In one verse it mentions twice that Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord and three times that Jonah fled to Tarshish – the farthest known part of the world at the time (Jonah 1:3). The Lord was faithful to raise up a storm and a giant fish to help the wayward prophet come to his senses. Jonah’s story is far from an isolated incident. The world is full of modern day Jonah’s – men and women running from the presence of the Lord.
The college campus and the young adults in transition between undergraduate studies and the next phase of life are heavily populated with Jonahs. Not everyone who starts the journey towards Tarshish intends to go all the way. Many want to enjoy the ride and then turn around and return to living in the presence of the Lord after they have “had some fun” or “done their own thing” or “discovered themselves”. Sadly, many who start this journey find excuse after excuse to never get off the boat and never return. The Lord may raise up or allow storms to wake up the Jonahs. He may send friends, family, and strangers to try to help.
Having a slim lifeline to people in a local church is a big reason this modern day Jonah didn’t disappear. When the Lord faithfully raised up some storms early in my college experience I was able to “jump ship” and get helped back to dry land by the people in the church that I maintained slim connections with at the time. Now I am on a different college campus trying to help other Jonahs. There have been some wonderful “saves” over the years, but unfortunately I have seen many people voluntarily cut away the lifelines and sail away to Tarshish. A handful show up again after discovering the pain of living three to five years in Tarshish, but they are the rare cases. I trust that the Lord is faithful even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13) and I pray that the coming storms of life will help those Jonahs make the return trip to actively living in the presence of the Lord.