Everywhere you turn, somebody is reminding you how many things there are to worry about. Even my favorite weather site this morning declared in bold font – “Breaking Now…  LATEST: Widespread Severe Threat!”

Doesn’t say what or where.  Just:  Worry!

As it turns out, the breaking news is that here in New Jersey, there’s a heat wave going on.  Shock!  Horror!  Will we find the tank tops in time?  Will our flip flops still function?  Are there enough ice pops in the freezer? Whatever will we do?!?

But things have always been like this, haven’t they?  Everybody’s got something to deal with that could cause a general sense of anxiety.

Take Jonah, for example. He’s the poor fellow from the Bible who was stuck in the belly of the whale for three nights. After Jonah prayed for mercy, God commanded the fish to vomit him back onto dry land.  Lovely!  I looked at the way it was phrased.  “God provided a large fish and it swallowed Jonah.”  Hmm.

Later on in the book of Jonah, we learn that God “provided a plant for shade,” then “provided a worm to eat the plant.”

Then He “provided a scorching east wind.”

I re-read that passage.  It doesn’t say, God smote Jonah by sending a vicious worm to ruin his ever-loving day and a raging wind to give him a wicked sunburn.

No, it said “provided.”  Not exactly a care package from home with brownies in it!

So could it be that the things we see in our lives as negative are really another way that God provides for us?

But what is it that we gain from horrible – in Jonah’s case, even epic – misfortune?

During difficult times, my faith has often deepened.  I’ve also learned that going through challenges reminds you that others are facing hard times too, and that if you can help somebody else, you should.  Others may be dealing with their own whales, worms and wind, and maybe you’re the conduit through which God has chosen to provide relief for them.

All the things you’ve been through may well be the training you need to step up when called and commissioned. And I can tell you from experience, it’s a gift that goes both ways to be a blessing to someone else.