“…He said to Gehazi, “Look, the woman from Shunem is coming. Run out to meet her and ask her, ‘Is everything all right with you, your husband, and your child?’”
“Yes,” the woman told Gehazi, “everything is fine.”
But when she came to the man of God at the mountain, she fell to the ground before him and caught hold of his feet. Gehazi began to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone. She is deeply troubled, but the Lord has not told me what it is.”
This is the story of a woman who never thought she’d be able to have children. After she used her resources really generously to care for Elisha, God’s prophet, he promised that she’d have a son within a year. She’d given without asking for anything in return and hearing this, she begged Elisha not to get her hopes up. But sure enough, in a year’s time, she was holding the baby boy she hadn’t dared to hope or ask for.
Then the story takes a brutal turn. The boy grows until he’s old enough to head out to the fields with his dad. One morning, while they’re out working, he suddenly starts screaming that his head hurts. Reading this less than a year out from our ordeal with Benaiah’s brain scans, you know at this point, this story had me tense in a whole new way.
The dad sends his kid home to mom, who holds him in her lap. By noon, the baby boy she hadn’t dared to hope or ask for is dead.
I have no idea how I would have reacted. After two days of testing in the hospital, the doctor brought me a pretty scary list of things they’d found on Benaiah’s imaging. Cody had been holding down the fort at home and I’d been handling the baby and his care up until that point, but as soon as that doctor left the room, I got on the phone with Cody.
“It’s time for you to come now. I need you.”
I would have expected the Woman from Shunem to send the servant running for her husband. “Come back from the fields. Come now. I need you. My whole world has just fallen apart. I can’t face this alone.”
Instead, she sent this message:
“Send one of the servants and a donkey so that I can hurry to the man of God and come right back.”
“Why go today?” he asked. “It is neither a new moon festival nor a Sabbath.”
But she said, “It will be all right.”
So she saddled the donkey and said to the servant, “Hurry! Don’t slow down unless I tell you to.”
The woman didn’t call for her husband. She didn’t call for a doctor. She didn’t run to her mom. She didn’t settle for Elisha’s servant. It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine. She waved them off. AKA: You are not the one who can help me and I’m not stopping one single step short of God himself. She high-tailed it straight to the man of God and fell at his feet. Elisha tried to send her back home with his staff and his servant.
“But the boy’s mother said, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I won’t go home unless you go with me.” So Elisha returned with her.“
And through Elisha, this woman got her son back. Back from the dead. It’s only the second time this has ever happened in all of history. And God did it for the woman who saddled a donkey and ran straight to Him for help. I laughed a little to myself at her laser focus.
Her husband tries to ask what’s going on and her response is “It will be all right.” Nope. You can’t do anything about this. Not you.
Gehazi, the right-hand man of God’s prophet, recognizes her, greets her, tries to check in on her and her family. Her response: “Yes. Everything is fine.” Nope. You can’t do anything about this. Not you.
She gets to the feet of Elisha, the one through whom she can access the words of Jehovah Himself, and she hangs on for dear life.
“Did I ask you for a son, my lord? And didn’t I say, ‘Don’t deceive me and get my hopes up’?”
It reminded me of the time King Hezekiah got a letter threatening the total destruction of Judah. He didn’t write back or hold a press conference or summon his advisors. He hurried to the temple, spread out the letter before the Lord, and begged for help:
“O Lord, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God….Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”
It reminded me of King Jehoshaphat who, having received word that three nations had formed a vast army and were marching toward Jerusalem that very moment, begged the Lord for guidance, headed to the Temple courtyard and before all his people, prayed for help:
“O Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you!.. O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”
-2 Chronicles 20:6, 12
I like this straightforward approach. When you have a God-sized problem, don’t stop short of Him. Hurry to the place where you can hear his words. Ask your questions. Beg for help. Wait and see what He will do, who He will send. But don’t settle for any person, no matter how impressive or well-meaning, on your way to lay a problem before him.
Don’t wrack your brain for a strategy, beg your mighty God to help you. He’s the one with the power to part waters or poison them, weave worlds with his words, shake mountains with his breath, drop food from the sky, draw pools into the desert, bring children back from death. He’s the one that can guard your heart with peace while you wait in the dark and the unresolved places. He’s the one who restores your soul. He’s the one who holds you in your grief and binds up your broken heart. He’s the one who is crafting a home and a story for us that outweighs every hardship, loss, and suffering this world has ever held, and he has cut a pathway for us to enter into it with his own blood.
There is nothing too hard for Him. He is ready and willing to help you. Go to Him. Saddle your donkey and go. He may not give you the thing that you ask for, but He will never fail to help you, and He will never, never ignore you. When your hope is in Him, you will not be disappointed.
“God is our refuge and our strength. Always ready to help in times of trouble.”
You do need people. Let them love you and care for you. Learn from their counsel. But this is the lesson I take from the Shunemite woman and from Hezekiah and from Jehoshaphat: When you’re deeply troubled, seek Him first.
“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
“Unless the Lord builds a house,
the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the Lord protects a city,
guarding it with sentries will do no good.
It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones.”
“Some nations boast of their chariots and horses,
but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.“
“Oh, please help us against our enemies,
for all human help is useless.
With God’s help we will do mighty things,
for he will trample down our foes.”
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.“