If you prefer to listen over reading an article, keep an eye on Autumn Dickson on YouTube or various podcast platforms. I post video and podcast versions of my blog posts on my Youtube channel and on the podcast platforms: Apple, Anchor, Breaker, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.
Looking for a different week in the Come Follow Me program? Check out this link to find posts by week: https://autumndickson.com/category/come-follow-me/
Looking for a Come Follow Me Notebook for 2023? Hoping to find a Come Follow Me journal that provides a little extra prompting to help you in your study? Check out these journals available on Amazon!
Though most people know the basic story of Jonah, here’s a quick recap just in case.
The Lord called Jonah to go and preach to the people in Nineveh. He didn’t want to go because they were enemies of his people. He runs in the opposite direction and boards a boat. This boat finds itself in the midst of a deadly storm, and Jonah has the sailors throw him overboard because Jonah knows it’s his fault that there is a storm. Sure enough, the storm calms after Jonah is no longer on the boat. Jonah is swallowed by a fish and spends three days in its belly. He prays and the fish vomits him out onto land. Jonah makes his way to Nineveh. The people listen and repent, and Jonah is annoyed about it (just goes to show you that the number of baptisms a missionary has is not a true indicator of how good they are). The Lord then uses a distinct object lesson to teach Jonah about mercy.
Now Jonah is kinda guilty of quite a few things here. He purposefully rebels against the Lord. He knew better but ran away anyway. He hated the people of Nineveh. He refused to love them even after serving them. Though these are all different flaws, they all really boil down to the state of Jonah’s heart. It was bitter, hard, annoyed, and resentful.
What I really want to talk about today is what Jonah would have missed out on had the Lord simply let him be. If the Lord had let him continue on to Tarshish, what would Jonah have lost?
Though we’re talking about Jonah here, I believe we can all learn a little bit about how we’re holding ourselves back when we harden our hearts to the Lord and other people. We can all learn about what we’re missing.
For a short period of time, Jonah refused to follow the commandments at all. After his short tete-a-tete with a large fish, he followed the commandments. Unfortunately for Jonah, he followed the commandments wrong for a while longer. Let’s talk about both.
Not following the commandments
This section is probably going to be pretty short because the Lord hasn’t exactly laid out a list of miracles that Jonah witnessed after going to Nineveh. But regardless of this section being short, we would probably be floored if we could see that whole list.
This section will also be short because I think we know what we miss out on when we purposefully rebel.
Thomas B. Marsh was a priesthood leader who left the church. Upon his return, he lamented, “The Lord could get along very well without me and He has lost nothing by my falling out of the ranks; But O what have I lost?!”
Honestly, you lose everything when you purposefully rebel against the Lord and His commandments.
Following the commandments wrong
This section will be much longer since I believe that most of us find ourselves guilty of this sin.
Jonah decided to follow the commandments of the Lord. And because he followed the commandments of the Lord, he had the Spirit with him to help convert the people of Nineveh. He did immense amounts of good.
But he still hated the people of Nineveh. This is how Jonah responded to the Lord’s mercy in Nineveh.
1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
2 And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
3 Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.
Jonah wanted to die rather than watch Nineveh be spared.
In the previous section, we determined that you lose everything when you voluntarily rebel against God. Well I’m here to tell you that if you follow God but retain your heart, you will still lose everything.
Let me explain.
Because of the status of Jonah’s heart, he chose to live in “hell.” If he doesn’t change his heart, he will continue to live in hell for eternity (all by his own choices!).
If Jonah had simply let go and trusted the atonement, the depth of his joy would have been hard to describe. If he had looked at the Ninevites as the children of God that they truly were, he could have established relationships that would have brought him into “heaven” immediately despite the fact that he was still on earth.
We search for heaven. We wait for heaven. And we do this because we often do not realize we can create it. The glory that accompanies heaven will come later, but so much of what heaven “is” can be experienced right here.
But Jonah refused to experience it.
He did all that hard work. He followed the commandments. He lived through trials. He sacrificed his actions and life to go and do the Lord’s will, but he never actually gave his will over to the Lord. And because of that, Jonah continued to pout in “hell.” He was not redeemed. He was not changed even after everything he had done for the Lord. He did all the work but refused the reward.
If Jonah didn’t repent and hand his heart over to the Lord, then he was going to find himself in hell for eternity (Let it be known that when I say hell, I mean the unhappiness that is associated with being separated from Christ and being limited in your progression).
Nineveh was going to heaven. Christ had redeemed them, and they would be joining him. If Jonah didn’t repent, he certainly wasn’t going to be allowed in to spoil the fun. When Jonah locked his heart away from the Lord, he was locking himself out of heaven (the kind you can experience on earth as well as the one that is traditionally associated with eternity).
The application for us
Many of us are guilty of this same sin and find ourselves with the same unhappiness and we don’t understand why. It is often on a smaller level than we see exemplified in Jonah, but it is the same sin.
We withhold our hearts and refuse to leave hell even after we’ve done all the work. Because when it comes down to it, it’s not really our works that save us at all. Christ saves us, but He won’t force salvation on us. We have to let Him into our hearts. Surely our works can bring deep happiness and can draw us closer to Him but only if we allow it.
Unfortunately so many of us continue to keep the commandments without giving our hearts. We continue to resent that the Lord is making us do it. We refuse to see the happiness that could be our’s. We compare our works to the works of others to measure our success, and we get annoyed when people don’t see all the good we’re doing. And eventually, if we don’t figure it out, we leave or we remain unhappy for unnecessary amounts of time.
Giving your heart to the Lord is a gift. Living His commandments all the way down to your heart is how you find the peace that everyone keeps talking about. Living His commandments alone will not bring salvation.
Giving your heart is a process. It is actually a small decision that is made over and over and over again until eventually, you’re changed. It is the decision to trust the Lord when He asks you to forgive someone who has wronged you grievously. It is the decision to lovingly serve a family member that has done you wrong rather than keeping score of all the things you’ve done right. It is the decision to laugh when you’re about to lose your mind with impatience. It is choosing to control your heart and not just actions.
I know that the great plan of redemption can be brought immediately into your life if you choose to soften your hearts (Alma 34:31). And I know that all of this is powered by the atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that salvation comes through Him alone.