“Now the Word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time.” Jonah 3:1
Jonah had been the runaway prophet. He dreaded so much doing what God had told him to do that he decided to go west to Tarshish instead of east to Ninevah. This decision got him in deep trouble. On the first recorded submarine trip he prayed to the God of heaven. He said later, “my prayer went to you into your holy temple.” Jonah 2:7. The voyage seemed like an eternity, he said, “the earth with its bars was behind me forever.” Jonah 2:6. But in that living grave God heard him. Jonah said, “out of the belly of sheol I cried, You heard my voice.” Jonah 2:2.
Have not many other people had an experience like Jonah. For various reasons the way that God marked out for them to travel seemed too difficult, too painful, too distasteful, too dangerous or just plain ruinous and the human spirit shrank from what God said to do. We thought that we could not possibly do exactly as God directed. “Times have changed”(Testimonies, vol. 5, 211) and so, instead of going east, we went west to escape the disagreeable duty and find greater peace and happiness in a way that we deemed better than the one God had pointed out for us.
We still claimed of course that we “fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9) and we still profess to be His people even after we had purchased our ticket to go opposite the direction that He has directed. If God should deal with us like we are prone to deal with each other we would all perish. But we serve a God who specializes in giving second chances to disobedient, runaway disciples. First, of course, we have to go through our own deep trouble—going opposite to God’s express instructions in any line always results in consequences, in trials and suffering even though we are forgiven when we repent and confess our sins. Sometimes we must, because of our own previous course of action, be cast into deep trouble, into stormy waters, until it seems that there is no hope and that both God and man have forsaken us and we say with Jonah, “I have been cast out of Your sight.” Jonah 2:4. But if we keep praying and surrendering our lives to the Lord we will find that, “Salvation is of the Lord.” Jonah 2:9.
When He sees that it is time, He can remove us from the furnace of trouble. “The refining furnace is to remove the dross. When the Refiner sees His image reflected in you perfectly, He will remove you from the furnace. You will not be left to be consumed or to endure the fiery ordeal any longer than is necessary for your purification. But it is necessary for you, in order to reflect the divine image, to submit to the process the Refiner chooses for you, that you may be cleansed, purified, and every spot and blemish removed—not even a wrinkle left in your Christian character.” Our High Calling, 312.
“I saw that the enemy would either contend for the usefulness or the life of the godly, and will try to mar their peace as long as they live in this world. But his power is limited. He may cause the furnace to be heated, but Jesus and angels will watch the trusting Christian, that nothing may be consumed but the dross. The fire kindled by Satan, can have no power to destroy or hurt the true metal. It is important to close every door possible, against the entrance of Satan. It is the privilege of every family to so live that Satan cannot take advantage of anything they may say or do, to tear each other down. Every member of the family should bear in mind that all have just as much as they can do to resist our wily foe, and with earnest prayers and unyielding faith, they must rely upon the merits of the blood of Christ, and claim His saving strength. The powers of darkness gather about the soul and shut Jesus from our sight, and at times we can only wait in sorrow and amazement until the cloud passes over. These seasons are sometimes terrible. Hope seems to fail, and despair seizes upon us. In these dreadful hours we must learn to trust, to depend on the sole merits of the atonement, and in all our helpless unworthiness cast ourselves upon the merits of the crucified and risen Savior. We shall never perish while we do this—never! . . .We are too quickly discouraged, and earnestly cry for the trial to be removed from us, when we should plead for patience to endure, and grace to overcome.” Review and Herald, April 22, 1862.