I don’t even like eating seafood so the idea of being stuck inside of a fish is beyond repulsive to me. Yet, he sat there for days before reaching out. Then I read the following verse:
Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. | Jonah 2:8
An idol is anything that is more important than God or takes God’s place in one’s heart. Idols can be statues or pictures, but they can also be things like money, pride, beauty, success or even family. I think many times we as Christians even take the blessings God has given us and turn them into idols and use them as reasons for having less time for God. In Jonah’s case, I think he had made an idol out of his own sense of right and wrong. He knew the Ninevites that God wanted him to preach to were a horrible and corrupt nation. As far as he was concerned, they did not deserve a second chance. So this is why Jonah first decided not to follow through with God’s command to go to Nineveh. This belief was strong enough to keep him in the fish’s belly for three days.
Finally in verse 7 we read:
When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. | Jonah 2:7
Jonah was so determined to have things his own way, he actually forgot about God. Again, you would think that sitting in a fish, even an atheist would call to God, but somehow Jonah didn’t. I think we sometimes tend to do the same thing when we are being disciplined. God lovingly prepares giant fish for all of His children when they need it.
My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in. | Proverbs 3:11-12
God disciplines those He delights in. How many days, weeks, months or years have you stubbornly been sitting in the belly of a fish? Has God been calling you to turn away from the idols that you are serving and turn back to Him? For those who have a relationship with Jesus, our lives are not meant to be easy, but they are meant to be filled with peace. Even in the midst of troubles God gives peace. However, if you have been struggling, you may be fruitlessly trying to live your life in time out. As Jonah said, when we cling to worthless idols we turn away from God’s love. Only a loving Father would take the time to patiently set us aside so that we can once again live abundantly. Ask Him for help, and thank Him for caring enough to discipline you.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. | 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18