By Olea Gough

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Repentance is a gift of love.

All growing up I had the impression that repentance was scary and to be avoided at all costs. In my perception it was a last resort when you had really messed up. It covered those really big sins that you had to go meet with the bishop for. And it was something I never wanted to have to do.

I am so glad that my understanding has changed, that I have learned the truth about repentance. Repentance is the greatest and most loving gift a Father could offer His children.

The story of Jonah has always fascinated me, especially when I learned part two. The Lord came to Jonah and asked him to go to the city of Ninevah and tell the people to repent. Jonah didn’t want to go confront a city full of wicked people, so he ran away. He boarded a ship trying to get as far away from home as possible.

While Jonah was on the ship, the Lord sent a great storm. The storm was so bad that everyone on board was terrified that the ship was going to be torn in two. Even the men who were seasoned sailors were scared. They were throwing everything they could overboard to try to make the ship lighter so they could sail it out of the storm.

But where was Jonah? He had gone below to take a nap. The captain came to him and told him to get up and to pray to God to save them. The people were superstitious and they played a game to see if they could figure out who on the ship God was trying to punish with the storm. The game pointed to Jonah. They started quizzing him about who he was, where he had come from and what his job was. Eventually, Jonah told them what the Lord had asked him to do and that he had run away. At that point, Jonah wanted to save the other people on the ship even if it cost him his life and he asked to be thrown overboard.

After Jonah was thrown into the sea, the storm stopped. God had prepared a rescue for Jonah. A place for him to think about what he had done. This place of timeout was inside the belly of a whale. The big fish swallowed Jonah up and he remained there for three days and three nights.

Inside the whale, Jonah prayed and acknowledged his sin and God’s goodness. He repented and promised to do all the Lord asked. After he committed to be obedient, the whale spit Jonah out on dry land.

The Lord again asked Jonah to go to Ninevah and tell the people to repent or in forty days the whole city would be destroyed. This time Jonah obeyed. To Jonah’s surprise, the people believed him. They humbled themselves. They fasted and prayed to the Lord and asked Him to have mercy on them. They were sincere in their repentance and so the Lord did not destroy them.

Now, here is part two of the story and where it gets really interesting… Jonah was angry! He didn’t want God to forgive the people so easily. Even though the Lord had shown him compassion as he prayed from the belly of a whale, he had no compassion for the people of Ninevah. He wanted to see the city destroyed.

Jonah reminded the Lord how merciful He had been to him so that he might bring the message of destruction to the people. He even asked God to let him die. (Dramatic much?) The Lord let him vent then asked if it was good for Jonah to be angry.

Repentance isn’t the punishment, it is a path that leads to freedom from the long term emotional and spiritual affects of our poor decisions.

Jonah left the city and found a seat on the hillside to watch the city, hoping God would change His mind and he would get to watch the fireworks. As he was sitting there, the Lord made a plant grow to cover and shade Jonah. In his grief, Jonah was so grateful for the shade. Then God set a worm on the plant and by the morning the plant had been eaten and withered. The sun rose and the desert wind blew and Jonah was overcome by the heat and fainted. He was so sad the plant had been destroyed. It was so unfair. He wished again to die. God asked Jonah if he was angry with Him because the plant had died. Was he so angry for the plant that he wanted to die? Then the Lord taught Jonah a lesson. He pointed out that Jonah had pity on the plant. He was extremely sad that God had allowed it to die, a plant that Jonah had not planted, nor nurtured. A plant that grew in a day and died the next. He then asked Jonah if He, the Lord, should not have mercy on a city where 120,000 people lived. People who had been confused, yet repented.

Sometimes in life I have found myself like a “part two Jonah.” I have wanted God to take His vengeance on people who have hurt me, people I don’t understand who seem to be making terrible decisions. I sometimes forget how merciful He has been to me when I have been in the wrong and then repented.

Our God is such a loving and merciful God. He knows us. He knows we will make the wrong choices sometimes. He knows that there will be little mistakes and sometimes really big ones. It is because of His love that He offers us the gift of repentance, and it truly is a gift. It is because of repentance through the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ that we are able to shed the heaviness of our past and move forward. Even needing to go to the bishop is a loving invitation. Repentance isn’t the punishment, it is a path that leads to freedom from the long term emotional and spiritual affects of our poor decisions. The Lord stands willing and ready to not only forgive us, but to walk that path with us. He will help us, teach us, strengthen us, and change us. All we have to do is take that first step.

And then, we have to extend compassion to others. We have to desire the same blessing of freedom from the past for them. We have to recognize that the same God who loves us and shows us mercy, loves them and wants to show them mercy. He is faithful to all His children, even when we are not.

I thank God every single day for His loving gift of repentance!

Tips for tots: A Repenting Stair. When my kids were little we had a repenting stair. When they were fighting they were sent to the repenting stair (same stair, both bodies). They were only able to leave when they could identify what THEY had done wrong, not what their sibling had. If they took accountability for their actions, recognize how they had harmed their sibling and apologize, they could avoid bigger or more long-term consequences. It was a good way to help them understand accountability, repentance, and compassion.

The Primary Manual for Come Follow Me is perfect for families with young children!

November week 4: November 21–27. Jonah; Micah: “He Delighteth in Mercy” (churchofjesuschrist.org)

Click below to download these FREE coloring pages from Rising Moon Adventures that I created to go with this lesson:

Primary Insights for Come Follow Me videos –

(46) Rising Moon Adventures Scripture Story Time – YouTube

Song 1: Who Am I by Casting Crowns

Song 2: Faithful by Erik Nieder

Read more ANCHORING IN CHRIST.

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