Lessons from the Shunammite woman is one of my favorite Old Testament stories that is Interesting, we have more biographical information about her than any other woman in Scripture. We only know her, though, by the name of the town where she lived: Shunem. You may remember the Shunammite woman as the one who offered a room in her home to the prophet Elisha. Her story, found in 2 Kings 4 and 8, is a beautiful example of the Christ-like character qualities we can all cultivate.
1. Share generously.
I Kings 4: 8 says: “One day Elisha went to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food.”
A while after the pattern of providing meals for Elisha has been established, she asks her husband if she can do something more: “Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way. Let us make a small room on the roof with walls and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us he can go in there.”
The Shunammite woman was not stingy with her God-given wealth. She didn’t stop at an occasional meal, but generously provided a room for Elisha. And not just any old room, but one created specifically for him with comfortable furnishings. I suppose “going above and beyond” could be the definition of generosity when it comes to the giving of your resources. The Shunammite woman did just that, and I want to do the same.
2. Seek to serve even in suffering.
When Elisha wanted to return the favor of her hospitality, he promised her a child. Through her response “No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your servant.” (v.16) we come to understand that she had been childless and still longed for motherhood while bearing the pain of her infertility.
The fact that Elisha was unaware of her barrenness, revealed that her personal suffering had not stifled her willingness to serve others. In her personal pain, she resisted turning inward, focusing only on herself. Instead she turned outward and toward others in sacrificial service.
The Shunammite woman has taught me that I can either be a victim or a servant in the midst of my own suffering. I certainly don’t want to deny that there are some victims of suffering who are unable to serve others at times, but I do want her selflessness to be true of me even in times of pain.
3. Cultivate gratitude to God first and foremost.
In an astounding turn of events, the Shunammite woman gave birth to a child as promised, but, several years later, he died. With great distress, she went straight to Elisha for help, not even mentioning it to her husband. Elisha came and eventually revived the child.
Holy spirit prayers for miracles
The Shunammite’s first response? “She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground.” Her second response? “Then she picked up her son and went out.” (v. 37) Gratitude to God (via the man of God) came first. Then, and only then, she picked up her only child who had been dead just moments before.
I don’t know about you, but I think my first reactions would have been exactly the opposite. I may have even neglected to thank Elisha (and therefore God) at all, but I’m learning from her to forsake entitlement and cultivate a heart of gratitude to the giver of all things.
As an Old Testament woman, the Shunammite woman did not have the example of Jesus nor the Holy Spirit, but she walked by faith in the one true God, and was transformed into His likeness. How much more possible for us to imitate Christ when we have His grace to compel us and His very Spirit indwelling us?