Tuesday, 26 August 2008 08:57

Trusting God Even When It Hurts

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Let us read 2 Kings 4:18-26: And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother. And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out. And she called unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again. And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well. Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee. So she went and came unto the man of God to Mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite: Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well.

In 1867 a man by the name of Horatio Spafford was traveling by ship to meet his wife and daughters, who were in another ship. During the voyage, Horatio received the news that the other ship had sunk in a storm. Full of hopes and fears, he waited for news. Finally his wife was able to send him a telegram saved, but alone. Their children died. Horatio went to the privacy of his own room to pour out his heart before God. During those hours he wrote a poem that has since then become a well known hymn:

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea-billows roll,

Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

The lesson that Horatio Spafford had to learn was not new. Every child of God who goes through sorrow has to be taught such faith by God. As is always the case, Horatio turned in his sorrow to Gods Word. The words it is well come from the verses that we will focus on now.

Last time we saw how the Shunammite woman was plunged into deep grief and sorrow by the death of her only child. Her sorrow was all the heavier because this was a child given through a special promise by God Himself. Amazingly, however, though her child breathes his last, her faith does not breathe its last. She makes an amazing confession of faith in the sovereign God who is directing her life.

We find this amazing confession of faith in her actions and in her words. In verse 21 we read that when she realizes her child is dead, she does not collapse in panic or give way to her grief. Not yet. She picks up the child, and puts him upstairs on the bed of Elisha. There are two reasons for this. Spiritually, this is the very room where God gave her the promise of a son. She cannot believe this is the end of the matter. She cannot believe that God would promise and then change His mind. By putting him there, she hangs onto Gods promise even in her deep grief.

The other reason is practical: in a hot climate, the dead were buried the same day they died. Otherwise the body will decay and rot. So by laying the boy on Elishas bed, the Shunammite is making sure the body wont be buried while she is gone looking for Elisha. She is convinced the promise of God will have the last word even over death!

Then she runs out to the field to get a donkey from her husband so she can ride to find Elisha. He is of course surprised and wants to know why. Her short answer says it all: It is well. In Hebrew, the answer is only a single word shalom. Peace. Everything is all right, everything will be alright there is peace.

How can she say this? We know the end of the story, but she doesnt. The only things she has to consider are a promise of God and the body of her dead boy in Elishas room. Yet she says Shalom, it is well, and she repeats this confession to Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, when he is sent running to meet her to find out what is wrong. When you hear Gehazis question about how her husband and child are doing, you think to yourself, here it comes. She has been traveling for hours, because it was a 20 kilometer trip to Mount Carmel. She has had time to think of all the questions, doubts, and fears. But nothing has changed. She still says, It is well. To use the words of Horatio Spafford, When sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.

This is faith. Faith is standing on the promises of God, even when everything seems to contradict those promises. It would be tempting to praise her great faith here. But then we would miss the focus of her faith. Her faith is great for the simple reason that it has nothing to do with her. Her faith finds its strength in the promise of God, and the God of the promise who cannot lie. He may test His people, but He never allows His promises to be cancelled. She simply considers God and concludes, No matter what, I have God. I know all will be well no matter how things turn out because I have Him and His promise. Even death cannot have the last word. It shall be well. There is peace in God.

Do you have this kind of faith? Maybe you are suffering right now. Can you also say, It is well? I have peace. Can you say, Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well with my soul? Has this become the theme song of your life, especially in difficult days? Not because you have such extraordinary faith, but because your faith has found a resting place in an extraordinary God?

This is the test of genuine faith, isnt it? It is easy for the person whose faith has never been shaken and tested to say, I have faith in God. But sometimes when the test comes, when Gods sovereign plans are different than yours, what then? What is more important to you? What your eyes see, your ears hear, your body feels, what your heart desires? Or what God has said even though it seems to make no sense with everything going on around you?

God tests the faith of His people in many ways. He does this not only to make their faith stronger, but also to reveal to the one being tested the shortcomings as well as the genuineness of that faith! 1 Peter 1:7 puts it like this: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. When God puts his people through the fire, and their faith comes out shining with heavenly light, it proves to the glory of God and the comfort of His children that they do have true saving faith. Because God teaches you to say, It is well with my soul.

Has God taught you this? You may want to say, But I dont have the same promise the Shunammite woman did. God has not given me a child by special promise. True. But He has given all His children precious promises like these: All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose. [Romans 8:28] Fear not, for I am with thee. [Isaiah 41:10] Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord: not heights, depths, life, death, hell, or any other creatures. [Romans 8:38,39] God has said to all His children: I will one day wipe away every tear from your eyes. I will make all things new, and sorrow and sighing will flee away! [Revelation 21:4,5] Is this not reason to be able to say It is well even if your worst fears become reality for a while? Has not the God, on whose promises the Shunammite woman rested, made many equally trustworthy promises to all who are His?

The test question comes to you, maybe not the high pressure test of suffering, but the equally important question of the Word of God. Can you say with contentment, No matter what God brings in my life, it is well?

Maybe you listen to this question as someone who is not yet a child of God. You have a very hard time answering this question, dont you? You dont trust God with your daily life, and certainly not with your hopes or dreams. You are afraid of what God will do to you. A child of God sometimes also has to fight such fears, but the goodness of God always wins out in them in the end. But not yet with you. Arent you being very foolish? God is the sovereign potter who can turn your life upside down in a moment. You are like the little child who has grabbed a toy or candy she is not allowed to have. Instead of giving it back to you, she hangs on to it with both hands, with every muscle in her body. But you are much stronger, and you can simply take it away whether she is willing or not. God can do what He wills when He wills it and how He wills it in your life. And then what will you do? Will you be able to say it is well? Of course not!

Do you see how important it is that you learn to know God yourself, that you learn to trust Him already now? Otherwise, what will happen when God sends you sorrow or suffering? He will, probably in some way in this life, but for sure when you face Him as your judge. You must learn to say it is well, otherwise there is no hope for you.

Someone will protest, I cant do this myself. God has to teach me to say it is well. True. How does He do this? He does this by teaching you to surrender to Him unconditionally, to admit that He sits on the throne and not you. What a struggle this can be. But when you kneel before Him like this, something happens. God lets you taste a little of who He is. And tasting His goodness, power, and love, you begin to learn to say, It is well, it is all well because God is with me.

The great secret to being able to say it is well is the Lord Jesus Christ. He died on the cross so that sinners can have shalom, it is well peace with God. He rose from the grave as proof that God will keep His promises even in the face of death. He is the one you need to turn to, to trust, and to follow. Then you too will be enabled by His Spirit to say it is well, all your life long.

Pastor Eric Moerdyk

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