(April 29, 2020)

Jonah 2:2In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and You listened to my cry.”

Do you ever feel like you have to present a constant face to others – regardless of what you are actually feeling inside? As if you had a “smiley face” emoji mask. Perhaps especially so on Sundays, when everyone looks so nice, so accomplished, so happy.

By all means, smile if that is natural. And realize this: Jonah’s prayer in Chapter 2 is no “smiley face” – YET– it is a Psalm of Thanksgiving. It took time. It takes a few seconds to read the words, “Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights,” yet three days and three nights is a very long time to be totally isolated, damp with seaweed around your head (verse 5), and in complete darkness. The Bible is often like this with time; we might read in a flash what in reality was a long, long wait.

If you resonate with the pressure to present a certain way, to maintain a certain social status, to above else not rock anyone’s boat, then read the Book of Psalms. The Psalms are full of prayers that were used in worship. They are intense, personal, real. And, one half of the 150 psalms are crisis-related. That’s right, 75 psalms deal with a crisis. That’s fifty percent. That’s a lot of crises. Where’s the smiley face emoji now?

That normalizes the range of emotions that comes with a crisis, doesn’t it?

Reread Jonah’s psalm here (or the 23rdPsalm for that matter) and you will see many first person pronouns. If a true prophet of God who is in the Bible can share his heart with God and not keep up some exterior happy façade, so can you. You can pour out your heart to Him. He can handle it; He’s God. Besides, He already knows it anyways.

The hardest part may be to give thanks during the crisis. Thanksgiving is like the biblical definition of love: it is more of an action, practice or discipline than a feeling. It may be genuinely practiced regardless of your present circumstances. Thanksgiving will keep you from spiraling the drain of negativity.

So, again, the bottom line: put down the smiley face; tell God how you really feel; and give thanks for what you can genuinely give thanks for. And like Jonah, you will be brought up from the pit. Because the Lord has heard you.