Lately, we have had rain in our neck of the woods. And gray. And drizzle. And cold. And mist. And haze. And dark. And slanted rain, which is actually a different kind of rain altogether, but still not very pleasant, because it's August and I'm in a sweater as I type this. I want warmth and sunshine because the cloud of despair that used to be hanging over our household has finally lifted, and I want the weather to mirror that! I had really struggled over the past month, being stuck in a place of waiting with no end in sight. And though this post isn't about that, you need to know where I'm coming from so you can see where I'm headed.
absolutely come to adore. In 2 Kings, chapter 4, her story is laid out in exactly 29 verses. (I counted.) I hate such condensed stories but I've been studying this woman a little bit and here's what I've realized. Reading between the lines is a lot easier when you're experiencing something yourself, even if it's nothing like what you're reading. Because experiencing stuff is experiencing stuff. This woman is called the Shunammite woman, and go with me on this;
She appeared to be a darling young woman, married to a rich old geezer. She was well established within her community, and lacked nothing save a child to care for her once her husband was gone. She was sweet, and hospitality was her specialty. Plush bath towels and high thread count sheets awaited each of her guests. One of her favorite visitors, was a prophet named Elisha. She sweet-talked her man into building a special room for him and it so blessed Elisha's heart that he asked if there was something special he could do for her in return. She didn't need one earthly thing, but Elisha saw beneath that, and recognized her lack of children. He promised her a son within the year. Her reaction tells us that she probably had wanted one desperately at one time or another, but had been disappointed in this area so many times before, that she had just resigned herself to a life without hope. (Anyone else been there too?) She protests and says, "No, my lord,... don't mislead your servant, O man of God!" (v.16) But she winds up pregnant and has a son. A few years pass and her son gets sick and dies in her lap. Can you imagine what must have been going through her mind? Imagine her holding him, smoothing his hair back, rocking him gently, and praying he would get well. And then despite all of her best efforts, he dies. After all she'd been through to get him in the first place! My commentary says that this child was given as evidence of God's grace and the reliability of his word. The fact that he was suddenly taken from her was a severe test of her faith. And what she was about to do, demonstrated the strength of her faith in the face of great calamity. (I tend to shy away from that sort of faith. It terrifies me. I usually mumble something about "being able to do without that sort of faith." Yeah... God's working on me...)
So she calmly carries him up to Elisha's bed, lays him down and closes the door firmly behind her. She doesn't tell a soul. Instead, she gets on a donkey and heads out looking for Elisha as fast as she can. I bet by the time she found him, she was good and upset, trying to tamp her grief and loss down with outward calm and clinging to the scraps of faith she knew were in there somewhere. Hoping upon hope, that when she reached Elisha, he would come running to her, fully aware of the situation, and ready to depart to fix it. Only he didn't have a clue what had happened, because God had kept it from him. That seemed to be the straw that broke the donkey's back (heh, heh.) She explodes on him. (Ever been mad at God?) She sputters, "Did I ask you for a son? Didn't I tell you not to raise my hopes?" (I can just hear her tone of voice too. I think I've used it a lot over the past month myself...) Elisha sends his sidekick with instructions, but the woman wasn't convinced that would do her son any good. In fact, she wouldn't leave Elisha until he agreed to go and help her precious son personally. I think it's interesting that even moments of huge faith and calm, carry moments of doubt for each of us. Elisha did go, and he prayed his heart out in earnest prayers to God. The boy reawakened and the woman gratefully rushed in. I can only imagine what she must have been feeling as she clasped him to her and cupped his little head against her cheek. The cloud of emotions, despair, and doubt... had finally lifted because of her steadfast faith.
So often over the past month, I've thought, "God don't you dare raise my hopes right now if you're only going to leave me hanging!" What I've come to realize is that faith in the circumstance-not after-is the most important kind of faith. You may have a cloud of grief, despair, anger, or bitterness hanging over your head right now as you sift through a crisis... but it's not doing you, or anyone around you any favors. Holding on to that cloud above your head only hurts you. Trust me. I don't have any glorious ending of my story to share with you yet. (Notice I said, "yet?") I'm in the dead center of my journey. But I do not (thank you Lord!) have a nasty cloud hanging over my head anymore. I'm praying earnest prayers and holding on to faith. I know that our God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. (Eph 3:20)
So whatever you're dealing with, grab a hold of faith with two hands, and give that cloud the boot!
...Continue reading what comes next...