My friend, Mitch, lived up the hill and around the corner. I was just a little kid, but I remember the overwhelming grief that washed over our neighborhood the day Mitch’s younger sister fell off their backyard swing. Dead.
Overwhelming grief. That must have been what the Shunammite momma felt the day her little boy died. The story is recorded in Second Kings, chapter four.
Elisha, the great prophet, regularly traveled through Shunem, a small village on the edge of the Valley of Jezreel, and often stopped to enjoy the hospitality of an aging and childless Shunammite couple. The couple had remodeled their home, adding an upstairs room complete with “a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp” (2 Kings 4:10), welcoming accommodations for a weary traveler.
On one such visit Elisha asked, “Look, you’ve gone to all this trouble for us. What can we do for you?” (2 Kings 4:13). The Shunammites had but one longing, one desire, one request. They were childless. They desperately yearned for a child.
The Bible doesn’t record Elisha’s prayer. I can imagine that his prayer mirrored the prayer of Elijah when he was on Mount Carmel. “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that you are God in Israel and I am your servant… Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God” (1 Kings 18:36–37).
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16, KJV), so it shouldn’t be too surprising that “the woman conceived and gave birth to a son at the same time the following year” (2 Kings 4:17). Hallelujah! Our God is an awesome God!
A few years later, the lively and curious young lad went out into the fields to visit his daddy. While he was goofing around, playing in the dirt, doing what a kid does, he suddenly cried out, “My head! My head!” (2 Kings 4:19). They immediately carried the boy back to the house. Cradled in his momma’s arms, the boy died.
With overwhelming grief, the Shunammite carried the lifeless boy up the stairs to Elisha’s home-away-from-home and laid him on the bed.
That baby had been a gracious gift from God, and the Shunammite momma believed that God’s miraculous powers could revive the dead child, so she did what seemed right. She went to Elisha for help. Racing her donkey as fast as possible, she arrived at Elisha’s home at the base of Mount Carmel to plead her case.
“When Elisha got to the (Shunammite’s) house, he discovered the boy lying dead on his bed. So he went in, closed the door… and prayed to the Lord. Then he went up and lay on the boy: he put mouth to mouth, eye to eye, hand to hand. While he bent down over him, the boy’s flesh became warm. Elisha got up, went into the house, and paced back and forth. Then he went up and bent down over him again. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes” (2 Kings 4:32–35).
Overwhelming grief turned to unfathomable joy! Hallelujah! Our God is an awesome God … and His grace is amazing!