Have you ever played 'hide and seek' with God, I have, and Jonah did, so that's two of us......
“But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”
Jonah 1:3 NIV
Jonah found what God was saying to him to be unpalatable... so he went his own way!
Jonah KNEW he was running from the Lord but when a situation occurred, as a direct result of him running, he became determined to do whatever was necessary so that those around him did not suffer as a result of his disobedience.
Those around him were very reluctant to take the required action, but Jonah, despite his disobedience, was not so far from God that he did not recognize what was right.
Notice in v15 that when they reluctantly took the action:
a. there was calm AND
b. it was the beginning of Jonah's journey back to where God wanted him all along.
And the point is?
For me it was the level of Jonah's awareness of what he had done, his acceptance of it and the knowledge that certain things had to happen for the sake of those suffering the consequences of his actions.
Even in his disobedience he knew something of Gods heart..... but he still struggled to come to terms with Gods purpose for him.
However, he did love God and eventually Jonah set in motion a sequence of events that:
1. turned his direction towards rather than away from God - and
2. Moved himself into a place where God worked for the good in the situation. ( but it was full of risk)
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
The second part of this verse which is often NOT quoted when people refer to it is crucial to its understanding & application - so what does it mean?
It is not only to do with being called BUT specifically about knowing and responding to that call in line with His purposes and His heart for us.
It seems to me that this is the key to understanding the verse......
It helps us to clarify what constitutes the sort of love that creates the spiritual atmosphere or culture in which things begin to work together - because we are on Gods agenda..... and NOT simply 'being us' but becoming more as He wants us to be, or at least realising that this is necessary.
We cannot simply assume God will work for the good whatever we do and however we act - it is contingent on us being 'called according to His purposes', even if we are late in moving into his purpose as was Jonah....
Fortunately the grace of God even reaches into situations where we have distanced ourselves from Him which gives us the opportunity to move back into His purpose, His heart and to be where He wants us to be.