After living with less the Shummanite woman faces loss–something so common we expected it and yet at the same time long for more. It was her rejoicing turned mute: going cold, dark, and dead—as we actually begin …
Living Through Loss (2 Kings 4:18-20, 25-28) 18 The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. 19 He said to his father, “My head! My head!” 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. A miraculous birth now amounts to a mountain of pain! Alfred Lord Tennyson famously penned, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all… 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’?” She shows us in many ways the pain of grief—Not something that can easily be shared with everyone, she gives the familiar answer of many going through pain, “Everything is all right!” she tells Gehazi, and yet with Elisha, who she was comfortable, could be honest and open with, her answer was much different: Half question/ half accusation: Did I ask for a son, my lord? Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?” In other words: I told you this would happen! In the room that she had built as a testament to her faith and trust in God for Elisha, was now a morgue for her son. The woman had watched as God’s promise of a son started off small and seeming impossible only to grow into the greatest love of her life—(I see that with my son—the smallest person in our family—literally and figuratively takes over your life!) Yet, instead of just being content in her inability to have a son, now she was forced to live through the very real pain of losing one-holding her son in her lap while he took his last breath.
The long-time boss of retail store called one of his younger employees into his office. Nervously the employee came and sat down. ‘Do you believe in life after death? the boss asked of the employee. Taken a back the employee thought for a moment and answered, “Yes, I guess I do, sir!” The employee relaxed when he saw the boss get a big smile across his face, then he said, “Good, because after you left early yesterday to attend your grandmother’s funeral, she came in for a visit!” If only we could laugh in the face of loss, but more often we feel paralyzed by it.
Yet we see Christ living through loss- with the news of the death of his friend Lazarus, he finally arrived in Bethany, near Jerusalem and instead of offering wise words, or intellectual insights, Jesus we are told in the shortest verse in scripture John 11:35- Jesus wept! Jesus knew the pain of loss first hand! Instead of leaving people in their place of hopelessness, instead of abandoning them on an isolated road of grief, we have been empowered through the same Christ that called Lazarus out of the grave, the same Christ who himself walked resurrected from the tomb—to grieve with those who are hurting and yet to roll away the rock that has started to block out their life-(2 Cor. 5:4)-Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. We face this all the time-soldiers come home from the battle field (they made it), only to commit suicide (fighting mental illness). Adoptive parents bring home their new baby, only to get the call 2 ½ days later the birth mother wants back the baby… the dream not only doesn’t come true, but the nightmare does! What are we to make of these experiences, have we trusted in vain, has loss had the last laugh? Instead, Christ gives us the chance to roll away the rock that seems to eclipse the sun. That is why Paul said, we are to be pitied beyond all others if Christ did not raise from the dead, but he did! He shows us the largest rock has been broken into a million little pebbles before the power of God.
What we find in the midst of loss is what Hudson Taylor, the founder of China Inland Mission found in the closing months of his life…he came to find that in his weakness and powerlessness something unexpected happen, “I am so weak. I can’t read my Bible. I can’t even pray. I can only lie still in God’s arms like a little child and trust.”