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Jonah or Joseph: Prisms that Deliver Abundance or Leads to Bitterness

Words are more powerful than videos, make sure to read the message below the Ghion Cast. In all seasons, remain always faithful.

Jonah is not the only person who was swallowed whole by a whale and lived to tell about it. You didn’t have to live in biblical times in order to be consumed by gargantuan tribulations and mammoth misfortune. Live long enough and all will be gnashed in time by the hounds that come gashing for our sides. None of us can escape these trying times that reduces us to sorrow and ennui. Unexpected deaths, lost jobs, divorce, the list of the endless ways life can slice our happiness in half is innumerable. Just as sure as the sun rises in the morning, hardship will come for all even regardless of status, class or position in this world.

When adversity darkens our doorsteps and long winters of discontent sets in, we all have choices to make at those precise moments. The immediate response is to somehow fight through it, to will ourselves and escape the gravity of distress that intruded in our world without invitation. Once the immediate crisis ends, we have to assess life from a different perspective. Life is never the same after going thorough traumatic experiences. These distresses I’m alluding to are ones that try our souls—I’m not talking about a cancelled date or being sad because your favorite show got terminated. I’m referring to the moments that punch our guts and leave us doubled over in a seemingly never ending anguish.

When these seasons of bareness arrive, all about you will seem empty and life starts to seem meaningless. I’ve talked to one too many people who have told me the same thing—I can also affirm from first hand experience—seasons of woe act as allergens. When hardship arrives, friends and even family alike sneeze achoo! and blend into the distance. Born alone, a time comes where we have to either grow alone or be subsumed by the shadows. These moments become inflection points; we have a choice to either ask why and look backward or pick up our cross and move forward.

These dichotomous choices are actually found in two biblical characters. The first example is Jonah, who I alluded to earlier with the story of the whale. Jonah is one of the “minor” prophets in the Old Testament. He was a man who God chose to deliver a message to the king of Nineveh. The Assyrians, who inhabited Nineveh, were the worst of humanity. They stole and murdered with impunity in ways that matched the excesses of Sodom and Gomorrah. When God commanded Jonah to speak a prophecy to the King of Nineveh, Jonah refused the command and sailed off into the seas to escape the conviction that was put on his heart.

That is when the whale swallowed Jonah and it is relayed that Jonah spent three days in the bowel of the beast. I know I read the bible different than most, not saying I am right in my interpretation for none of us have a monopoly on truth when it comes to God’s word. However, the first time I read the book of Jonah during my own time of distress, I instantly realized that the whale was not a whale at all but a tribulation that gobbled up Jonah in a complete state of darkness. We all go through these moments of harrow, when we disregards the voice of reason as we instead chase the flesh and self-gratification—chasing flesh only ends up with whales catching us.

When his tribulation ended, Jonah did as he was told and delivered the news to the king of Nineveh. Jonah fully expected the king would disregard his warning; the king did something wholly unexpected when confronted with Jonah’s ominous warning. The king caught the fear of God and commanded the city to submit to the will of God and repent in order to save himself and his empire. When the king did this, God decided to have mercy and saved the city from the fires that were slated for it. When Jonah found out that God did not destroy the city, he was livid! Jonah wanted to be vindicated and vengeance was his desired outcome. God had other plans and decided to spare the city from extirpation. Jonah at the end was left seething, he chose bitterness as he thought that his happiness could only be found by the destruction of others.

The polar opposite of Jonah and the prism we can choose to see life through is to walk in the footsteps of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph too was swallowed up by a whale as his brothers betrayed him and sold him as a slave to the land of Kemet. A man once free and loved dearly by his father, Jacob was all the sudden cast into bondage and imprisonment. There is no bigger injustice than when people’s liberties are taken and they become the property of others. For years, Joseph lived a life as the possession of others. But he chose to honor God with his work and refused to be bitter at his predicament. In his season of tribulation and nothingness, Joseph chose to be grateful nonetheless.

Though Joseph was hurt deeply by his brother’s actions, he kept his humility and he did not let his circumstances invert his spirit. For that choice, Joseph was made whole and actually made greater than before. Joseph became a governor in the land of Kemet and his authority exceeded all his former masters as he answered secularly only to the pharaoh of Kemet. This is what happens when we look forward with hope instead of stewing in antipathy and animus. Eventually, Joseph reunited with his family and embraced his father in tears and even forgave his own brothers who sold him into slavery. Joseph’s chose hope over vindication; he chose love over vengeance.

The story of Joseph and Jonah are not anomalies even if theirs is a bit more extreme than the ordeals that befalls most us. When the floor drops from beneath us and all seems lost, we have choices to make. Do we look back with bitterness or do we trust in God and believe that a better day is yet ahead. By the grace of God I chose the way of Joseph when my whale came and it is because of that I found redemption at the end of this long exodus. I came to Colorado lost and hopeless; I leave Colorado full of hope, love and purpose. Whales have a way of leading to God’s blessings. Here is to hoping that you too choose to look forward with humility no matter how bleak your circumstance is. After all, we harvest that which we farm. The previous sentence will make more sense in the future as tell my story as the good Lord wills it. God bless you and forever keep you regardless of your circumstances. #JonahOrJoseph

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” ~ Isaiah 12:2

If you appreciate the message behind this write up and think the struggles of others would be made the lesser if they read this too, share this article on social media using #JonahOrJoseph

Check out the Ghion Cast below, this was a video I put together right before turbulence arrived at my doorsteps. I shall forever sing a psalm of praise of my father God in heaven, I walked through fire and survived whales, I am stronger for it. I will return from the land I left in victory through God’s grace. Temesgen. Amen.


Lij Teodrose Fikremariam
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Lij Teodrose Fikremariam

Lij Teodrose Fikremariam is the co-founder and former editor of the Ghion Journal. He is currently the chair of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. A published author and prolific writer, a once defense consultant was profoundly changed by a two year journey of hardship and struggle. Going from a life of upper-middle class privilege to a time spent with the huddled masses taught Teodrose a valuable lesson in the essence of togetherness and the need to speak against injustice.

Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Lij Teodrose Fikremariam
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