Have you ever found yourself running from God? It's a familiar experience for those of us who believe in God, but somehow…
Believing that running away from the presence of God is safer, easier, and less risky than trusting Him.
We've all been there.
Each of us has a story of running away from God — maybe we've never actually done it physically but our hearts are prone to wander apart from His grace.
To better understand what it means to run from God, let's dive in and:
- Briefly examine the Bible story of Jonah, who ran away from God.
- Observe the consequences that Jonah experienced as he ran from God.
- Know if and when we are running from God.
Let’s jump right in!
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When we don't understand what is happening in our lives …
- When things are hard or painful,
- When it seems that our lives have been turned upside down and inside out, or
- When we feel that God is not there for us
… then we can find ourselves running away from the One who loves us and wants the best for us.
Sometimes running away can be as simple as forgetting to pray in a stressful time or saying “I'll get back to reading my Bible tomorrow.”
Other times, it may mean falling into sin because we just want a little relief from life's challenges and pressures.
In God’s Word, we learn that when we want to avoid obeying the Lord, running should never be an option.
Because the truth is — running away from God will only delay your obedience and make our situation worse until we return back to Him.
Who in the Bible Ran from God
Jonah ran away from his calling as a prophet of God to the people of Nineveh.
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord… (Jonah 1:1-3 ESV)
He ran away and boarded a ship to Tarshish, which was a city in the opposite direction of Nineveh.
Why was Jonah running from God?
He wanted to escape “the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3).
But get this: Jonah found that he could not escape the hand of God. (Read more about Jonah.)
When we are truly a child of God, we can not run from His presence.
And that should give us so much comfort!
He finally listened to God, but it took Jonah:
- Being confronted by the mariners on the ship about His disobedience.
- Being thrown overboard by the mariners after they cried out to God and repented.
- Being graciously saved from drowning after God sent an enormous fish to swallow him in the sea (Jonah 2).
Even in the midst of Jonah's disobedience, God was still a gracious and loving Father!
So what can we learn from Jonah's experience of attempting to run away from God?
- We need to turn around and run back towards our loving Father when things get difficult (or even scary).
- Running towards God will lead us through “stormy seas” but He will not allow us to be consumed as He is our ultimate hope.
- Lastly, there are consequences for running from God.
Dive deeper into the story of Jonah running from God with this Mercy in the Storm Bible Study!
Consequences of Running from God
Running away from God can have negative consequences in our lives and the lives of those who love us.
Let's take a look at four different consequences we may experience when we find ourselves not running to God, but away from HIm.
Lack of Peace and Hope
When we run from God, it can lead to a lack of peace and hope for a better future. It is common for those who are running from God to feel a sense of hopelessness and despair.
The hope of Christ will never leave us nor forsake us. However, someone running away from God oftentimes can not experience this truth.
Why is the promise of hope not experienced?
When we are living in sin, we grieve the Spirit of God who lives in us.
When we run from God, the peace and hope that come with running towards Him are flooded by the weight of our sin.
But there is good news!
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:12 ESV)
God offers us forgiveness, the joy of His salvation, and a willing spirit to obey Him through Jesus Christ.
Related: When You Feel Unloveable
Experience Guilt and Regret
When we run from God, we often carry around guilt for our disobedience.
Guilt can come in different forms, such as feeling regret about something you have done or not done for someone else when they may have needed you.
When we experience regret it is a burden in itself because it can lead to …
- Suicidal thoughts
- Actions when left unchecked
… as was the case with Jonah.
Then [the mariners] said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. [Jonah] said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” (Jonah 1:11-12 ESV)
Even when we experience the burden of guilt and regret…
Jesus Christ is right there to hear our cry, comfort us, and take the burden of guilt and shame.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
The invitation is always to run to Jesus, who has made a way for us to be righteous in Him before God.
Broken Relationship with God
The most difficult consequence when running from God is the broken relationship with Him.
We often think God has left us.
But the truth is: We have left Him because we ran away from Him.
For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (I Peter 2:25 ESV)
The moment you stop running away from the most important relationship we have and come to Jesus…
He will bridge the gap of separation between us and God that is caused by our sin.
God is waiting with open arms for all who would put their trust in His Son Jesus.
Fear of the Future
Sometimes running from God leads to a fear of the future.
We have a tendency to want to make decisions for our own future and not trust God.
This is running from the Father, who holds out His hand of provision for every need in life.
It is human nature, when we want to do things on our own and not obey what God says, it leads us into different fears such as “What will I do?”, “What will I say?”, “Where am I going to live?”, etc.
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33 ESV)
The only way we will always be able to look at tomorrow with hope is when we trust God and seek His ways.
Are You Running Away from God
How do you know if you are running from God?
Take a look at the following statements and answer with “yes” or “no“:
- I have a hard time listening to God.
- I don't think about Him often.
- I'm afraid of what will happen if I try to follow His plan for me
- When things get difficult, it's easier to just give up than press on with faith in Him.
- There is a sense of emptiness that won't go away no matter how much fun or success there is in my life.
If you answered “yes” to any of the statements above, let me encourage you to confess it to God.
You can use the following sample prayer if you need a little guidance…
I confess that (#3 – I'm afraid of what will happen if I try to follow your plan for me) and I have been running from you. I accept that living in this way is sinful and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus died for my sin so that I can return to you. Thank you for always being here with open arms, ready and willing to love me. Thank you for helping me to see my need for You. I am no longer running away from you. I am running back to you. In the name of Jesus, I pray…Amen.
If you took the time to pray, know that God wants to use this time as a way for you to know him more and draw closer.
And the next time you are faced with the opportunity to obey God, don't wait – do what He asks! Don't let fear hold you back; just run to God. He is faithful and will always be there!