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Saturday/Sunday: September 20, 2022

His Ways Deserve Our Praise

"LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago." (Isaiah 25:1)

This past offseason, my husband Bruce and I sought after God’s plan for us professionally like never before. We were open-handed with baseball, ready to give it up should that be God’s will for us. Ultimately, by His direction, we signed a contract to play baseball in Taiwan for the third year in a row.

Because we knew we were on the path God wanted us to take, it was easy to go into the season with high expectations. Everything turned out completely differently than I thought it would, though. Bruce was faced with obstacle after obstacle both on the field and off. For me, it got to the point where it felt like the only open door was the one that brought us to Taiwan. Every subsequent one felt slammed in our faces. The final door closed this past week when, in a very unprofessional way, Bruce was released.

For a few days, I struggled with anger. I was hurt by the way the organization treated Bruce and I was bitter over the fact that he gave everything he had and received so little in return. In a particularly ugly moment, I admitted that I actually hoped the team wouldn’t win after our departure. No matter the circumstances, the organization blamed Bruce for the team’s losses on the nights he pitched and I didn’t want them to have success and feel validated in their decision to let him go. A few mornings after our release, God led Bruce to the story of Jonah and as we discussed it, I was convicted by my dark thoughts and ingratitude.

In the book of Jonah, God commands Jonah to travel to a city called Nineveh to let its inhabitants know they are going to be destroyed because of their wickedness. Jonah resists God’s call and tries to flee but ultimately he is confronted with calamity, has a change of heart, travels to Nineveh, and shares the Lord’s message. The Ninevites believe in God and repent and God has mercy on them and does not bring the destruction He threatened. This angers Jonah because he doesn’t want the Ninevites pardoned; he wants them punished. He basically goes east of the city to sit and pout and to wait to see if God will change His mind and destroy it. God provides a plant that grows over Jonah and gives him shade and it makes Jonah really happy. The next day though, God provides a worm that chews the plant and withers it and Jonah becomes angry. This is the exchange that follows:

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend to it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left- and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:9-11)

It was easy to see that I was acting like Jonah. I was okay with returning to Taiwan when I thought it was going to suit us. I expected a positive outcome professionally, not one that brought heartache. I shook my fist in anger, acting as if I knew best. I failed to recognize the protection and provision of the “plants” that God shaded us with like lasting friendships, financial stability, and the opportunity to live out the baseball dream for a 12th season. My eyes were on how things affected us, not on God’s bigger picture. God is working all things out for the good of many, not just us. Everything we have is from Him and belongs to Him.

“He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)

So often we act like we deserve certain things but the truth is, praise God that we don’t get what we deserve because what we deserve is death. In His infinite love, God shows us mercy and blesses us despite our failure. Even though we’re flawed, He welcomes us to participate in His perfect plans. 

Instead of being like Jonah, I want to live like Job, who said these words:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away, may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21)

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10)

Some of you may be in the midst of the best season of your partner’s career. For others, you may be all too familiar with the hurt and heartache that I’ve shared here. Throughout our lives, there will be moments of bliss on top of the mountain and moments of despair in the pit of the valley. Whatever season you’re in, be reminded of Jonah’s story and what can be learned from it:

  1. Be obedient to God’s call.
  2. Be open-handed with the direction and the result of that call.
  3. Choose contentment regardless of the circumstance because the best place you can be is in the center of God’s will.
  4. Remember that there’s a bigger picture playing out. God cares about the welfare of everyone, not just you.
  5. Because there is a bigger picture, trust that His ways are superior to yours. He knows all from beginning to end.
  6. Give God thanks and praise! He is good and His ways are flawless. He cares deeply and personally for YOU. He is a God of details and He cares about everything from the greatest obstacle to the smallest decision.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please forgive us for all the times we’ve been prideful, for thinking our way is better than yours. Please have mercy on us for acting entitled to your blessings and for our ingratitude when you’ve bestowed countless gifts upon us. Forgive us for having eyes with such limited vision. We give you praise because you are a God of mighty works! Nothing is too hard for you. Please help us to trust in your perfect wisdom and timing and overwhelm our hearts with the peace that only you can give. We seek to honor and praise you in all circumstances and we rest secure in your hands. Amen.

Suggested Reading: Jonah 1-4

Caitlin Billings

Baseball Chapel
P.O. Box 10102
Largo, FL 33773

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