Harnessing the Power of “It Is Well” (Even When It Is Not)
Last week was rough.
My Mama's heart was pulled on every front. Each of our adult children was dealing with a challenge of some kind. Physical. Emotional. Or both. As a dear friend said, "We only do as good as how any given kid is doing badly."
When our kids hurt. We hurt. Period.
Before last week I knew I'd be launching into a series on self-care (five different dimensions––spiritual, emotional, physical, mental, and social.) Last week was the confirmation I needed that spiritual self-care must be our cornerstone. Everything else takes on its proper perspective when that piece of our life is in place.
The Shunamite woman from the Old Testament is the perfect example of this. She tended to her "cornerstone" for many years. The result? She lived life confident that all was well… even when it was NOT.
Who exactly was the Shunamite woman, and what does she have to teach us about our own spiritual well-being? For ease in re-telling the story, let's give our woman a name. This is fictitious, but it's easier than constantly saying "The Shunamite Woman! “Let’s call her Abigail. Abby for short.
The Bible tells us that Abby was respected in her community. She was called "a well-to-do woman." She was married to a man that was "up in years," and they had no children.
Abby would notice whenever the prophet Elisha came through her town of Shunem. Eventually, she talked him into coming to their home for a meal. This shared meal became customary every time Elisha passed through Shunem.
Here we get our first hint about Abby's recognition of the "spiritual self." Abby placed herself (and her family) in a position to be in the presence of a man known to be "A man of God. A Holy Man."
We would have no idea if Abigail shared in those meals (cultural norms may not have allowed it). Still, I wonder if, at a minimum, she wasn't standing around the corner soaking up every word that came from Elisha's mouth.
Abigail recognized that there was such a thing as a Holy side to life. She realized there may be a part for her to play in it and jumped at the chance.
The Bible doesn't tell us how long Elisha kept coming to Abby's home for meals. But we do know that eventually, she cared enough about Elisha's well-being to ask her husband if they could add on to the house. She wanted Elisha to have a room of his own.
It seems likely that a friendship evolved between Elisha and Abby. Most certainly a measure of trust. We don't leave our homes; our lives open for just anybody to walk in and live with us. Elisha knew this family, and this family knew Elisha.
One day, Elisha decided that there must surely be something he could do for her in return. So he asks her, but listen to her response:
"Nothing. I'm secure and satisfied in my family." 2 Kings 4:13
Wow. This woman was content. Here we get yet another peek into Abby's spiritual well-being. Abby lived in a culture in which a woman's worth was deeply tied to childbearing. She had no children. Her husband was old. With no son to care for her, what would her future look like? Apparently, none of that mattered to Abby. Abby did not fear the future.
But just as Abby built up her house to serve a prophet of the Lord, God, in turn, chose to build up her "house." Abby's kind refusal for any kind of material, political, or social help was replaced by something even more extraordinary. Something that she never, ever expected.
As Elisha wonders how to repay her, he says to his servant,
"What can be done for her?" Elisha asked. Gehazi [his servant] said, "She has no son, and her husband is old." 2 Kings 4:14
The following year about the same time, guess who gave birth to a son?!
Scripture doesn't tell us how old the boy was when tragedy struck. All we know is that he was old enough to go find his father in a field as he sought help for his hurting head. The boy was taken back to his mother. There he rested several hours in her arms until he died.
Here is where we reach the peak of Abby's story. She places her dead son on Elisha's bed and shuts the door. She lets her husband know that she is leaving the house to see the Holy Man. When he asks why her response is,
"Don't ask questions; I need to go right now. Trust me."
Nowhere in this story do we sense that Abby is hysterical or distraught. Instead, this woman is focused, and she has a plan. Let's continue to follow the story:
When the man of God saw her at a distance, he said to Gehazi, his servant,
"Look, there is the Shunammite woman. Please run now to meet her and ask her, 'Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?
And she answered, 'It is well.'" 2 Kings 4:25-26 AMP
I'm thinking everything is NOT well. Abby, your son, your only, long-awaited son, died in your arms this morning. And you are well?!
But at that moment, Abby WAS fine. Her spiritual compass was so fine-tuned it guided feelings that she couldn't trust. Her spiritual compass led her next steps in the middle of a tragedy and protected her head and heart from a complete melt-down.
We don't want to overlook an essential detail in what we just learned about Abby's response.
Abby told Gehazi, Elisha's servant, "It is well."
However, when she reached Elisha, she fell at his feet, grabbed him, and wouldn't let go. It was to him and him alone that she chose to be transparent.
Elisha was the mediator between Abby and her God. You and I have a mediator, too, Christ himself. I wonder what our lives would look like if we had the spiritual compass to know that there really is only one place to take our concerns? Because there is only one place, they will ever truly be cared for? Abby understood that. Talk about spiritual discernment.
Life IS hard.
Sometimes it's as brutal as being attacked by a dragon. There's a death. There's a divorce. There's some big, fat awful thing breathing fire over our souls.
Sometimes the hard things in life are more like a nit. Some chronic, itty little something that should have no power or influence over our lives, yet because it never goes away, it breaths its own kind of fire into our lives.
May we live like Abby. Whether it's nits or dragons that enter our life, may we walk in the calm confidence that all is well. Not because we're going to tough it out but because we know to whom we can run. We have someone in our life that we can fall on our faces to, cling to, and say, "Why? How? What next?"
Being spiritually strong isn't having it all figured out. It's simply knowing where our strength and guidance come from when we don't have it all figured out.
One of my favorite verses is from Proverbs,
"Where there is no vision, the people perish…" Proverbs 19:18
The Shunamite woman was a woman of vision. She was a woman who could see the importance of tending to the spiritual side of life. It may have looked like nothing more than washing sheets and cooking meals for years. But God was up to something greater.
Abby's pursuit of the spiritual prepared her for the future. She couldn't have imagined ever having a son. She couldn't have imagined ever losing her son. But her spiritual preparedness put her in the position to calmly know who she could run to and where her source of help and hope could be found when life was not "well." Abby could not have imagined God would use Elisha to bring her son back to life. We don't know how God may choose to use our own spiritual development for the sake of another.
It's tempting to consider self-care of our spiritual selves as an "if I have time endeavor." But we would never dream of going without food or water for a day, weeks, or months. So why is it so stinkin' easy to neglect our spiritual needs for days, weeks, even months? Perhaps because we can't see or touch our "spiritual dimension," it is easy to overlook it.
And yet, we all know how important it is to tend to our spiritual well-being. The care we put into it matters today and every single day from here on out because God has made our spirits eternal. This is vision. And with vision… we can live. Really live. Live for eternity but live today knowing… It. Is. Well.
Would you pray with me?