As many are looking forward to this season with great joy, there are just as many who wish the holidays would pass quickly because it is too painful. The same is true of the birth of Jesus. While Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, and kings will savor fondly the joy of Jesus’ birth, thousands of families in the surrounding area will mark it as the anniversary of the horrific night their young son was massacred by Herod… great hope and great pain all in one story.
In 2 Kings 4:8-36 there is a beautiful picture of hope in the midst of pain. Elisha longed to bless the Shunammite woman for her kindness, so he promised that in a year she would embrace a son. She protested, begging Elisha not to play games with her heart. A year later she had a son, and he grew until one day he suddenly died.
What do you do in those moments in your life when it feels like what was promised is taken away? The Shunammite woman asked for a donkey that she might run to the man of God. When her husband asked her why, she simply said, “It is well.” In Hebrew, it is one word, shalom, which means peace, health, welfare, security, safety, wholeness, and completion.
All was not well. Her son, whom she never dreamed she would bear and then miraculously bore, was now dead. As she approached Elisha, his servant met her and asked her what she wanted. Again all she said was, “It is well” (2 Kings 4:26b). This was not a denial of the events or an attempt to give the right religious answer. It was a statement of hope. All was not well, but it is still well.
2 Kings 4:27-28 says, “When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet.” Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.”
“Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes?’ ”
I love her response. She ran to her only hope, the man of God. But when she arrived, she didn’t hold back how she felt about the circumstances. Can’t you hear her tone? “This was your idea in the first place. You invited me to hope, to dream of having a son, and then this happened. I told you before you did it not to play games with me, and now I am bitterly disappointed.”
But even more amazing was her next phrase. In the midst of bitter distress, she said to the man of God, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” As devastated as she felt, she continued to trust and hope because she knew regardless of what would occur “It is well.”
The Shunammite woman’s story has a happy ending. Her son was raised from the dead. But for many that is not the case. Despite praying, hoping, and dreaming, life circumstances have turned out differently than you expected. Regardless of what this season holds for you, may you be like the Shunammite woman, able to be honest about the pain and to bring God all your pain and distress. May you find a resting place in God who is your Hope. You may not like what is happening. You may not understand what God is up to. May you choose to receive the grace of God to be able to say, “It is well.”
Be blessed in the heart of Jehovah-Shalom, the God of “It is well.”
© 2012 Elizabeth Gunter
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