The belly of the whale may change your focus

  • Published
  • By Chaplain Mpagi Hight
  • 452 AMW Chaplain Corps

Do you ever find yourself mentally in a place so horrible that you cannot understand what you have done to end up there; a place so horrific that waking up is depressing? This feeling is called “the belly of the whale” and is characteristic of a time in life when one struggles to transform into his or her greater self. The struggle becomes stagnant and requires little to no action or effort. This feeling has one literally sitting and waiting for something or someone to come to the rescue. Where is your focus?


In the middle of this pandemic, many of us are in this mental state. The feelings of helplessness may turn into depression. We may feel helpless while watching loved ones suffer or succumb to the virus. Some may feel vulnerable after losing employment. Boredom may begin to bear down on us. Some may argue that this is more mentally stressful than any other time in our lives.

But there is always light at the end of the tunnel, a way out of the darkness, a new dawn as is demonstrated in the biblical story of Jonah and the whale.


In the story, God sent Jonah to share a message of hope with the people of Nineveh. But Jonah, an Israelite, had great disdain for those people, stemming from years of oppression and war with them. As Jonah tried to escape the assignment on a ship, there was a violent storm at sea. In the midst of the storm, Jonah jumped into the ocean to bring an end to his suffering. God sent a whale to rescue him and Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of that whale. Again, God asked Jonah to go preach to the people of Nineveh. Imagine being called by God to preach a message to the other side of the political aisle, a message with which you did not agree. Would you answer this call?


God protected and saved Jonah to teach him two lessons, that God’s love abounds for all, and all are precious in the sight of the Lord, which is the moral of the story. These lessons took the spotlight off of Jonah and focused the light on others.


Sometimes the most effective way out of depression is to focus on others. Your growth is dependent upon what you do for others, not yourself. It is not about being right or wrong, but about serving others. We find out the true meaning of life is found in helping others. Jonah’s mission was about love.


In the Air Force, we fight for people’s rights. We may disagree with how people exercise those rights, but we took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, which gives all of our citizens the same, equal rights. So again, where is your focus? As Airmen, we should always keep our mission first. So, let us focus on unity and accomplishing our mission for others: Service Before Self.