Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is it well?

So toady I spent time with a woman from our church who lost her husband last night.  She is still in shock and dealing with the realities that lie ahead for her and her two young daughters.  
Every time I encounter a time like this of real tragedy.  I am reminded of a story from 2Kings.  Below I am sharing that passage and some thoughts I shared with Highland last year after our community there suffered several real tragedies in quick succession.  
Before I get to that though, I wanted to share another quick thought.  When we encounter times like this either personally or when we see others going through a tragedy, we often pray for God to give us strength or peace or comfort.  I think it is good and right to do this, but I think it is important to understand what we are asking for and what God's Holy Spirit provides.  
If we are asking God to provide us with enough of our own strength or our own peace - I think we are actually asking for the impossible.  Simply put, I don't believe we can handle the worst that this life throws us on our own.  What we should be asking for and what I believe we often receive is God's strength to carry us through.  God's peace - that is beyond our understanding or comprehension - to allow us to make it in the most difficult of circumstances.  There are things in this life - difficult, impossible things that all of us at one time or another face (to varying degrees) Being a Christian or following God does not excuse us from these difficult times.  But it does mean that we know where we can turn to find the God that is faithful and has promised strength (God's strength) enough for the day, comfort for our tears (from a God that has himself suffered pain, tragedy and loss) and light for our way (even through the darkest days and times).  

Now here is the passage from 2Kings and some of my thoughts:

2 Kings 4:8-36 (New International Version)
The Shunammite's Son Restored to Life
 8 One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. 9 She said to her husband, "I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. 10 Let's make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us."
 11 One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, "Call the Shunammite." So he called her, and she stood before him. 13 Elisha said to him, "Tell her, 'You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?' "
      She replied, "I have a home among my own people."
 14 "What can be done for her?" Elisha asked.
      Gehazi said, "Well, she has no son and her husband is old."
 15 Then Elisha said, "Call her." So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 "About this time next year," Elisha said, "you will hold a son in your arms."
      "No, my lord," she objected. "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!"
 17 But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.
 18 The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. 19 "My head! My head!" he said to his father.
      His father told a servant, "Carry him to his mother." 20 After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out.
 22 She called her husband and said, "Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return."
 23 "Why go to him today?" he asked. "It's not the New Moon or the Sabbath."
      "It's all right," she said.
 24 She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, "Lead on; don't slow down for me unless I tell you." 25 So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.
      When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, "Look! There's the Shunammite! 26 Run to meet her and ask her, 'Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?' "
      "Everything is all right," she said.
 27 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."
 28 "Did I ask you for a son, my lord?" she said. "Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?"
 29 Elisha said to Gehazi, "Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy's face."
 30 But the child's mother said, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So he got up and followed her.
 31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy's face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, "The boy has not awakened."
 32 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy's body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
 36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, "Call the Shunammite." And he did. When she came, he said, "Take your son." 37 She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.

While it is certainly an interesting story – and any story of resurrection is worth knowing (even if it is a little strange).  It is not the obvious miracle, the resurrection of the boy, that I want us to remember or think about.  What I want us to remember – to take from this story is the words – and the understanding, the faith of the Shunammite woman. 
There one phrase that she repeats that summarizes her understanding of God’s providence and her example of truly, fully trusting in and on God.  The phrase that she repeats – It is all right – or in previous versions of the passage – IT IS WELL
After her son has died, as she is leaving to find Elisha – she tells her husband – it is alright – (her son is dead and her only words to her husband is ‘it is well’.
When Elisha sees her and sends his servant to see if there is something wrong – if the boy is okay – her response ‘everything is alright’ – it is well
What happens after she finally tells Elisha about her son’s death is what we all recognize as the miracle – and it is miraculous how Elisha brings the child back to life – but there is another miracle that is all to easy to miss.
The miracle is found in the words and faith of the Shunammite woman.  For according to her – it was well and everything was alright before Elisha had brought her son back to life.
The miracle is the perspective we can have; the peace we can feel when we are truly, really trusting in and on God.   
It is well – these are not the words of satisfaction after our wish has been granted, but they are words of faith, trust and hope meant to be spoken in the midst of pain, sorrow and grief. 
It is well. 
Simply put, when we are able to let go of our fear and anxiety – and fully trust in God
It is well and everything is alright
Not after God has ‘fixed’ things – but right here, right now in the midst of our fear, our pain, our sickness our grief.
It is well because God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is present here with us in the midst of it.  Everything is alright, because we can lean into and on the power, wisdom and peace of the Holy Spirit. 
In a world seemingly gone mad, full of hurt, pain and grief – it is well.
In our sickness, sorrow and brokenness the Holy Spirit joins with us and everything is alright.
So now, in light of God’s ability through the power of the Holy Spirit can we begin to say – it is well

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