Have you ever noticed how miserable it is to live outside of God’s perfect will? I know I have. It’s like taking mini prodigal journeys to the pig sty every time I choose to go down that path of disobedience. Most of the time, it’s not even like I decide, “I want to disobey God.” It’s not that direct. It’s more like doing, thinking or saying something without taking the time to think, “Is this God’s will?” Still, it ends up in the same place: a stinking pile of waywardness.
A classic tale of disobedience is the story of Jonah. It’s the brief account of a man who heard from God and literally ran the opposite way. God told him to go east across the land, so he went west across the sea. God said to go one direction in a certain way and he went his own direction in his own way. Sound familiar?
A terrible storm hit the ship and the other passengers believed they were being chastised by some god. Needless to say, they were not very happy about it. Jonah’s disobedience not only made his life miserable, but spread his troubles to those around him. It’s the same way with us. When we invite unhappiness into our lives by going our own way instead of following God’s plan, we invariably cause trouble for other people, too.
When Jonah’s shipmates confronted him, he told them that he served the God of the Hebrews, which terrified them even more. They knew God’s reputation. When other people find out that their trouble has been caused by your disobedience, it never sits well with them. Admitting your guilt can anger your spouse, family, coworkers, and friends. But as difficult as this can be, it’s the first step towards turning things around.
Next, Jonah made a wonderful confession. He said, “I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.” (Jonah 1:12b, NLT) He didn’t lie about it or make excuses. He didn’t blame God. He didn’t see a therapist who put the responsibility on his parents. He didn’t even fault his ex-wife (if he had one). He admitted his own disobedience. That’s a great place to start for all of us.
Jonah’s three days in the belly of the great fish foreshadowed Christ’s burial and illustrates the death of our selfish desires that must take place to find new life. Like Jonah and Jesus Christ, there is a glorious resurrection. When we admit our disobedience and die to our fleshly desires, God raises us up and puts us on the right path again. We are once again able to express the psalmist’s declaration, “I delight [chaphets] to do Your will, O my God;” (Psalm 40:8a, NAS)
The word chaphets is a verb. It’s an action. It means “to take pleasure in.” On one side, we have pleasure in obedience; on the other, misery in disobedience. In Jonah terms, happiness lies to the east and misery to the west. Walking in disobedience will never lead to anything good. That’s why we must turn around and go the other way, which is the classic definition of repentance.
If you are unhappy, measure that against your obedience. Are you Jonah, running from God’s path and caught in a storm? There is no joy or peace in disobedience, only trouble and discontent. God’s commandments are not a set of arbitrary rules designed to keep you under his great cosmic thumb. They are the path to happiness, a way of wisdom that brings liberty. Living by your own rules is not independence, it is imprisonment. Remove disobedience from your life and you will remove a major obstacle to true joy and freedom.
Randy Robison is the Sr. Coordinator of Creative Media for LIFE Outreach and the author of “God Wants You To Be Happy” (Harvest House Publishers, January 2012).