I love being inspired and challenged by reading biblical accounts of folks who struggled with the same human weaknesses I see in myself. Many folks quickly dismiss the interpersonal aspect of these stories in their haste to find the bottom line. The ability to emotionally connect and be convicted by their stories, however, allows us to grow in our own lives. Learning how God interacts with others gives me a greater understanding of my own blind spots and roadblocks.
Naaman was commander of the Aram army. We can read his story in 2 Kings 5. He is described as a great man, highly regarded in the eyes of his king and fellow soldiers. Interestingly, the God of the Israelites is given credit for giving Naaman battle victories. Naaman suffered from leprosy.
Leprosy is a chronic infection affecting nerves, skin, and eyes and loss of the ability to feel pain. Minor wounds can become major issues resulting in loss of limbs or eyesight. Watching his body slowly succumb to this progressive disease must have been devastating for Naaman, his family and those under him. I wonder how Naaman processed his helpless. Did he shake his fist at the heavens, blaming the God who helped him in one area of life but apparently deserted him in this personal fight?
Within his house was an Israelite servant girl. She risked her position by telling Naaman’s wife about a prophet in Samaria who could cure the leprosy. Full of hope, Naaman asked the king of Aram to make a way for him to search out this prophet. Valuing his commander, the king gave Naaman gifts of silver, gold, and clothing plus a letter directed to Joram, king of Israel requesting Naaman be cured of leprosy.
Knowing he could not cure Naaman, King Joram tore his robes in despair, believing the Aram king was trying to provoke a war. Word of the matter got to the prophet Elisha who chastised King Joram, reminding him God was in charge and directing him to send Naaman his direction. King Joram’s reaction sounds very much like an anxiety response. He automatically went into panic mode and had to be reminded what was really true.
When Naaman knocked on Elisha’s door, the prophet sent a messenger with instructions to wash himself seven times in the Jordan river. Naaman was furious. First of all, he was a well respected man who’d traveled very far to come see the prophet, and Elisha didn’t even bother to receive him personally. Secondly, Naaman was probably very familiar with ritual washings and expected any purification rite to utilize the purest form of water, not a muddy, filthy river in the midst of a second-rate nation. Naaman had obviously expected some type of hocus pocus magic by the prophet to heal him rather than a call to humility before the Lord.
How often do we Christians expect God to work in very specific ways? Do you shake your fist at the heavens when God asks you to wait on his timing or to respond with grace and compassion instead of condemnation? Sometimes we need to be reminded who is in control, so we can voluntarily submit ourselves to God to receive all the blessings he wants to bestow.
Naaman’s servants begged him to reconsider the prophet’s instructions. Using logic, they reminded him of his character: he never backed down and never gave up. Acknowledging the truth of their words, Naaman humbled himself and did as Elisha instructed. His flesh was restored and his body was renewed. Returning to the prophet’s house, Naaman professed belief that his healing came from the God of Israel, a testimony he would share for the rest of his days.
How do you connect to this story? Is God challenging you to change your view on something or humble yourself in an area of your life? If so, allow the Holy Spirit to soften your heart so you, too, can receive healing.