Do you ever have Sunday School bible story flashbacks? For me it was the old flannel boards, and Moses never quite would stay up there while God was talking to him through the burning bush. Even all these years later he was still trying to run away.... but I digress...
This week I was out for a run on the most perfect day for running. I had a lot weighing on my heart and I felt its heaviness as I tried to out run it. It happened. I was crossing the street and bang the story of Naaman pops into my head. Do you know that one? I'll get back to it.
Last weekend I felt broken and emotionally so exposed that there was no hope of recovering anything feeling like wholeness again. In fact, God's been drilling the "hope" thing into my heart a lot over the last few months. In areas that were quite arid, there has been the beginnings of tricklings of rains of hope. But this place still reeked of despair. My argument: I've been here before. I've worked to get free of this before. I've begged for relief before. And IT HASN'T WORKED! Look, I'm right back in this same place once again. I will never be free.
How often does that reel play in our heads in all its forms, even when we don't admit it?
That's where I was wondering how do I hope and trust that somehow this time would be different. ...... Enter Naaman.
His story is found in 2 Kings 5. It's always great to go read the whole story for yourself, who knows what God might show you in it, but I will summarize here.
Naaman was the commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a big shot and looked up and God had used him in battle. Only one problem... he got leprosy. In his house was a Jewish servant girl who suggested that if Naaman went to see Elisha he would be cured. So Naaman went. Let me just insert one small point here... this young servant girl was able to give hope to a wealthy leader. Never underestimate that the little you can offer won't be enough to give someone hope. One seed of hope planted is enough.
Eventually, Naaman gets word from a messenger of Elisha to go wash in the Jordan River 7 times and he will be healed. At first, Naaman was furious. He basically says, "Are you kidding me? I thought he would just come out here and wave his hand over me and I would be cured. At the very least couldn't he have picked a cleaner river!" And he stormed off. Just like we do when things don't go exactly the way we want.... the way we planned. He was willing to give up being healed because of pride. I know I have been guilty of that many, many times. I have shaken my fist at God and said Why won't you just take this away. I know you can and you've done it for others. He scooped me up and reminded me that He is God and is not required to play by my rules and as God, He knows what is best.
Once again the servants step in. Those with him stop him and say "Listen, if he told you to do something great you would have done it no problem. But all you have to do is wash, why wouldn't you do it?" And so Naaman goes down to the Jordan and dips in 7 times and comes up clean.
The part of the story that God impressed upon me while I was running isn't actually in the story itself. It's the part between his first dunk in the river and his 7th. He was already kinda pissed when he got to the river. Maybe he thought... he said 7 but now that I'm here it will only take one or two. Dunk 1. Nothing. Dunk 2. Not even a little difference. Dunk 3. Shouldn't I see some improvement? Dunk 4, 5 and 6. Thinking about giving up?
He had to hold onto hope all the way through the 7th time. If he quit on dunk 6, he would not have been healed.
When the world says, "Give up,"
Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."
We must hold onto hope despite the depair. It just might be lap 7 or 24 or 150 that brings the freedom and healing God can give us. And all the laps in between, He's using them for His kingdom and glory. Let us be hope givers and hope tenders, always.
"Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.” George Iles