Thankful in the Fish’s Belly

By Shenay Shumake

I read scripture for a lot of reasons.  Mainly because I want to know God better; often because I love great stories.

The true stories the Holy Spirit inspired men to ink are blockbuster worthy and epic biopics.

Recently, I’ve been looking at what happens after these epic events, and was surprised to learn that after God did amazing things, many of the “heroes” and “heroines” burst into song.  They were  Songs of Thanksgiving.

It is only appropriate to reflect on thanksgiving as we enter the Thanksgiving Season.  As I think about historical and my personal thanksgiving celebrations many of those moments had their own soundtrack.

In my head, I imagine “Parting the Red Sea” the Musical.  And Moses is not played by Charlton Heston, but rather a younger version of a song and dance guy who is a worship leader for two million people.

I think of Miriam, who was so excited about God drowning the Egyptian army, she started jamming on the tambourine.  All the women followed her, in the original “Chorus Line”, as they all sang the same song of thanksgiving in Exodus 15.

All in all the generations of Israelites were a singing bunch of people.  They sang about the wells God gave them water to drink from, they sang about God’s wonderful acts.  They sang when they won victories.   Their songs were songs of celebration and songs of thanksgiving.  They sang for all that God had done ~ hundreds of years of singing.

Then there is this one time.  This one random solo artist, who doesn’t sing with millions of people.  He sings and prays alone ~ alone in the belly of a fish.

It was Jonah.  The man of God who ran from the assignment from God, but could not outrun God’s presence.   God commanded a great fish to swallow him.  And there he lay in the big smelly belly of a fish.  Encompassed by darkness and with death encroaching, he says, “…But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.  What I have vowed I will make good.  Salvation comes from the LORD.” Jonah 2:9 NIV.

Thankful in a fish’s belly?  Thankful with darkness closing in?  Thankful in the face of death.


Jonah redeems “thanks-giving” from the side of the victors and celebrants.  He places it on middle ground, in reach of every person and squarely where it belongs.

On the mouths of all of us there should be thanksgiving.  When we lose, when we have loss and are lost, let us give thanks.  In our brokenness, affliction, pain and loneliness, let’s sing songs of thanksgiving.  In our discipline, and stuck in the consequence of our gravest mistakes, on our mountain top victories, and in our deepest valleys, we are grateful.

You don’t need it all right to be thankful.

There is thanksgiving that is not situational or circumstantial.  There is a thanksgiving that arises from foundational truth.  Jonah encounters God’s abiding presence and relentless goodness in the belly of that whale.

And Jonah’s brand of thanksgiving is transformational, because once Jonah offers up a cry of distress, repentance, and thanksgiving, God commands the fish to vomit him up.

If you want out of the belly… song first, miracle second.

Don’t wait until the tides roll back, you see the light of day, and once again step on dry land.  Cultivate a heart of thanks.  Some songs of thanksgiving become songs of deliverance.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”   I Thessalonians 5:18

About the author
I am a passionate woman, who is so in love with Jesus, my husband, my children, and my purpose.  Detroit is where I call home and where we lead a congregation of people to Big Life.  I was born to refresh thirsty hearts and inspire people to see life as God sees.  I have been writing for as long as I can remember.  Speaking for even longer.  God has given me beauty for ashes, and life is good.  Not bad for a Black girl from Detroit raised by teenage parents and later a widowed single mom on the east side of town.

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