“I don’t need anything.”
That’s what the woman told the holy man who sought to repay her for her kindness.
“I have everything I need.” (So, leave "well enough" alone.)
She was a wealthy, influential woman of her village who had observed Elisha, this holy man of God, regularly passing by her way. From an earnest desire to extend hospitality, she and her husband persuaded Elisha to come in as often as he passed by: for rest, a meal, and ultimately a custom built roof-room, complete with bed, table, chair, and lamp.
“Look, you have been concerned for us with all this care. What can I do for you?”
Elisha inquired through his servant Gehazi. Surely, there must be something.
“I have everything I need,” she repeatedly implied. (Leave well enough alone.)
But against all her insistence, Elisha didn’t relent. For, he seemed to perceive a cry so deep down and so hushed that it was almost inaudible. Like a long held hostage, its faint cry calling from some deep dungeon, Hope’s imprisoned plea reached the spiritual ears of the prophet — as did God’s summon for its immediate release.
“About this time next year you shall embrace a son,” Elisha tells the woman.
Those words may as well have been a battering ram swung hard against her fortified chest.
“Oh man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that!”
And there it was, the quaking threat of hope. That dangerous offender. Not to be trusted. Now rising despite all restraints.
Don’t get my hopes up.
How often have we said, "I don't need anything?" How often have we heard "It is well with my soul," and been afraid to admit that all is NOT well, settling for "well enough?" Isn’t it better to let lying hopes lie? Safer to keep them buried in the graveyard of disappointments? Safer to keep them hushed underneath long-sleeping dreams of the heart?
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” A familiar verse, often understood to merely mean that some outside providence has removed or postponed something long hoped for.
But what about when we repeatedly defer our own hope? What about when we shove it down, silence it, and dare it to rise? It is here that a guarded heart becomes apathetic, less alive… sick.
Do we even remember what the desires of our heart are?
For the woman, this promise for a rarely-confessed but long-desired child was too good to be true. Even so, she conceived and gave birth to a son exactly as Elisha had said.
And then… Hope died. Literally, in her arms.
Her young boy died.
You probably weren’t expecting that… but maybe you were.
Maybe you said, “I knew that would happen.” Dashed hopes have a way of breeding that skepticism. Harder than having hope rise is watching a dream come true prove false.
Hope dies in her arms.... There is no scream, no cry for help. She simply lays her lifeless son on the prophet’s bed and hastily departs on donkey’s back. She must get to Elisha - to the God of Elisha: the one responsible for her son’s life, and the only one who can do anything now in his death. (But what if He doesn’t?)
To the husband’s bewilderment upon her urgent departure, she assures him: “It is well.”
To Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, running to meet her at the end of her 20 mile dash, she insists, “It is well.”
(Really? Is all really well?)
Awaiting her from a distance, and full of concern, Elisha, the Seer, has no clue what is wrong with her; God has hidden it from his understanding. Upon arrival, she falls before him, grabbing his feet with such force that Gehazi steps in to restrain her. The usually buttoned-down woman has completely come undone. While never stating the obvious reason she is now clinging to him for dear life, her distressed interrogation reveals it all.
“Did I ask you for a son?!
Didn’t I tell you ‘Don’t raise my hopes?!’”
And there it was. Hadn’t she been suspicious of hope all along?
Every sentry of her soul that had previously fought to keep hope on lockdown, now came rushing out at high pursuit to plead the case for its re-detainment.
“Did I ask you for a son?” No she hadn’t - how dare she.
“Didn’t I tell you not to raise my hopes?” Yes she had - how dare he.
Maybe you wrestle with nagging thoughts such as these : The desires of my heart cannot be trusted, much less be fulfilled…. God cannot be trusted. It feels like He dangles good gifts like carrots just to snatch them away…. Hope cannot be trusted, for it certainly will disappoint, turning to mock me…. I knew it was too good to be true… Don’t get my hopes up.
She is leveled before Elisha. It is a sacred undoing where her desperate and honest heart’s desire bypasses her restraints (crisis has a way of doing that.) Here, fear and doubt, those sabotagers of dreams and antagonists of hope, are expelled on the prophet’s feet. Having upheaved these nemeses, she now grasps for hope like the drowning for rescue.
All is NOT well! “As the Lord lives and as my soul lives, I will not leave without you!”
Urgently, they return. Elisha shuts the door on himself, the God of the impossible, and the dead Dream lying on his bed. The man of God prays. He paces the floor. Life confronting death, he presses eye to eye, mouth to mouth, hand to hand. Again: he paces, he prays, he presses. The child’s body becomes warm. The sleep of death - awakened. Hope is risen! The child..is...alive.
Disappointment doesn't have the final word. Crisis doesn't have the final word. Even death does not have the final word.
It is well.
Dear Reader: This blog was inspired by 2 Kings 4: 8-37. It contains some of the factual narrative as well as my meditations on it - a personal commentary.
May God heal your heart in the pain of disappointment. May He breathe His breath of life over the dormant or lifeless desires of your heart; and may hope be revived, restored and ever raised.