Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me
This little ditty comes from the ever-famous Hee Haw television show from the 70’s and 80’s. On Saturday nights, my whole family would gather around and watch it together. It’s one of those things from childhood that has shaped me, and which I can recall at a moment’s notice. Whenever I hear the words “gloom” and “despair”, an image instantly comes to mind: grown men in overalls, sipping moonshine jugs, sadly singing this song. (And I can sing it right along with them.)
I’m not much of a despair-er, although I have been accused of being negative. I feel like I am more of a pity party person. I allow myself the opportunity to whine and bemoan the ills that plague me, but then I clean up and move on. Despair, to me, is something much deeper and darker. When I think of despair, I think of Jonah.
The story of Jonah is a popular one. It has drama – ships, storms, gambling, big fish, and a wayward nation. It is only four short chapters, but the book is chock full of drama. The saddest part though, is even after everything Jonah had been through, he’s found sitting under a withered vine, angry and in despair.
Often times, I think the real point of Jonah’s story is missed. God continues to save him over and over, time and again, but Jonah would rather despair than go God’s way!
I often imagine Jonah in that Hee Haw setting, bemoaning and wailing in raggedy overalls and straw hat, moonshine jug in hand, complaining because God didn’t do things Jonah’s way. Does that sound familiar?
Over the past few years, I’ve seen an upward tick in the gloom and despair ‘Jonahism’, for a lack of better word, in the United States, especially among Christians. It’s easier to condemn, point fingers, name-call, fuss over one political point or the other, and claim anyone that doesn’t see it my way is wrong, forgetting it’s all up to God to be judge and jury!
When God saw what they done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, He changed His mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it, “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” ~Jonah 3:10-4:3
Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” ~Jonah 4:10-11
Maybe, just maybe, if I put down my moonshine jug and stopped viewing everything from the “gloom and doom”, woe is me perspective, I would see the good God is trying to accomplish. Maybe I’d step out from my withered vine and go into the community, talk to the Ninevites, show them some love. Serve them in the way God would want and, in the end, God would have mercy and compassion. And above all else, stop being a “Jonah” under a withered vine!