Wishing for Death, Part 2 – Pride and Prejudice – Jonah

Jonah’s Death Wish

God sent Jonah with a message. The people repented; God relented, but Jonah lamented. What led to Jonah’s death wish statement, Jonah 4:3? Why would Jonah want to die after God’s grace and blessing provided such a beautiful outcome? Jonah didn’t want to go to Ninevah. He saw its residents as sinners and didn’t want God to be gracious and compassionate to them. Was Jonah without sin? No. The root of many of our problems is pride, like Jonah, forgetting that we need God’s grace, too. Jonah walked down a path of anger that turned to helplessness and self-pity, and he thought he’d be better off dead. God was gracious with Jonah, as He was the Ninevites, and He is with us. This is not a post about thoughts of suicide but about self-pity and bitterness. Those can turn dangerous very quickly; there is help at the suicide helpline.

This blog is for study and encouragement purposes. I’m not a therapist; this is a Bible Study blog about suffering, and this isn’t meant as a substitute for the advice of a physician, psychotherapist, or other medical professional.

Therefore now, O Lord, just take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 

Jonah 4:3

Self-Righteous Indignation

Sometimes, we have an imbalance, deal with overwhelming circumstances, and need counseling, medication, and professional help. Other times, our Jonah complex can be fueled by a pet doctrine or moral weakness lurking beneath. It seems dramatic for Jonah to wish for death because God decided to forgive people who sinned. Possible prejudice against the Ninivites drove him as well. After we’ve called ourselves Christian long enough, we can sometimes lose sight that we are here by grace and God’s forgiveness. We don’t always want to see that we are on the same level regarding our need for grace. Self-righteousness is Jonah’s underscoring of this anger. The Bible is true; we are all sinners saved by grace, and no one has the right to judge. God can still use us as He brings us to a place of repentance; He used Jonah.

But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still in my country? That is why I ran to Tarshish, because I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and great in lovingkindness, and [when sinners turn to You] You revoke the [sentence of] disaster [against them].

Jonah 4:1-2

Popcorn and Great Seats

In verse five of chapter four, Jonah climbed up a hill and found a comfortable place to sit and watch the destruction. It sounds like me at the movies with buttered popcorn, excitedly waiting for a film to start. This is not God’s heart; God is never happy with the destruction of people He created. God had given Jonah a tree as a shelter. When Jonah used God’s gift to shelter His self-righteousness, God took it away. He will do the same to us. We only need to read Proverbs 24:17-18 to see that God doesn’t like it when we rejoice at the hardships of others.

When the sun came up God prepared a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he fainted and he wished to die, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah 4:8

The Tiny Worm

When God sent a tiny worm to kill Jonah’s shelter tree, Jonah was again faced with his ungracious heart, self-righteous feelings, and pride. He had difficulty admitting that, like the Ninivatites, he was a sinner who needed God’s grace. Instead of allowing it to sink in, he held it, got angry, and felt sorry for himself. He became a victim with a death wish. God removed his shelter as a reminder that no person is above a need for God. Our points of anger, hopelessness, and self-pity can reveal our need to go back to the foot of the cross and see that we need His grace. This posture puts us in the perfect place to receive God’s love. God stands at the door, waiting for us to open it and fall into His arms of Grace.

The poem below was intended for Christians with a Jonah complex.


I’m not a counselor or a therapist. This is a Bible study into the precepts of the Bible and those who suffer. If you are plagued with thoughts of suicide or death or want to give up, you feel better off dead, reach out to a professional counselor, a doctor, or a therapist. Don’t do it once; keep on reaching out. Call the suicide hotline, which is there for you. See the number below. Don’t give up; God loves you and has a plan for your life.

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