The Brazen Trust of the Shunammite Woman
I am amazed at how much I learn and pick up from a book I have spent most of my life reading or studying in some way. Granted, there were years my Bible study was limited at best, but I am almost 50 and grew up in a Christian home studying passages of scripture throughout my childhood. That’s a lot of years of learning and growing in the Word of God. But God's Word is alive and active, and our Creator uses it to teach us new things every day.
Last week I was reading through 2 Kings during my times with the Lord. I came to chapter 4 and read the passages of Elisha and the Shunammite Woman. I've read this passage before and am familiar with the story, but this reading was different. Something stood out to me in a way it had not before.
The woman from Shumen is wealthy and uses her resources to help others. When we meet her, she is providing Elisha the Man of God with food, and she converts her rooftop to a comfortable resting place with a bed for Elisha to use when he travels through town. She is an incredible hostess and makes time to understand the needs of those around her so she can meet those needs as best she can. When Elisha asks her how he can speak on her behalf to the king in thanks for her generosity, the Shunammite woman’s response is, “I dwell among my people.” She does not want more than she already has – for what she has allows her to live with and take care of people she loves.
But Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, knows things and he informed Elisha that the woman from Shunem has no son. When Elisha calls her to him, he informs her she will have a son by end of the following year. Her response was, “No, my lord, O man God; do not lie to your servant.” She was flabbergasted and afraid to hope.
But the following year the Shunammite woman did indeed give birth to a son as Elisha promised. The son grew and was dearly loved. One day the son meets his father out in their field and complains of a pain in his head. The father sends the boy back to the house with a servant who carries the son to his mother where she holds him in her lap until he dies at noon. She then carries her precious son upstairs to the roof of her house and lays him in the rooftop bed reserved for Elisha.
After leaving her son, the Shunammite woman asks her husband to send her one of the servants and one of the donkeys so that she may “quickly go to the man of God and come back again.” Her husband asks why she is going to see Elisha when it is neither a “new moon nor Sabbath.” He is wondering at her urgency and what is wrong. She says, “All is well.” Then she saddles the donkey and ordered the servant to urge the animal on as fast as possible. She finds Elisha at Mount Carmel.
When Elisha sees the woman from Shunem coming from a distance, he sends Gehazi out to meet her and to ask her, “Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?” What is her response to Gehazi? She says, “All is well.”
However, when she finally makes it up to Elisha, she falls on her knees and grabs hold of his feet. Gehazi tries to push her away, but Elisha tells him to leave her as she is. Elisha admits to Gehazi that he knows “she is in bitter distress, and the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.” The Shunammite woman then says, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’” She was granted a son whom she loved, only for him to be snatched away from her in a heartbeat. In my mind I can picture her thinking, “Did I ask for this? I did not! I asked you not to deceive me! And now I do not have a son, I would rather have not had him at all!” On one hand she felt deceived by Elisha, on the other hand she knew he was a man of God and truth. She felt the freedom to love her son because she knew Elisha would not lie to her, he would not promise her a son only to take him away. Her experience left her with a shattered heart and confusion as to the trustworthiness of God.
Elisha told the Shunammite woman to take his staff and lay it on the face of her child. But she said “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” Hearing her plea, Elisha rose and accompanied her back to her home. When they arrive, he goes upstairs to see the child. Gehazi tried laying the staff on the child’s face before Elisha’s arrival, but it did not work. Elisha then shuts himself in with the boy and spent time in prayer and warming him. Finally, the child awakens, and Elisha calls the boy’s mother to come and see him. Her son is ALIVE. I cannot imagine her relief and joy as she holds her boy in her arms again. The Shunammite woman picks up her son and carries him out of the room.
There is of course more to Elisha and this woman’s story. You need to read 2 Kings 4 to get the full picture of Elisha’s impact on her and how her trust in God and “the man of God” changed her life and the lives of those in her house.
What stood out to me as I was reading her story, is how often the Shunammite woman said, "All is well," when clearly as we are reading scripture all is not well. What did she mean? What would God have us learn from Elisha and this incredible woman's interactions? I encourage you to read 2 Kings in chapter 4 and see what you pull from their narrative!
As humans we develop deep emotional bonds with those closest to us, whether those bonds are with the family we are related to or the friends we choose. As women, God made us with the ability to feel significant empathy and love for others. We are caretakers, homemakers, and breadwinners – we do all the things. Our ability to “be there” is often limited only by our imagination, and our fear is often compounded by our inability to control the world around us. Sometimes we are scared to love, because love also brings hurt. Hurting means we care. We cannot cut ourselves off from feeling hurt without also cutting ourselves off from feeling love.
The Shunammite woman did not ask for anything from Elisha, she was content to care for her people. But then he gave her the one thing she was afraid to hope for – a child. It’s scary to have someone you love so deeply and not have the ability to control that person’s situation or health. Giving up control and trusting God is a daily process and requires a foundation of faith that sometimes feels unattainable. Until it’s not. Elisha, the man of God, demonstrates how to trust God even when God is not letting us in on outcomes or reasons why. The Shunammite woman shows how much we need God and others even when we say, “All is well.”
Today’s podcast is with Cheryl Lochner, the Director of our Sonshine School Mother’s Day Out program. Her account of trials and tribulations, and trusting God through it all, is incredibly moving. Cheryl will share her family’s story. A story full of deep joy and heartache while demonstrating true resiliency during trials one cannot foresee or control. You do not want to miss this