Pastor Colin's new book, For All Who Grieve (10ofThose, 2020), has just released. We are excited to share it with you all! This book takes on difficult but important themes related to the grieving process, such as tears, talk, guilt, grievance, hope, and finally, healing. The difficult truth is that...
In the middle of suffering, can you say, “It is well with my soul”?
While sick on the couch one week, I read the Shunammite woman’s story in 2 Kings and was immediately helped. I’d been fighting fear because I was terrified that our infant daughter would catch my sickness, and because I had no idea how I would care for her in such a depleted state.
I’m not proud of the fruit I bore that week: frustration, unkindness, negativity, and even more fear and doubt. But God, in his mercy, convicted and helped me through his Word, through the story of the Shunammite woman’s suffering.
The Shunammite Woman’s Suffering
Here’s the short version (see 2 Kings 4:8-37):
A wealthy woman (our Shunammite) knew that Elisha was God’s prophet; so she convinced her husband to make him a small room on their roof, where he could rest when he passed by. Elisha figured she’d want something done for her in return (which she didn’t), so he promised her a son the following year. She conceived according to his word and despite her doubts.
When he’d grown, her God-given son died on her lap. Without hesitation, she saddled up her donkey and went to find Elisha for help:
When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite. Run at once to meet her and say to her, ‘Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?’” And she answered, “All is well.” (vv. 25-26)
All is well? What?! Didn’t her son, her unexpected gift from God, just die on her lap? How could she say this?
Remembering God’s Faithfulness
And the woman conceived, and she bore a son about that time the following spring, as Elisha had said to her. (v. 17)
This Shunammite woman’s very decision to find Elisha is an act of remembering God’s faithfulness to her. He had provided her a son, as Elisha had promised, and she knew she could return to this God, and his man, in her time of need.
One of the hardest things in suffering is remembering because the most glaring, urgent thing is in front of our faces, and it doesn’t seem good. Rather than remember, we try to solve our problems. Our trials threaten to take up our attention, and our wayward hearts distract us from how God has worked in the past, leading us to fret and forget. This is why we seek to remember his faithfulness.
Do you need to pause right now in your suffering and remember? Remember how God has proven his great love for you by sending his Son to die upon a cross. Remember how he raised him from the dead, to give you resurrection life forever, to ultimately defeat every suffering, and wipe away every tear.
And, remember how he’s been faithful to answer your prayers in the past; to make you like his Son even when the answer was no; and not to waste a thing, from the smallest to the hardest of trials.
Remember God’s faithfulness, and you too will be able to say, “It is well with my soul.”
Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’” (v. 28)
When Elisha first promised the Shunammite woman a son, she doubted him, saying, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your servant” (v. 16). So naturally, when her son dies, she confronts Elisha with these past doubts: “Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’”
It actually takes a great amount of faith to deal with our doubts, rather than sweep them under the rug and pretend they don’t exist. That may be easier, yes, but if we do this we won’t grow in our trust of God and his Word, or what it means to walk by faith rather than sight. Instead, when we acknowledge our doubts before the Lord in confession and prayer, he loosens their power over us—and deals a death-blow to our enemy who wants to derail our faith. We pray because our God responds.
What doubts do you need to confess? Are you doubting that God is good? Are you doubting that his promises can be trusted? Or, are you doubting his ability to change your circumstances, or to care for you in the midst of them? Tell him. God is more than capable of handling your doubts and transforming them into a more unshakeable, trusting faith.
Confess your doubts, and you too will be able to say, “It is well with my soul.”
Clinging to Christ
And when she came to the mountain to the man of God, she caught hold of his feet….Then the mother of the child said, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” (v. 30)
Hear the desperation and trust in the Shunammite’s words as she refuses to leave Elisha’s side “as the Lord lives.” Her hope is in the Lord, who lives forever, and in God’s prophet—in his very word.
When suffering comes, we can move one of two directions: toward Christ in faith, or away from him in anger and bitterness. We can quickly turn to creature-comforts to deliver us from our afflictions, keeping God at arm’s length, or we can cling to his Word and hope in Christ alone.
You too can cling to Christ, the incarnate Word: his character, works, and promises. He’ll do what is best out of the goodness of his character; he will give you what you need to stand up under suffering; and he will satisfy you with his unfailing love. But even this trust is impossible apart from the power of the living God at work in us. So we say along with the Shunammite, “As the Lord lives, I will not leave you” because we believe the Word-made-flesh will never leave or forsake us, and will help us trust him by faith day by day.
Cling to Christ, and you too will be able to say, “It is well with my soul.”
Rejoicing in the Resurrection
The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes….And when she came to [Elisha], he said, “Pick up your son.” She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground. Then she picked up her son and went out. (vv. 35-37)
Elisha journeys to the woman’s home, and after praying and stretching himself out upon her son, the Lord answers his prayer, raising the boy miraculously from the dead.
Friend, we don’t know if our suffering will end in this life. It may not. But we do know that something greater—resurrection life—awaits us in Jesus Christ. Whether or not we are delivered here and now, someday we will be healed completely from the brokenness of this world. We will rejoice in the new heaven and new earth, where Jesus will be our light forever, where we will live in the splendor of his perfection and the restoration of all things, where sin and its effects will be no more.
No matter what you’re going through today, rejoice in Christ, for the resurrection is your sure future, and death no longer has a hold on you. You will finally come into the presence of Jesus, fall at his feet, and exult in his beautiful glory—and your pain and suffering will be wiped away for good.
Rejoice in the resurrection, and you too will be able to say, “It is well with my soul.”