The prophet Jonah provides another good example— or, rather, a counterexample —of what it means to live by faith. When the Lord commands him to go to Nineveh, he immediately begins to question and calculate, worrying about all the possible consequences of his actions and second guessing the Lord in his own mind (Jonah 4:2). He quickly decides not to obey the Lord, attempting instead to flee from His presence by boarding a ship bound for Tarshish:
“He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD” (Jonah 1:3).
You can run, as the saying goes, but you cannot hide. The ship that he is on encounters severe storms and the cargo is jettisoned in an attempt to save the ship and passengers (1:4-6). Shipwreck is narrowly avoided, but only after Jonah explains himself to his comrades and persuades them to throw him overboard, as well (1:7-16). He is then swallowed by a great fish and, after calling upon the Lord from within its belly, is spit back up onto dry land. (1:17 – 2:10).
The moral of this story— quite clearly —is that much of what we experience as external adversity actually reflects our own inner conflicts—often our own stubborn refusal to submit to the will of God for our life. Jonah’s decision to go to Tarshish was a desperate attempt to evade both his duty and his destiny; to live in deference to his fears instead of his faith; to substitute his short-sighted preferences for God’s perfect will—a desperate attempt to circumvent God’s clear leading in his life. Alas, at the end of the story, Jonah remains very troubled, reluctantly obeying God, to be sure, but still not trusting him wholly (3:10 – 4:8).