READ: 2 Kings 4:20, 24-29 (or the extended passage of 2 Kings 4:8-37)
(20) The servant took him in his arms and carried him to his mother. He lay on her lap until noon and died…
(24-25) She went ahead and saddled the donkey, ordering her servant, “Take the lead–and go as fast as you can; I’ll tell you if you’re going too fast.” And so off she went. She came to the Holy Man at Mount Carmel.
(25-26) The Holy Man, spotting her while she was still a long way off, said to his servant, Gehazi, “Look out there; why, it’s the Shunammite woman. Quickly now. Ask her, ‘Is something wrong? Are you all right? Your husband? Your child?'”
She said, “Everything’s fine.”
(27) But when she reached the Holy Man at the mountain, she threw herself at his feet and held tightly to him.
Gehazi came up to pull her away, but the Holy Man said, “Leave her alone–can’t you see that she’s in distress? But God hasn’t let me in on why; I’m completely in the dark.”
(28) Then she spoke up: “Did I ask for a son, master? Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t tease me with false hopes’?”
(29) He ordered Gehazi, “Don’t lose a minute–grab my staff and run as fast as you can. If you meet anyone, don’t even take time to greet him and if anyone greets you, don’t even answer. Lay my staff across the boy’s face.”
THINK: Have you ever felt the bitter sting of shattered hopes and desires? The barren woman from Shunem knows the sting intimately–her grief here seems to confirm the doubt she experienced earlier when the holy man, Elisha, prophesied that she would have a son. At the time of the prophecy, not wanting to her hopes up, she wouldn’t even let on that she desired a son. Now she seems to wish she’d never hoped at all.
Notice Elisha’s response to the woman in her fear, grief, and regret. Take several minutes to think about this. How might Elisha’s response reflect God’s response to her? What might God have been feeling as he watched her struggle with her son’s death?
I cannot imagine what God must have been feeling as he watched this woman. I’m still coming to grips with the idea that God’s heart could break for his children when He is the author of some of the situations that cause them such grief. I can somewhat understand it from a parent’s point of view, but I know that I am mostly unable prevent the suffering my children will endure. I also realize that I am not doing my children many favors if I intervene in all their suffering, in an attempt to bring them to an end. I get it.
But, since I’m human, I really just want my suffering to end, and if it can end before it ever has to start, well then…all the better. Especially if I’ve not done anything wrong in the first place. Suffering because I’m guilty is far easier to tolerate than suffering when I’m innocent.
Yes, I know…there’s a verse in Hebrews that mentions how we’ve not yet suffering till the shedding of blood. But…pain is pain. And avoidance of pain is often a greater motivator than seeking out pleasure.
PRAY: Explore your own heart to see if there are any deep desires there that you are afraid to trust God with. Can you tell him why you hold back? Ask him to show you his response to your desires and to help you trust him more, just as the Shunammite woman trusted Elisha enough to expose her anguish to him.
There are only a few desires right now that I do not really want to trust God with. I don’t even want to mention them these days, for the same reason. The phrase “Once bitten, Twice shy” comes to mind. It isn’t that I don’t believe God has my best interest at heart, or the best interests of all the family members involved and affected by our current situation. It’s just that, if my will and His don’t intersect again, I wonder how I’ll handle it. Will I be as upset as before? Will it jar me as much as it did last time? I know that I can’t live in the past, but I wonder if I am really going to be strong enough for the future to which God has called me. Yes…I know that He equips those He calls, and that these present trials are strengthening me for the future ones, but sometimes pain can make one doubt….. Are you like me? Do you often wonder if it matters if you show God your anger or suffering? What if you really think you need for your situation to be over and God doesn’t? Do you have enough faith to ask God to shore up your weak spots?
LIVE: Henri Nouwen wrote, “At every moment you have to decide to trust the voice that says, ‘I love you, I knit you together in your mother’s womb’ (Psalm 139:13).” Ponder this quote. What might your life look like if you were to take God at his word, believing that he knows all about you and cares for you as tenderly as Elisha cared for the Shunammite? How might you pray differently? Live differently?
I am trying to get to the point where I can believe like this, pray like this. It’s simple, really. Just believe. Trust. And then pray. “BUT” the brain says. “Did God really say…?” Satan says. Why is it so hard to take God at His Word? Is it that it’s hard, or is it that we’ve been doing things our own way for so long that we have a hard time letting go of the need/desire to have our own way in exchange for something better?
I am not going to add my prayer here. I think this needs to be something far more personal than ought to be shared here. But, I do pray that if God has spoken to you through this, the way He has spoken to me, I pray that you would share your heart with God, just one more time. For just one more time, allow God a glimpse into your inmost being, knowing (of course) that He already knows what is there; he just wants you to trust Him with it. I pray that you would open your heart up to Him and tell Him, prayerfully, what you think and feel, and ask Him to strengthen you to trust Him with just one more thing. Then, I pray for the courage to do it again tomorrow.