I read a passage recently that I am sure I have read at least a few other times, however this time it was like God reached through the pages and touched my heart. Maybe it is because I am a mother now but I cannot shake the story of the Shunammite woman.
Read 2 Kings 4:8-38 for the whole story or click here to go to the passage on BibleGateway.com. My ramblings below will make much more sense!
There are a few things about this woman that stand out to me. She was aware of who Elisha was. I am not sure how often prophets were noticed and cared for in the Old Testament. It seems like usually there were a handful of people that would recognize them but that the majority of people passed them by. This woman was present. I hope you understand what I mean by present. She wasn't so caught up in other things in life that she missed who God had put in front of her. She was so present that she knew who Elisha was and that by serving Elisha she was serving God. This woman did more than just recognize or feed the prophet, she made him a room in her home. It says in 2 Kings 4:10 that she asked her husband to make a room for Elisha so that when he passed by he could stay in comfort. It is one thing to be present and realize when opportunities are put in front of us, but it is another thing entirely to seek ways to serve. Especially to seek how to minister to someone that ministers to others. There are many people in this world that need the love of Jesus shared with them but it is also important to refresh those that are busy doing the work of the ministry on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. They are usually run down themselves from spending their time caring for others. The Shunammite woman was aware of this and sought to serve God through serving one of His chosen messengers. Now to the meat of the story.
Elisha wanted to do something good for the woman. She didn't ask for anything but his servant noticed that her husband was older and that she had no children. Not having children in those days was usually considered a failure of the woman. It probably heaped reproach from other women on her yet she didn't ask Elisha for a son. Don't you wonder why? Gehazi, Elisha's servant, shared with Elisha that the woman didn't have a son and so Elisha told her she would have one by this time the next year. Her first reaction was disbelief but when she conceived and bore a son I am sure the promise of Elisha became a precious memory.
We don't know how old the son is for this next part but I would assume still younger because he is able to sit on his mother's lap.
"Now it happened one day that he went out to his father, to the reapers. And he said to his father, "My head, my head!" So he said to a servant, "carry him to his mother." When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died."
Her son died. Let that sink in. This isn't just a story. This is a real woman experiencing a terrible loss. So what is her reaction? Does she rail against God? Does she go to everyone she sees and shares her emotional distress? No, she lays her son on the bed of Elisha, shuts the door and goes to her husband to get a donkey and a servant to go see The Man of God. On top of that when her husband asked her why she replied "It is well".
IT IS WELL?
How traumatic must it have been for this woman to hold her son as he died? Yet she goes to her husband and doesn't even share that their child is dead, in fact she says IT IS WELL. Fast forward to her on her journey. As she is riding to see Elisha he sees her afar off and sends Gehazi, his servant, to meet her to see if she is ok. Her response to Gehazi? IT IS WELL. Really? Twice this is her response to people who I would think would be in a trusted circle of confidants. Only when she gets in front of the man of God does she let her anguish show and she pours out her heart.
What an amazing woman. The faith it must have taken to believe that God provided this child and that He would take care of it. It is hard to believe that this woman doesn't fall to pieces when the most excruciating thing that could happen to her happens. First she lays the body of her precious son down and leaves it. That alone would be an almost impossible task for me to accomplish. Then, she goes to her husband. She doesn't take the opportunity to break down emotionally with him about everything that has transpired. In fact, when he probes her as to why she wants to go visit the man of God her answer is "it is well." When the servant of Elisha runs to meet her, she doesn't open her mouth to let the overflow of her hurt run out. She once again answers "it is well." Only when she is in front of Elisha, the man of God, does she share her deep heart break.
Before I go any further I want to make it clear that I am not writing this about how someone should act if they have lost a child or even have had a traumatic experience in life. I would NEVER begin to suggest the course of actions and words someone should have who has been through something like that. In fact, if you have experienced something like that my heart goes out to you. I am so very sorry. This is about learning more from this woman's example and about how to put it in practice in my life.
This story made me think about her faith and my lack of faith on so many levels. How often do I choose to blow off steam to my husband about things that are upsetting to me? How often do I feel justified in sharing things that are offensive or hurtful to me with other Christians and close friends? How many times do I spend more time talking and asking the advice of others rather than praying, seeking, and listening to God for the peace, guidance, and solutions needed? She was so focused on getting to the one place that could give her peace that she didn’t bother to stop along the way to make sure everyone knew how awful her situation was. Think about it, this woman didn't share her hurt with her husband or family, not with even with a trusted ally; she only went to the person that could speak directly to God for her. And this woman is able to do this WITHOUT the Holy Spirit inside of her. How much more should I be living to higher standard when God actually lives inside of me?
"In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise." Proverbs 10:19
Do I actually believe this scripture? If I did, I think that I would have a lot less to say on a regular basis. I remember first hearing this verse from Nathan and Jane Phillips at Battlefield Ministries in Rome, Georgia. This is one of those verses that is applicable in pretty much every situation. There are so many times that I should choose to be quiet. If I am always speaking how will I hear God speaking back to me? It is like when I am trying to enjoy a song on the radio and my toddler is pushing every button possible on her ridiculously loud, noisy toy in the backseat of the car. Everything becomes jumbled and I cannot make out the message. How often am I so busy talking over God that I miss what He was telling me completely?
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit." Proverbs 18:10
Another great Nathan and Jane Phillips-ism. It is true. I think about people that go through life constantly complaining about their circumstances and relationships and they never seem to get a break from their bad life. I believe that, because of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, our words have power. They shape what is going on around us. What kind of life would I have if everything I said and did came into being? What do my words say about me?
"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45
So, what I say and do actually reflects what is inside of me? I can’t say one thing than act another way? I know it is a silly question but how often do we do just that? I do not ever want to be one of those people that always have something bad going on with them always a negative answer when asked how I am doing. I want people to see God in my words and actions, every day. I am sure that if you asked my 2 year old if Mommy reflected Jesus on a daily basis (and if she could understand the question) the answer would not be flattering. The truth of the matter is I need to go to God in prayer every morning and ask for help to walk the path He has for me that day. That may include holding my tongue when I really want to vent, choosing to not dwell on a negative situation or simply to release the stress of the week into His care, knowing that my worry doesn’t add anything to my day. I think that as humans we can do a good job of faking a good attitude for a while, but at some point our facade comes crashing down around us. I believe that the only way to truly live the plan God has for us is to be supernaturally filled by Him and to ask for help every day.
Thank you for including the story of this nameless woman in The Bible. I know that everything in The Bible is good for Your use. Please quicken my mind to help me close my mouth instead of speaking out of unharnessed emotions. God grow me and change me so that in Your time my mouth can open and be a beautiful overflow of a changed heart. Most of all, thank You for the death and resurrection of Jesus so that I can call You Daddy.
In Jesus Mighty Name,