A friend of mine found this excellent icon to the left a few months ago at this store, and I knew I had to have it. The image is of Jonah and the Whale. If you don't know the story of Jonah and the Whale, it's a story from the book of Jonah (surprise) in the Bible. In the story God asks Jonah to do something for him, and Jonah doesn't, and instead runs away from God. He hides out on a boat, but God sends a crazy storm that overwhelms the boat, and the crew of the boat end up tossing Jonah into the water to try to save themselves. Jonah is swallowed by a whale, and sits in the whale's stomach for three days praying to be given a second chance. The whale vomits him up, and Jonah does what God asks him to.
I was never particularly interested in this story before (although I did have the lead role in the musical "Jonah-man Jazz" in fourth grade in Lutheran school), but when I saw this icon I was struck. First of all because of how scary the whale is. Look at those teeth! It looks more like a sea monster than a plain old whale to me. And look at the malice in its eye. I'm pretty sure that's a misrepresentation of Jonah's mood as he was swallowed by the creature.
What I was really struck by, though, is the idea that you can think everything is seriously over, and God (or the universe or whatever you envision is happening behind the scenes) will still bail you out of it. It wasn't that Jonah was afraid of being eaten by a sea monster--Jonah WAS EATEN by a sea monster. And God still got him out of it. When I think of the number of times I was actually IN the belly of the whale and still had my scared, sorry ass saved, it made me realize that I need to have a whole different perspective on worst-case scenarios.
There's a song by one of my favorites, Fred Hammond*, that has the lyric "Late in the midnight hour/God's going to work in your favor" and that "late in the midnight hour" part means a lot to me. (It's here at 2:55 in this video.) I don't usually want things to get as bad as they do, but God still pulls it out at the last minute.
It's not over 'til it's really over. And sometimes, even if it's over, there's another way out. Even when the sea monster has some scary teeth.
* Fred Hammond's album "Free to Worship" pulled me through my divorce. If you're a Christian or Christian-curious going through a divorce I highly, highly recommed the whole album for some perspective and grace. It was the only thing I could listen to some days, and a year later I found out that it was the album Hammond was working on while he went through a divorce himself.