Compare the story of the Shunammite woman in chapter 4 with Naaman’s story in chapter 5. When her son died, the Shunammite woman went to Elisha, whose first miracle for her was the birth of her son. She believed he would help her. She knew he would help her. Therefore, she did not question whenever Elisha only sent his servant with his staff rather than going to the son himself. Contrast this with Naaman and the King of Syria. Surely the King had heard of Elisha’s miracles, yet he did not call Elisha when confronted with the task of healing Naaman’s leprosy. When Elisha told Naaman to wash in the Jordan river seven times, Naaman scoffed and had to be convinced by his servants to do so. Even though Naaman was hesitant and haughty, he was still healed and came back to Elisha to repent whole heartedly.
Who is better in these two stories? I’m not sure either is better. One had faith from the beginning, the other had to learn it the hard way. There are many ways that we come to have faith, and many ways our faith expresses itself. I think recognizing that no one way is better than another is a key part of unity. In fact, even those who don’t have faith are no better or worse human beings than those with faith. We are all children of God that He created, allowed to have free will, and sent His Son to die for.
And while I’m thinking about extending this grace to others, I need to think about extending it to myself. At one time, I would have read this story and exalted the Shunammite woman above Naaman and cultivated an internal expectation to be like the Shunammite woman. To be perfect, to have a strong faith all the time, to be someone God could be proud of. But that is foolish and leads to disappointment and shame in myself. God already loves me. We are what we are. For me, that means I’m not perfect, I don’t always have a strong faith, I don’t always obey God. Instead of spending energy trying to make myself a certain way, it is more fulfilling to ask God to change me into what He wants me to be and then trust that it will happen.