Friday, July 06, 2012

What You HAVE to Learn from these *Barren* Women of the Bible - Part 1 of 4

We can learn soooo much from the "barren" women of the Bible! How they reacted to not having kids, their struggles, and what happened to cause them to finally receive a precious baby! Read on and don't forget to do the study at the end. You'll learn so much more (and hopefully apply those lessons learned) than by just reading my interpretations. This is a classic post from my archives.

The Shunammite Woman
2 Kings 4:8-17

The Shunammite woman is described as a great woman who opened her home to the prophet Elisha. She did not know who he was, but saw him walking through town one day and invited him to eat at the family home. He would visit the area often and each time, she'd invite him to stay with her husband and she. One day she told her husband that she suspected this was a great and holy man of God and that they should take their hospitality a step further. She set up a room with a cot so that Elisha would be more comfortable during his visits.

So let's stop here and think about this great woman's character so far. She is hospitable and warm toward strangers, and she is wise enough to recognize someone who walks with God. She also shows reverence toward those who walk with God.

Because of her character Elisha decided to bless the Shunammite woman. He asked her what she wanted ... did she want him to put in a good word with the king or even the commander of the Army? What could he do to show his appreciation? She modestly answers,"thank you, but what I have is sufficient." Elisha then asks his servant what he could give this kindly woman. The servant says that the woman is married to an old man and the couple have no children.

Elisha then told the woman that at this same time next year, she'll be holding her son. She was shocked and said, "as a man of God PLEASE don't lie to me like that!" But the prophesy was true. Next year she was holding her little man.

So not only was the woman hospitable and wise, she was modest and content with what she had. She reverenced those deserving and she was not a self-seeking person. And when she did something for somebody, she went all out. But the story does not end here.

The child grew older, but one day he was out in the field with his father when he started screaming, "my head, my head!" Perhaps he had heat stroke or an aneurysm - we don't know. All we know is that the child was taken to his mother where he sat on her lap and died in her arms around noon. And what did the woman do?

She immediately laid him on Elisha's cot and hopped on a donkey trotting as fast as it would go to find the man of God. Elisha saw her coming and sent his servant to find out how she and her family were faring. Her response? "It is well." When she got to the prophet she fell at his feet with a bitter and vexed spirit. She pretty much said, "you came to me with this child ... I didn't ask you for him, so why did you give him, make me love him then let him die?" Needless to say Elisha was quick to work a miracle for this family.

Read verses 29 - 36 to find out exactly how Elisha brought the child back to life (it's quite interesting), but when he told the woman to get her son ... she fell at Elisha's feet, bowed to the ground in gratitude, grabbed her child and left with him.

Now think about the following:

  • I often hear people say that miracles were only to draw people to God, but this is a situation where a man of God awarded a miracle as a kind of thank you gift. Is it possible that there are holy people today who can authorize miracles? What biblical evidence supports your response? (Do some research, don't just rest on old assumptions!)
  • How would you react if someone prophesied that you would have a child despite your medical history? (If someone did prophesy and your baby did not survive, does that mean it's the end of the road for you? Find out what happens in these situations) What does your response say about your ability to believe in the unseen?
  • How did you react after your child died? How is it different from the Shunammite woman's example? The woman felt justified in asking the prophet "why" ... but she did not lose faith in his ability to do what was right in his sight. What has your approach been when talking to God? (i.e "My way or the highway" or "let Your will be done. I trust You.")
  • Do you think the Shunammite woman's character had anything to do with God opening her womb? How does your character match or contrast those of the Shunammite woman? What areas do you need to develop?
  • Thinking about the Shunammite woman's example is there something you can do today to invite a miracle into your life?
I firmly believe that the stories in the Bible provide an example for how we should and shouldn't behave as believers. This woman provides an excellent example of warmth, grace, wisdom, poise and faith. When tragedy hit, she hurt (evidenced by falling at the prophet's feet with a bitter and vexed soul ... previously she only spoke to Elisha through his servant and she maintained a reverent distance from the man of God) and even questioned the fairness of it all. But she did not become ugly and hateful. She did not lose faith. Neither should we.

Feel free to share your thoughts, questions and responses in the comments section.


Monday, July 02, 2012

Hug Your Pain only if you NEED Healing - Part 2

So on a day-to-day basis how do you "embrace" pain?

  • For me, I let myself moan, scream, cry, rage, scribble furiously. (Writing had been a CRUCIAL part of my healing process).
  • An important part of embracing pain is facing it (see above) but we also need to have a release. I rarely allowed myself to stay stuck in an intense state though. I'd often pray for relief ... and I received it. What soothing things can you do to turn down the intensity? Don't be tempted to say "nothing" because the human body is equipped with the ability to calm itself. Physical activity (cleaning, running, push ups, etc.) and even sleep helped every time. Sometimes I'd be scrubbing the floor on my hands and knees while crying and praying for help. Help for my hurting heart!
  • I found that journaling provided a way to really get to the heart of how I was feeling. I used to think the only emotions I had were sad and mad. But really sometimes I felt confused, or lonely, or jealous, or anxious, or *gasp* hopeful, or happy. We can't make the mistake of interpreting a feeling of happiness to mean that we're happy about what happened. Then we stifle the emotion. I think that is a mistake. Smile whenever you can. It fuels hope and builds strength.
  • I learned to talk openly about how I was feeling. This wasn't easy because sometimes I'd feel like *everyone* was tired of hearing about it. It was often discouraging to believe that *everyone* was able to move on, but me. My perceptions weren't usually correct. Just because my mom might not have been able to listen one day didn't mean my close friend didn't have a ready ear. Sometimes I'd shut down when ONE person made a comment and then I generalized what they said to everyone else I knew.
  • You have to be careful about this next one. Sometimes I didn't feel like doing anything. So I didn't. I would lay around and act helpless. I let my husband take care of everything. Sometimes I just needed to be taken care of. Like I said, you have to be careful with this one ... because activity and purpose breeds vitality, hope, joy, and strength. Helplessness is a rare indulgence because it breeds weakness and depression and can easily become the norm. But soon after a loss, laying around might feel good. Better yet, have your husband lay around with you.
Time doesn't necessarily heal all pain, but the passage of time certainly makes it more bearable. It's how you spend the time that counts.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

You've Gotta Hug the Pain to Heal from It - Part 1

Embrace the pain.

Certainly easier said than done. Could it even be healthy to just dive into the hurt, thrash around uncontrollably than swim back from the edge of despair? Whether we go willingly through this process (called grief) or not, the pain awaits. Might as well get in there and search frantically for the "light at the end of the tunnel" rather than get in the tunnel of grief never to be seen or heard from again.

Okay, so we're not talking about warmly embracing pain here. What I really mean to say is take that pain and wrestle it to the ground. Get it under your feet because in the end only one can stand.

In the next post, I'll share what I think this "embrace" looks like in reality.

Stay encouraged,