The Bigger Purpose in Our Sufferings
September 28, 2018
Reagan Phillips, Childcare Team Director
Working with abused, neglected and abandoned children, we have seen our fair share of suffering. I will never be able to understand why suffering happens but I am so grateful that we serve a God who flips the script on what Satan means for Evil; God will use for good. One of my favorite old testament stories is the story of Naaman. It is a story filled with powerful men, drama, nice clothes, fancy cars, fighting, and a servant girl.
The story starts with the king of Syria who just defeated Israel. Naamon, his top commander of the Syrian Army, discovered he had a spot of leprosy which was highly contagious and a death sentence during this time. In the midst of this devastating diagnosis, a young Hebrew servant girl comes to Naaman’s wife and tells her that Naaman could find healing with the prophet that is in Israel. With this news, the King of Syria writes a letter to the King of Israel asking him to heal Naaman. Elisha, the prophet, gets word to the Israeli King asking him to send Naaman to him. Naaman heads to Elisha’s house with a huge entourage of fancy clothes, riches, horses and chariots as a means of buying his healing. More riches than could even be fathomed. Elisha sent out a messenger and told Naaman to go wash in the river 7 times. After washing in the river, he was healed of his leprosy and headed back to Elisha. You would think at this point that Naaman would be beside himself with gratitude that he was healed of his leprosy. You would think that he would rush to Elisha thanking him for saving his life and restoring his health. But when he saw Elisha he said “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so, accept now a present from your servant.” Naamon never mentions his leprosy. Instead, Naamon rejoices in the God of Israel.
This is how the gospel flips suffering on its head. Sometimes through our suffering we see our need for ultimate healing, not just relief from earthly suffering. Elisha refused the elaborate gifts from Naaman because he wanted everyone to understand that the gospel is a free gift of grace. It cannot be earned or bought.
There is a part of this story that we skim over all the time, the servant girl. She was young, Hebrew, and a servant to a Syrian military family. How did she get there? At best she was trafficked from Israel where Naaman was victorious, at worst she saw her family brutally murdered. So, when Naaman came down with leprosy, she had every right to say “Serves you right Naaman, you old goat. I hope your face falls off and you are miserable.” But instead, what does she do? She points him to where his healing could be found.
God saw a bigger purpose in Naaman’s suffering. What if we started to see a bigger purpose in our sufferings? What Naaman saw as his tragedy was the one thing that showed him what he really needed. He needed something far greater than his earthly healing. He needed ultimate healing that only God can provide.