I suspect that many of us have a wound that life opens over and over. A vulnerability. A place just under the surface that lies waiting, ready to ooze again. When I read the account of the Shunammite woman in her encounters with the prophet Elisha, I see it in her. She was a woman of wealth, a God fearing woman, a generous and caring woman. She considered the needs of others. She was engaged. A self-starter. I see so much to admire in her.
Here’s the story (see II Kings 4:8-37). When the prophet Elisha made his regular circuit through her town she fed him. She suggested to her husband that they make a room for Elisha on the roof and furnish it. A bed. A table and chair. A lamp. A perfect little place to rest, study and commune with God. Understandably, Elisha was grateful. He sent his servant to ask, “See, you have taken all this trouble for us; what is to be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?”
She answered, “I dwell among my own people.”
Elisha probed, “What can we do for her?” His servant said, “She has no son.”
When they called her and told her that in a year she would embrace a son, her response was revealing. “No, O man of God; do not lie to your servant.”
“Don’t lie to me.” That’s a response with a history behind it. She fears being lied to. The text doesn’t tell us her backstory, but the issue surfaces again later. She does have a son. He is in the fields with his father and the reapers when he cries out in terrible pain. The Shunammite woman holds him on her lap all morning—until he dies. She lays the boy on the Prophet’s bed and hurries by donkey to the man of God. In “bitter distress” she catches hold of Elisha’s feet, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’”
Do not lie to me.
I can’t know what she is feeling or what incidents from her past have wounded her. Have promises been broken? Has she hoped before and had her hopes shattered? Has she determined to live numbly and guardedly rather than entertain hope? Was the thought of another hope crushed too bitter to bear? Did the Prophet’s prediction of a son raise fears of yet one more disappointment? And now, the son was given—and taken from her. Once again, hopes raised and dashed.
Our hurts may lie dormant under the surface for long periods and then erupt in the right circumstances. We may think the underlying issues no longer impact our lives. Then, whammy!! Our gracious God will not leave His dear children with untreated wounds. He wants us to experience healing and growth. This process can be uncomfortable, but sweet. Some may opt to suppress and deny rather than wade into the path of meeting God more deeply than ever before. But our “issues” are an avenue to experiencing God more sweetly, tenderly and nakedly. Only our kind and gracious God can redeem the worst things in our lives and make them a pool of blessing.
This is living the mystery. “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca (Weeping) they make it a place of springs; the early rain covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion” (Psalm 84:5-7).
What do I take from this? We all have a history. We all have hurts. The promise of a good future can foster fears as well as hope. The fear of another disappointment can numb our hope. We decide it is safer to protect ourself from pain by choosing to lower our expectations. But God raised her son, “her hope,” from the dead. The very thing she most yearned to see was given back to her after a process. Elisha’s servant couldn’t restore the boy to his mother. Elisha tried unsuccessfully before life flooded back in to the boy.
Jesus calls us to KNOW Him and His power in our failures and hurts. He knew pain and rejection: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” yet His joy was full. I hear Jesus saying, I can use this for My glory and your good. I will advance My purposes in the world through your story. Nothing need be wasted. Satan wants to use your hurts, disappointments and failures, to destroy you. BUT I will use these very things to unite you to Myself and give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).