Edward J. Grant
Naaman, a trusted general in the Syrian army during the days of Elisha, was a brave, well decorated soldier. The king trusted his judgment implicitly as he basked in the glow of a decisive victory over his arch enemy: Israel – God’s renegade people.
However, any biography about Naaman would inevitably conclude with one sad note: ‘but Naaman had leprosy.’ Leprosy – that hideous, debilitating, skin disease inspired fear and was viewed by many as a punishment from God. He could never fully enjoy his long list of accomplishments so long as that ‘but’ remained a part of his biography.
Through the testimony of an Israelite slave girl Naaman heard about a prophet in Israel who was purported to have the power to heal his affliction. With the permission of his king and laden with extravagant gifts for the prophet Elisha, Naaman and his retinue made the trip to Israel.
When he finally reached the prophet’s house he was filled with hope and expectation. Both were quickly dashed when the meeting didn’t go the way he expected.
In the sight of his entourage Naaman masked his nervousness as he walked up to the prophet’s door and knocked. A servant answered and announced Naaman’s arrival. Naaman wondered what this miracle working prophet looked like and was visibly upset when Elisha had the audacity to send the servant back to deliver a brief message to the decorated general: ‘go, bathe yourself seven times in the Jordan and you will be healed.’ With that the servant went back into the house and closed the door.
Was that it? His hopes of healing depended on his bathing seven times in the Jordan? Naaman shook with rage: ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord His God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Arbana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’ Naaman had traveled so far filled with hope and was within seven baths of a new life sans leprosy: would he simply walk away from it?
Naaman faced two difficulties that threatened to abort his healing: his expectations and his faulty reasoning. ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me” God had a different plan for Naaman, one that involved lessons the general needed to learn that were of equal or even greater importance than his desire for healing. He who was accustomed to giving orders needed to learn to take them from the one true God! Notice also how his faulty reasoning almost sabotaged his healing: ‘Are not Arabana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel?’ If all he had to do was take a bath, why couldn’t he have stayed at home?
Those whose lives have been trashed by addictions usually find themselves at the bottom of a huge pile of emotional rubble. Out of desperation they are willing to try almost anything that holds the promise of help. They make deals with God, promises to loved ones – if any are still speaking to them – and are even willing to attend a recovery group. I’ve seen many of them come through the doors of our church to attend Celebrate Recovery, a Christian recovery ministry used by congregations around the country. Perhaps for the first time in their lives they profess a need for God and willingly admit that their lives are unmanageable. Over the weeks that follow they remain sober, they engage in heart felt discussions with fellow pilgrims, and a flicker of hope becomes visible in their attitude.
But then they are faced with the demands of the third principle: ‘Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.’ Suddenly they flinch: ‘Can God be trusted to control my life? Why can’t I keep some of it for my direction and allow God to just handle my addiction?’ As I like to say to these queries: ‘Your best thinking got you into the trouble you find yourself in.’
Perhaps they get beyond the third principle but get hung up by the fourth : ‘Openly examine and confess my faults to God, to myself, and to someone I trust.’ The thought of telling your faults to another person can be terrifying! Why not simply let it remain between you and God?
Remember – God’s healing will always take us out of our comfort zones, forcing us into the realm of faith and obedience. It is there that we meet God and experience His healing on various levels, many of which we weren’t aware we needed!
By the way – Naaman’s story has a happy ending. His servants pleaded with him saying, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, than, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!” Naaman heeded his servant’s urgent pleadings, bathed seven times in the Jordan, and was completely healed. When you’ve come to the end of your ideas, resources and hope, don’t be surprised that God’s path toward healing is one you never expected!
Need some help in the battle for purity? See Every Man’s Battle.