Falling in Fear and Thankfulness (My Redeemer Lives 2:4)

Today we get to enter the weird vortex of Scripture that is Elijah and Elisha. Two guys, different stories, freakishly similar.

Elijah came first. We read about him raising a widow’s son yesterday from 1 Kings 17. Today we will hear the story of Elisha…raising a different woman’s son in 2 Kings 4. Find the backstory in 2 Kings 4:8-17 — Elisha stays with a couple, and he promises they will have a baby boy in the coming year. They never asked for a child. It was a gift from God to this couple, proclaimed through the prophet. 2 Kings 4:18-37 brings us to the rest of the story. It’s pretty lengthy, but has some great dialogue. It’s as action packed as any Netflix drama:

The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers.19 He said to his father, “My head! My head!”

His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out.

22 She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.”

23 “Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.”

“That’s all right,” she said.

24 She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Lead on; don’t slow down for me unless I tell you.” 25 So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, “Look! There’s the Shunammite! 26 Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’”

“Everything is all right,” she said.

27 When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.”

28 “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”

29 Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.”

30 But the child’s mother said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So he got up and followed her.

31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy’s face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, “The boy has not awakened.”

32 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch.33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” 37 She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.

In verses 18-26 we see a woman trying to hold it together. She takes great pains to use language that says, “I’m fine.” Only her version of I’m fine is “All is well” in verses 23 and 26 (ESV) or “Everything is all right” in the NIV translation.

When have you ever felt like you just needed to hold it together? What situations and people in your life don’t quite feel safe enough to spill all the drama of life to? Just like this woman, we have places where we need to put boundaries, people we can’t spill it all to. We can relate.

Then, she gets to Elisha in verse 27. She falls at his feet. Elisha’s servant tries to push her away, but Elisha recognizes her distress.

Loss brings with it the kind of fear that sucks your breath in and you just want to fall down; you can try to hold it all together, but when we are grieving we need those safe people we can grab on to their feet and they won’t push us away.

The world is a scary place. The world is much scarier without the people we love in it. It’s even scarier without Jesus, without a Savior, without a Resurrected God.

When you have found yourself grieving, who are your safe people? Who can you grab hold of their feet and let the tears fall?

Not grieving? Now is the time to build your tribe, to invest in relationships with people who don’t push away at the hard things, but have their feet planted firmly in the Lord and His Love, and are ready to bear the burden with you, as you will with them.

Elisha responds right away and sends His servant to heal the child. He has faith and hope in a God who does resurrection miracles. He believes God can simply use his staff to do it, but for whatever reason, God sends the man himself. Maybe for this woman’s benefit, maybe so she can have the comfort of his person bringing the Spirit of the Living God into her home once again.

And the boy is healed. He is risen. His resurrection points to the Savior who will bring the power of the resurrection to all His people and the Living Spirit into all our homes through Baptism and the Word of Life — all yet to come.

Elisha and this woman have another moment. Read 2 Kings 4:37 one more time –

She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground. Then she picked up her son and went out.

Relationships don’t just consist of falling at feet in grief, but in thankfulness and joy as well. How often is thankfulness related to all that we fear –

Will we have enough money?

Will someone get hurt?

Will people break our hearts?

We fall at the feet of our Lord each day and say,

Thank you!

We pick up our bounty of strength and mercy and we move along in the journey.

Who are your people that you share “Thank you-s” with? Who sing praises to God with you? Who fall at His feet with you, wondering at all He has done?

Fears, friendship, and thankfulness — God brings all of it together in His plans and His time. All we can do is fall at His feet time and again as we witness His Resurrection in our days.

Making Sense of All the Calamity (My Redeemer Lives 2:3)

Fear and failure never rear their ugly heads stronger than when the acid rain of life comes.

The “Why me-s?!” of life easily turn into “If I would have…” when we begin to feel pelted with life at its junkiest  — loss, humiliation, disappointment in humanity, the uphill climb. To avoid our fears, in a vague attempt to make sense of all the calamity of life in our own lives and around us, things like blame, bitterness, broken relationships, and isolation become realities that weigh heavy in our chests.

There is the story of a woman in 1 Kings 17:17-24 who couldn’t make sense of calamity. She lashed out. But God provided an answer…a resurrection kind of answer.

Read 1 Kings 17:17-24 –

17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” 19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. 20 And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22 And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

Don’t miss verse 18 and verse 20. Both the woman and Elijah end up with questions for God:

“What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”

And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?”

We always jump to look for sin when calamity comes – Who messed up? Was it me? Was it my spouse? Was it my friend?

This woman had a close connection to Elijah. In the very same chapter of 1 Kings in verses 8-16, immediately preceding the previous reading, the woman experiences an honest-to-goodness miracle through Elijah, acknowledging the might and power of the One True God  — food for many days, unspent oil, provision.

What was the problem then? What happened? Why this meeting of fear and faith in verses 18?

Asking questions during times we don’t understand is always a good start; let’s give the woman that. Fear and all the feelings of failure  — our own or that of others  — spoken is a lot less powerful in our lives. Questions are not the problem.

Matthew Henry puts it like this –

“Our mountain never stands so strong but it may be moved…”

The miracle, the provision is an important act of God. However, when we place our faith in the mountain, in only the tangible acts of God  — provision, stability, prophets and preachers, breath and life we can see in front of us  — we will be disappointed in what God offers time and again.

We end up looking at God and saying, “What the heck?! What is this? Which sin are You punishing me for?” We see ourselves as big enough to escape the destiny of a broken world, but then the mountain is moved and crushes our hope.

Instead, God offers us more in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus –

Hope that cannot be seen.

Romans 8:23-25:

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We are all imperfect in our response to God, even Elijah. But God does not demand a perfect response. He answers Elijah and the widow with a promise, a foreshadowing –

3 times Elijah lays on the boy

3 days of death Jesus sat in a dark cavern

And then Life.

This story of Old Testament resurrection reminds us that our confidence is in things not seen, mountains of stability in the storm like the peace that passes all understanding, joy constant, and eternal Life today.

Our questions, our fears are met with answers in the Word of God, and in calamity we see Life because of the Resurrection.

Look for the Life. Think of a recent struggle of your own, or a report you have heard on the news. Where is God working Life? What promises of God remain despite it all? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

This is our resurrection God, making sense of calamity, bringing Life.

Bright Green is the Color of Hope – The Gift of Life in Infant Loss

Genevieve and I met on a non-discript day in September, I imagine. Genevieve and I bonded sharing a tiny little office off the chapel of Concordia University in Chicago, Illinois.

Young and fresh and full of theological ideologies just waiting to be hammer out, we spent a fair number of hours gabbing about which classes were our favorites, bad boyfriend breakups, and philosophical dissertations on the lectionary selection of the week.

We grew up. We met handsome men, who were chasing after the Lord and could keep up with our theological rants and so we married them. We grew out. We each moved. We lost touch a little. Then Facebook worked its magic on the world and we vowed not to lose touch again.

We liked each other’s feeds. We commented on recipes we thought we would each like. We rejoiced together as babies were born and ministry happened and life did its thing. Then my world fell apart, and Genevieve was there.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be my turn, 3 years later, to hold Genevieve when her world fell apart. February 7th we should have welcomed Sebastian Alexander Sigmund Wagner to the world.

If the world were perfect, if Adam and Eve would have kept their grubby hands off that apple, we would have. Instead, we welcomed this precious little boy into his eternal rest in the arms of His Savior.

I created the Written in Iron Ink series of the podcast to reflect the testimonies of all the brave and courageous people I know going forth in this life and letting God write His testimony across their lives, their struggles, their joys, their losses, and their triumphs. When we go through stuff we want to know that it isn’t for naught, that God is at work, that ministry is being done, and that through it He ministers to us, and He ministers to His people.

I was blessed to sit with Genevieve and Rev. Geoffrey Wagner last month and talk about God’s work in and through the life of their stillborn son.

God has written a message on Sebastian’s tiny little life and the Wagner’s are the first to tell you that His message is Hope.

Our hands are grubby too. Adam and Eve aren’t the only ones to deal with the consequences of sin. From that day on our whole world struggles against the darkness of a world groaning for Christ to heal it. Death is our reality, and sometimes death that comes far too soon. The Wagner’s, in this podcast, help us to clarify God’s grace for the unborn, God’s work in every single life He creates, and the testimony that our Savior works for ministry to and among one another in times of grief.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Every pastor needs a pastor. Every pastor’s family needs a pastor.

Grief is an individual process and requires a judgement free zone. Spouses grieve differently from one another. Children need to grieve. Others who offer support and grieve alongside are a gift.

The promise of the Gospel is heard in the womb. We cling to the promises and the grace of God, the Word of God, rather than our own abilities and doubts. God works His testimony and ministry happens through the tiniest of lives.

I Love My Shepherd- Episode 16

Written in Iron Ink – Infant Loss

Resources for infant loss:

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep- Infant loss photography

Molly’s Bears – more than just a teddy bear

Grieving the Child I Never Knew: A Devotional for Comfort in the Loss of Your Unborn or Newly Born Child

Share – A National Organization for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support

Star Legacy Foundation: Stillbirth Education, Research, and Awareness

At the Death of a Child – booklet on infant loss and baptism

I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy (book)