Whenever we hear the story of Jonah, our default thought is typically, "He ran away from God and got swallowed by a whale." I have often pondered over the story, feeling like there was something more, something I wasn't quite catching on to, something I was missing. I had recognized the main elements - Jonah ran from God, repented of that attitude, turned back to the Lord while captive in a fish's belly, and eventually did his job. He went to Nineveh, proclaimed the Gospel, and the whole place repented.
That is often where most of our Jonah narratives cease. The narrative, however, is far from over. After Nineveh's salvation and God's outpouring of grace, Jonah does not rejoice in the work of the Lord and continue to serve Him but rather hardens his heart against God and ceases his service altogether. The End. The book literally ends with God asking Jonah a question. No "conclusion," no repentance of Jonah's hard heart, nothing.
Surely Jonah justified his attitude. The people of Nineveh had left horrific scars and deep wounds that had not yet healed upon Jonah and his people. Seeing Nineveh's salvation was the absolute last thing Jonah wanted but it was in God's goodness and sovereignty that he was to be the pivot point which turned them to repentance.
We all have "Ninevehs" in our lives. People who have hurt us, events or happenings that have left deep wounds and scars upon our soul. But we also have Jonah's choice. We can allow ourselves to be swallowed up in the mercy and grace of God or we can harden our heart into stone against Him. Perhaps more than anything else, the story of Jonah now stands as a testament to me, not of what it looks like to be repentant, but what it looks like to have a heart of stone. I pray that no matter what I face some day, I would still far rather be in a whale with a soft and pliable heart for my Lord to mold and use according to His choosing than be outside of a whale with a heart hardened and stubborn against His working.