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Battling Bitterness


Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” – 2 Kings 5:2–3

Suffering in and of itself does not lead a person into a deeper relationship with God. As with those who hear the word of God yet do not respond to it with faith, suffering divorced from faith and hope will actually embitter us as our hearts grow harder rather than softer toward God. In other words, suffering will either make us run to God or away from Him. In the midst of trials, we must ask ourselves, “Is this trial making me bitter and callous, or is it making me loving and gentle?”

In the midst of the book of 2 Kings, among the stories of monarchs and prophets, we find an extraordinary picture of gentleness and humility in the face of great heartache through the example of a little Israelite girl. The Syrians had captured this young girl during a raid; they had carried her away from her family and from Israel and had forced her to work in the service of Naaman, a commander in the Syrian army. What an unfathomable tragedy for a young child and her family!

Yet in the midst of her great suffering, we catch a glimpse of her tender heart: upon learning that her master suffered from leprosy, this child told Naaman’s wife how he could be healed. If she had allowed herself to become embittered, then, when the word went around the house that her master was sick, she might have concluded, Well, it’s nothing more than what he deserves. But she didn’t. She wanted the best for her enemy, rather than hoping for the worst. This is remarkable. How could she do this? Because presumably, in the face of her emptiness and the sadness of being separated from her family, she had turned time and time again to her loving God and His promises.

As we journey through our own suffering, and as we seek to minister to those who are in deep affliction, we must not forget to cultivate a tender and open heart. Will it be easy? By no means! But God’s faithfulness is so vast, so comprehensive, that it is able to sustain us, even in our deepest pain. So turn to God in every circumstance and take comfort in His faithfulness and provision. When you do, then you “may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

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