In computer programming, I’ll sometimes get into disagreements (usually friendly ones) with colleagues. It goes both ways, but one of us will describe what is happening with the code, and the other one will say, “That can’t happen”. Yet, somehow, the so-called “impossible” is still occurring, often in a repeatable manner (which is helpful in programming, where variability can be much higher than one might think when computers are supposed to do the same thing every time).
Of course, the solution is usually to get the rest of the information. As we get deeper into the details of what is being reported, we either discover that the problem is happening in a different circumstance than the naysayer expected, or that what appears to be happening is actually a manifestation of a different issue (or both!).
In the end, possible is still possible, and impossible is still impossible, but in order to understand the difference, we must see a large enough picture to appreciate all of the variables and all of the factors at play.
After several other articles from the first chapter of the book of Jonah (in the Bible), here’s what is perhaps the most famous part of that book:.
Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah 1:17 NIV
Note a couple quick things that the Bible doesn’t say:
- It doesn’t say that this was a whale. While the cute pictures in children’s Bible story books might show a whale, I envision something perhaps more like an aquatic dinosaur (like Megalodon, perhaps, but I’m not trying to pinpoint an exact species from an account that doesn’t provide that information to us). In fact, God could have easily created a special fish just for this purpose.
- It doesn’t even have to be a fish from our modern classification. After all, the guy who is famous for building a taxonomy of how living things are categorized was born in the 1700’s [Wikipedia, Carl Linnaeus], so the author of the book of Jonah (predating that taxonomy by millennia) wasn’t required to call sea creatures by modern family names.
- It also doesn’t say that Jonah remained alive the whole time. He could have drowned and been brought back to life (although I suspect that he remained alive).
More importantly, though, God did have a plan for Jonah. God’s message to Nineveh was intended to be delivered through Jonah, and Jonah’s resistance wasn’t going to stop God from enabling that to happen.
Sometimes, we may think that something is absolutely going to stop God’s plan. Maybe we see an obstacle and think that a future outcome that we thought would happen is doomed. Maybe we see God’s plan going in a certain direction, and we don’t want that to happen, so we try to stop it.
Trust me on two things: First, we must not be too confident that we know God’s plan, unless He specifically tells us a part of it. If we insist that something will happen in the future, and build our plans around that (without seeking God’s direction), we’re showing the kind of behavior that James warns us about in James 4:13-17. Conversely, if we are sure that God can’t do something amazing (or even miraculous) in our lives, even if He has promised us that He will, our prayers and our progress are both going to be stunted.
And secondly, God’s plan will take place, with or without our help. Believing that we can make something impossible for God – whether through our own inaction, or by trying to get in His way – is going to lead to disappointment. It’s probably going to result in our own plans getting steamrolled, and may compel us to learn our lesson through a painful process (rather than easier paths that God might be offering us).
Just like the motto of my state says (see Ohio State Symbols), what we see as impossible is just “another day in the office” for God. May we live our lives today in the awe and wonder of that fact, and not limit our expectations to what we can fully understand or accomplish on our own!
From Sunday School lesson prepared for June 5, 2022
- The Lookout, June 5, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Minor Prophets Volume 1: Hosea-MIcah, by Harold Shank. College Press Publishing Company, © 2001.