Jonah Project 43

Jonah 4:3

“Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Hamlet has a problem. Jonah thinks he has a solution. Hamlet is not sure if it is better to live or to die. Jonah would prefer to die than to live. In his famous speech, Hamlet wrestles with one of life’s biggest questions: Is life worth living?

To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep—
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to?

Jonah is convinced life is not worth living. He knows if he lives, he will suffer. Jonah thinks he will suffer if he lives because living would mean facing God’s compassion for Jonah’s hated enemies. What an strange moment in Jonah’s story. Jonah asks the God of love and live to kill him. 
This is not the first time in this short story in which Jonah has begged to die. The first time was on board the ship in the middle of a brutal storm on the Mediterranean Sea, when Jonah begs the sailors to throw him overboard into the wild, raging sea. Jonah did not know how to swim. It didn’t matter. Even Michael Phelps would have drowned in that sea. The sailors reluctantly throw Jonah overboard, fulfilling Jonah’s death wish. But God has a life wish for Jonah, just as God has a grand life wish for you and me. So God sends along a huge fish who thinks it is lunchtime. 
Now, for the second time in the Book of Jonah, the melancholic prophet asks to die. He asks God to snuff out his life so he will be spared the sight of God’s love, mercy or forgiveness offered to the Assyrians. Jonah negotiates with God, and God negotiates with Jonah as we’ll see in the rest of chapter four. 
What have you been asking God to do with your life recently? Have you bartered with God in the past few days or weeks? When in a pinch, what do you ask God to do? What are you praying God to do with you right now? Ever prayed a prayer which later you discovered was a really dumb idea, and were thankful God did not answer your prayer according to your request? Call it “the gift of unanswered prayer.” 
God knows what our lives need at the time, and sometimes refuses to grant us our request. Jonah asks for death. God gives Jonah life. 
There are too many self-destructive ways in this life. Too many people today flirt with self-destructive thoughts or self-destructive ways of living.  Hope is a precious gift. Many get up day after day without knowing this gift.
If you have ever known such thoughts as Jonah knew, or if you currently wonder if life is worth living just as Jonah wondered, please seek out the personal support of someone who knows your name and loves you. Call on them in the night-time of your soul, and ask them to come sit with you, listen to your heart. Let them light a candle of hope in your heart by their kindness and compassion. Weeping lasts for the night, but joy comes in the morning. So writes the ancient Psalmist (Psalm 30:5). The morning will come. Soon.
If you have no one like this in your life at this time, call one of the many lifeline free phone services or hotlines available for people who are looking for a reason to keep on living: 1-800-SUICIDE; or 1-800-273-TALK, are two such national lifeline numbers. 
Best of all though, call on Jesus, offering your heart and prayer to the One who formed you, who loves you, who knows your pain, who gave his life for you by dying on the cross, who was raised again from the dead and lives in victory over all death and darkness, who has a future and hope for you, and who wants to wrap loving arms around you right now.
  Royal British mail postage stamp honoring 50 years of the Royal Shakespeare Company, featuring David Tennant’s “Hamlet” from 2008 production.