I’ve come across Elisha’s encounter with the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8-37) in the Bible before, but after a closer look three weeks ago, something from the story intrigued me.
Elisha the prophet wanted to show his appreciation for a generous and hospitable woman from Shunem, and asked what he could do for her. She asked for nothing. “I have a home among my own people.” – an indirect reply implying that she had no need.
Elisha found out that her husband was old and she had no son. So Elisha told her, “About this time next year, you will hold a son in your arms.”
She objected to his promise. “No, my lord! “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!”
Here she was, knowing that Elisha’s a man of God, yet afraid to ask him to intercede for her to have a son. Given the cultural context, this must have been a prayer that she had presented to God fervently. Maybe she had accepted her lot in life and was contented. Now, she feared the false hopes that she had bore too many times, which birthed only disappointment and discouragement.
There’s a part of me that identifies with the Shunammite woman. Sometimes I don’t pray because I’m afraid that I’m asking out of my own selfish will. Some repeated prayers yielded no response and I didn’t want to disappoint myself again. And perhaps deep down inside, I fear that the gift might be taken away.
Which was what the Shunammite woman experienced. She did have a son as Elisha said. The boy died unexpectedly one day. His mother didn’t waste time wallowing in grief but sought out Elisha immediately. “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”
She carried her anguish to her intercessor, yet strangely her loss conceived hope. ‘Cause, why else did she look for Elisha? She had experienced the life-giving power of God, and now she desperately pled for life. “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” And truly, Elisha interceded for her and resurrected her son.
What amazing profile of the living faith of the Shunammite woman: contented and trusting, tenacious and unwavering. This story has given me courage to pray with boldness, to ask with faith that when God withholds, gives, or takes, I can trust my living God.