EDITOR’S NOTE: This column by Sharon Yeats emerged from a Missouri Baptist mission trip to the Philippines in late April prior to surgery for stage 3 melanoma she was facing in early May.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP) — The Lord is beginning a new work in my heart about how I view interruptions in my life. Little did I know when I bought a Bible study book by Priscilla Shirer — “Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted” — that I would be in the middle of a health interruption several months later, but God’s timing is always perfect.
The book of Jonah, as Shirer recounts, is about a man whose life was interrupted by God. Jonah was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel. God would give him a word and then he would share it with the people. 2 Kings 14:25 tells us that King Jeroboam set the border of Israel according to the Word of the Lord that Jonah received. Jonah lived in a prosperous Israel. Because he foretold good things to the people, he was probably popular, highly respected and appreciated.
Jonah’s interruption began in Jonah 1:1 when “the Word of the Lord” came to him: God was changing Jonah’s priorities and instructing him to go in an entirely different direction. He would be giving up his plans and the comfort of the familiar to go to Nineveh.
We have the privilege of reading the entire book of Jonah at one time, so we see all the events laid out at once. But Jonah didn’t have that opportunity. If he could have read all four chapters, he would have seen that what he saw as a huge interruption in his life was really an invitation from God to make a huge difference in the lives of people in Nineveh.
The Filipino people we have been ministering to had a huge interruption in their lives by Typhoon Yolanda. But as a result, they have experienced God’s love through the helping hands of Missouri Baptists. As we have shared with them, many of them have received Christ. The storm and the response of Southern Baptists from Missouri and other states have been God’s transformational instruments.
When the strategy for the Missouri disaster relief project was initiated, we were planning to assemble and distribute water filtration systems to the people, but the freighter carrying the filtration parts went down in rough seas. Obviously, when we heard the news of no water filtration, that was an interruption.
However, we shifted to construction. After all, the first word on mission trips is “flexibility.” So, we began restoring their homes and painting the school. The result was, we had more direct contact with people and many have received Christ.
I was excited about the plan to give the people clean water and disappointed when that plan was changed. However, God was more interested in them receiving Living Water.
I don’t know where this medical interruption in my life will take me, but I want to view it not as an “interruption” but as “God’s intervention” in my life for His purposes.
As Priscilla Shirer states in her study of Jonah, “When we sign up to follow Christ, we automatically signed up to be open to Divine Interventions — God interruptions. While His call might not always be convenient or easy, responding to it should not just be a duty but our joy.”
Living a life devoted to Christ doesn’t mean we don’t have aspirations or that we shouldn’t make plans, but it does mean that we should be open for God to intervene. We should hold our dreams and plans in our hands and not in our hearts. We should be open to the Divine Interventions that come our way to mold us in His image. We can trust Him to have the best plan for us.”
Sharon Yeats is the wife of John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention and recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention.