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Devotional Week 43 Thursday
Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.”
Lamentations 3: 24, 25
“I cannot think but God must know
About the thing I long for so
I know He is so good, so kind,
I cannot think but He will find
Some way to help, some way to show
Me to the thing I long for so.
Stretch my hand – it lies so near;
It looks so sweet, it looks so dear.
‘Dear Lord,’ I pray, ‘Oh, let me know
If it is wrong to want it so!’
He only smiles, - He does not speak.
My heart grows weaker and more weak,
With looking at the thing so dear,
Which lies so far, and yet so near.
Now, Lord, I leave at Thy loved feet
This thing which looks so near, so sweet;
I will not seek, I will not long, -
I almost fear I have been wrong;
I’ll go, and work the harder, Lord,
And wait, till by some loud, clear word,
Thou callest me to Thy loved feet,
To take this thing so dear, so sweet.”
Today’s Study Text:
“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.”
II Kings 4: 18-20
“God Will Take Care of You” Part 14
“Days of Despair”
“Let us never despair while we have Christ as our leader."
Have I ever faced an event in my life which made me feel as though I was in a state of despair?
How does the fact that Jesus promises to give me eternal life change any feelings of despair which I may have?
“I will never despair, because I have a God.”
“We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but we never despair; we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down but still have some life in us, always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our body.”
II Corinthians 4: 8-10
In his second letter to the Christian believers in Corinth, the Apostle Paul begins by stating, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” (II Corinthians 1: 3,4 N.I.V.)
This is an encouraging place to begin when we consider our study text for today. No sooner did the lady of Shunem have a child, and was able to raise him to become a young man, than some type of medical problem came upon him without warning and within a few hours the child had died.
What caught me off guard in this story was the fact that this little boy was truly a miracle child. His birth was a miracle. If I had been the mother of this young lad, I think I would have felt that if my child’s birth was a miracle, then the last thing expected to happen would be his early death at a young age. It seems impossible. But we are told that within hours of telling his father that his head ached and being carried home to his mother, the child died.
How would you have felt? Grief-stricken? Sorrowful? Despairing? The reason I have chosen to focus on the word “despair” today is because I think there’s no other word which is as appropriate in this circumstance. Webster’s dictionary defines the word “despair” as “to be overcome by a sense of futility or defeat.” The reason this word appears fitting is that we know that the lady of Shunem’s husband was elderly. We know that the birth of this child seemed impossible in the first place. So it seemed unlikely that another pregnancy and birth could happen years later. It would be “futile” to even think there was much of a possibility. This would be a natural response to such a tragic event. I certainly wouldn’t criticize someone for feeling as if all was lost. However, what we learn from the example set by the woman of Shunem only underscores the reason this lady is identified as a “great woman.”
Without even telling her husband, who was defined as “ old,” about the death of their child, the woman asked a servant to get a donkey and to take her as fast as possible to the “man of God.” I really like the way she instructs her helper. If her words were in modern English, I think they would go something like this: “Put a move on it. Don’t worry if my hair gets messed up or if dust is flying around. Put the petal to the metal.” And they were off!
Now if we read through the entire story, we’ll find that Elisha sent Gehazi to accomplish the task of reviving this child. But this great woman informed Elisha that she wouldn’t return to her home without him. I think one reason may have been that Elisha was the person who promised her that she would have a son. Elisha was personally involved in this miracle and this lady had such a strong seed of faith planted in her heart that not only did she trust that the man of God would keep his word and that she would “have a son” but she clung in faith to the God of Elisha.
It is this very fact which guides us toward the words of Paul in the New Testament letter to the Corinthians. I’ve read this text before – several times – but in light of the story of the faith of the woman of Shunem, God’s beaming light has aided me in looking with fresh eyes at this passage. As Paul speaks frankly with his friends, he explains that life has been tough for him. In fact, he states that, “It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it.” The way that the N.I.V. Bible translates this phrase is: “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life” (II Corinthians 1: 8, N.I.V. and The Message Bible). This is very bad. Despairing that you were even alive?! And I ask you, has life ever been so bad that with the Apostle Paul you have declared, “The stress is too much. I can’t take anymore. I wish I wasn’t even alive.” Frankly, those are the Apostle Paul’s words, “I despair that I’m alive.”
What is it then that we can learn from God’s children down through the ages? What is it that teaches us to hold on even in the worst times? How do we survive when life itself doesn’t seem worth living?
Let’s look at the great woman of Shunem who told Elisha in no uncertain terms, “I will not leave you.” We find that Elisha “arose” and returned with her to her home and to her dead son. When they arrived back in Shunem, the Bible says the “child was dead and laid upon Elisha’s bed” (II Kings 4: 37, Amplified Bible). It was as if the great lady was telling Elisha, “This is your child, too. This is the child you told me God would give me.” II Kings 4; 33-36 tells us how Elisha breathed into the child and “as (Elisha) stretched himself on (the child) and embraced him, the child’s flesh became warm. Then (Elisha) returned and walked in the house to and fro and went up again and stretched himself upon the (child). And the child sneezed seven times and opened his eyes…Then she (the great woman) took up her son and went out.” The seed of faith in God’s promise brought life into that home again.
But what meaning does a story like this have for you and me today. This is where the words of the Apostle Paul can help us when we face times of despair…heartache…and confusion.
Listen to how Paul describes his life: “If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry the treasure (of the light of Jesus Christ) in an unadorned clay pot of our ordinary lives…you know for yourselves we are not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side, we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.” This is a phenomenal testimony.
But then there is a phrase that should bring so much enthusiasm and hope to our lives today. Paul states: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (II Corinthians 4: 10, N.I.V.). If Jesus had never risen from the dead, indeed our lives would carry the fact of death with no hope of life. And believe me, that would be a cause for incredible despair.
Praise God – as Paul affirms – no matter what life throws at us, pain, illness, and death, while we carry around the death of Jesus, we also carry within us the resurrection of Jesus. And this gives us the ability to be filled with eternal hope which replaces despair. As author Luci Shaw states in words that should sustain us during days of despair, “In the desperation of a seemingly dead-end situation, our only recourse is to batter against the door of our fear, disbelief and inability, discovering to our surprise that it opens with the golden key of the Prayer of Faith.”
“I would say to my soul, O my soul this is not the place of despair; this is not the time to despair in. As long as mine eyes can find a promise in the Bible, as long as there is a moment left me of breath or life in this world, so long will I wait or look for mercy, so long will I fight against unbelief and despair.”
“O Christ, King and Lord of all,
teach me to know that with You
nothing is too bad to be cured;
nothing too good to be hoped for;
nothing too hard to be attempted;
and nothing so precious that it cannot be
surrendered for Your sake,
who lives and reigns
with the Father
in the Unity of the Spirit
for ever and ever.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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