If you're not familiar with Elisha, let me give you a little recap. He was a prophet in the Old Testament books of 1 & 2 Kings. He was a farmer plowing a field when God told the prophet Elijah to go find him so he could continue Elijah's work once Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. (2 Kings 2:1)
Elisha left his field, kissed his mama goodbye (what a good son!) and went off with Elijah, just like that. For years and years afterward he was God's faithful, obedient servant.
In 2 Kings 4:1-7 he helps a widow save her sons from her dead husband's creditors. When she tells Elisha she has nothing in her house of value except a tiny bit of oil, he says 'send your sons to collect empty jars from everyone you know.' They do and from the tiny bit of oil, all the jars are filled. "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts."
In 2 Kings 4:32-37 Elisha brings a dead boy back to life by laying down on the cold body. As he lay there, the body grew warm. After Elisha stretched out over the boy a second time, the kid sneezed seven times and was restored to his family.
Elisha is the guy that saw the chariots of fire in 2 Kings 6:17. The city where he was staying was about to be attacked by a king who was angry with him, and his servant was in a panic. "Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them" he says in verse 16. The servant looked out and saw the hills "full of horses and chariots of fire." Don't you love that?
There's no doubt about it. Elisha was a man of God. No harm should have ever come to him, right? I mean, he's out there doing God's work! Like Elijah, Elisha deserved to be whisked away to heaven in a whirlwind. Right?
2 Kings 13:14 says, "Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died."
Suffering?? Illness??? How can that be? Elisha was God's man in Israel! How could God allow His faithful servant to have an illness so terrible that he suffered from it? An illness so terrible that it killed him? Didn't God love Elisha? Did Elisha have some secret sin he was being punished for?
HOW COULD GOD ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN?!
I think the answer to that question is the same answer to other questions we've all asked:
How could God allow His own precious Son to suffer a horrific death on a cross?
How could God allow the disciples to suffer persecution, imprisonment, and painful deaths?
How can God let little babies die?
How can God let bombs and bullets kill innocent people?
How can God....?????
The answer is simple yet-oh-so complicated: Because God's ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9) He has a plan in place that we can't see or know. (Jeremiah 29:11) Nothing comes as a surprise to God. Not Elisha's illness. Not Elisha's death. Not your suffering. Not mine.
"Elisha died and was buried." 2 Kings 13:20
Bad things happen in this world. Jesus--who was arrested, brutalized and murdered--said they would. (John 16:33) Rain falls on the just and the unjust, he said in Matthew 5:45. Suffering, illness and death do too. I doubt Elisha thought his life would be trouble-free when he set off with Elijah, but that didn't stop him. And it can't stop us. Why?
Because the reward for the faithful in the end is too great. Because God promises no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering, no more death. (Revelation 21:4) Even on his deathbed Elisha was still serving God. He helps the king of Israel win a battle against an enemy. (verses 14-20) He didn't give into his illness and suffering.
If you're going through a difficult time, take heart. God is on His throne Nothing can change that! He will never leave you or forsake you. Trust Him with everything you have.
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This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Philippines, United Kingdom, South Korea