Jonah and the Gourd

“Is there anything in which I am, like Jonah, unreconciled to the will of God–His will in His Word; His leading in providence? And when He reasons kindly with me, –“Is it good for you to be angry?”–do I allow His gracious reproof to pass by unheeded? Let me beware. God’s purpose, though unwelcome to me, is very dear to Him: it follows the counsel of His own will; it is according to the pleasure of His will; and I must, if I am a child of God, be constrained to understand that it is, and be brought to agree with him, and acquiesce…

He may teach me practically, as He taught Jonah. He may send me a welcome gift–a lovely, enjoyable and useful ivy plant–a sudden, acceptable, wonderful gourd. I become exceedingly thrilled with my gourd. My heart wraps around it. It has a good future; it will be a blessing to me; it is a budding hope; a light of sunshine falling on my weary heart; an unexpected surprise; a delightful good thing;–ah! in many forms my gourd may grow; and I am thrilled with it. Even when I argue with God, I am all the more happy with my gourd.

But, for what purpose was it planted? Why did it grow? Perhaps in part so that it would wither, droop, and die; and that my heart by losing it, be taught that if the object which my poor foolish love fastens on is hard to part with, how infinitely wrong for me to desire God to abandon the purposes which His infinitely wise will has loved from eternity, and which He has woven in with my destiny, to at the same time both bless and train me–exercising my faith and patience, stripping me of all creature confidence so that He can fill me with uncreated good, and make me another trophy of grace among the thousands of other poor sinners who the angels have seen sitting not desolate even with every idol shattered, and who angels have heard through grace, proclaiming:–Though my flesh and heart fail; though my household is not with God; though the fig tree does not blossom; yet I will rejoice in the LORD, for “He has made with me an everlasting covenant, planned, purposed, being carried out, and certain: this is my salvation, this is all my desire.”

Hugh Martin, Jonah (Banner of Truth, 1995), 358-359. Revised and updated.