A Penny for Your Thoughts

A Penny for Your ThoughtsDanaRongione.com.jpg

I glean devotion ideas from many different places.  Some days, God impresses a topic on me from my quiet time with Him or some everyday event I witness.  Other times, the thoughts seem to come to me out of nowhere.  And, I must confess, I sometimes "borrow" ideas from preachers, speakers, fellow authors, etc.  Today's devotion is one of the borrowed kind.

Our story begins with a man named Naaman.  His entire life and character can be summed up in the first verse of II Kings 5.

Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.
— II Kings 5:1

Captain of the host.  Great man.  Honorable.  A deliverer.  A mighty man of valor.  A leper.  He sounded pretty good until that last label, huh?  But the fact is, though Naaman was a great and mighty man, he had an even greater problem.  His body was wracked with leprosy, and there wasn't a thing he could do about it.  Leprosy had no cure.

To save time, I'll walk you through the next little bit of his story.  An Israelite maid in Naaman's household spoke up and said she knew of a prophet in Israel who could undoubtedly heal her master.  When Naaman heard the news, he contacted the king of Syria, who wrote a letter to the king of Israel and asked that he heal Naaman.

The king of Israel was confused and a bit irate about this letter.  He had no power to heal someone, but if he refused, would it be considered an act of war?  Distraught, he rent his clothes and threw a tantrum.  Somehow, the prophet Elisha (the one of whom the little maid spoke) heard what was going on and sent a message to the king of Israel saying, "Don't be upset.  Just send the fellow this way, and then all will know that there is a God in Israel."  So, the king sent Naaman to visit Elijah.

When he arrived at the prophet's door, he knocked and was greeted by Elisha's servant who said, "My master told me to tell you that if you go dip yourself in the Jordan River seven times, you'll be healed of your leprosy."  Naaman's response?

But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
— II Kings 5:11-12

Naaman was a mighty and honorable man.  The problem was, he knew it.  He thought much of himself, and we can see that by his response.  As important as he was, Elisha had the nerve to send a mere servant out to him?  Seriously?  This was not the treatment Naaman was expecting.  Notice his first words, "Behold, I thought. . ."  Yep, he thought he deserved better.  He thought he would at least get to speak to the prophet.  He thought Elisha would have some ceremony or pomp and circumstance to heal the leprosy.  He thought things would go differently.  And when things didn't go the way he thought, he flew into a rage.

Does anyone else have sore toes right about now?  I hate to tell you, but Naaman's reaction sounds all too familiar to me.  How many times have I thought I knew the best way?  How many times have I thought my plans would work out the way I wanted?  And how many times did I pitch a fit when things didn't turn out the way I thought they would?

Why do we do that?  I think it's the same reason Naaman did:  pride.  We have this warped notion that we know best and deserve better.  Sure, we could wait on God's timing and let Him have His way, but what if He takes too long or doesn't work things out the way we want or asks us to do something we don't want to do?  In our doubt and confusion, like Naaman, we figure it would be better to take matters into our own hands.

But here's the thing.  Naaman didn't have a clue what to do.  The situation was out of his hands and out of his control.  His best chance of survival was to listen to the one who could do something about the problem.  But instead, he bawled up his fists and cried, "But that's not the way I want it to happen."

When I read of Naaman's harsh reaction, I can't help but think, Dude, what have you got to lose?  If he did what Elisha said and it didn't work, would he have been any worse off?  I doubt his leprosy would have worsened.  He had nothing to lose, but his pride.

I have to ask myself the same thing.  What do I have to lose?  If I trust the One who has all the answers and follow His instructions, what do I have to lose?  It's not like things are going to get worse.  But my pride gets in the way and says, "But this way would be better or quicker or easier."  It's time I told my pride, "Just sit down and shut up.  God's way is always best.  He's proven that time and time again."

I titled this devotion, "A Penny for Your Thoughts," but the truth is, sometimes our thoughts aren't even worth a penny.  We need to be very careful with our thoughts and expectations about how life should be and how God should work.  We don't know all the facts.  We don't see the entire picture.  Wouldn't we be better off trusting in the One who does?  It doesn't matter what we think.  It only matters what God knows.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
— Isaiah 55:8