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
But is a complicated word in the Bible. When applied to God, it can often mean wonderful things: “for the wages of sin is death, BUT the free gift of God is eternal life” or “BUT God demonstrates His own love for us, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Yes, but can be a beautiful word when God uses it.
When it comes to us, though, it may be the scariest word in the Bible. Sure, words like sin, hell, death, yeah, they can grab our attention. However, “but” is just as destructive yet sneaky enough to go undetected. And it comes with variety too. Think of how many ways you’ve finished this phrase: “I’d love to serve God but . . .”
But I’m not good enough.
But I’m not sure.
But I’m scared.
But I’m not smart enough.
But I’m too young.
But I’m too old.
Jonah’s “but” has him walking away from God’s calling on His life—calmly sauntering from purpose—toward destruction. Because if God is God, He’s our hope, our lifeline, and when we walk away from that, it will naturally lead to destruction, even if that destruction is of the slow, subtle variety.
Usually “but” indicates the thing keeping us from our desire–it is a fear “identifier.” For example, I would like to go back to school, but it is a huge commitment. The first clause is our desire and the second is our doubt. Whichever is heaviest wins the day. This is a sensible way to chart one’s course through life. However, when we bind God’s commands and powers to our human fears and doubts, we are robbing ourselves the opportunity to participate in the Cosmos! We are using temporary understanding to trump eternal comprehension. Our limitations are now controlling a limitless God.
So in terms of what God is calling you to today, put the weight on Him–not on your fear. What would you do if your fear were removed (or at least decreased)? For Jonah, his dissipating fear would lead to a better trust in God and his own decisions, because those decisions would no longer be tethered to fear and self but to God!
What if I lived today without excuses? What if I dismissed all the ways I want to say “but” to God, and trusted His call on my life?