She persisted

Now is the time for great faith.

If you’re a Christian, as I am, you’ve likely been asking God to intervene in the affairs of our nation to restore righteousness and reason, as I have been. You see evil being called good, injustice promoted as equity, lies propagated as truth, and you’ve been pleading with him to turn the tables on the unrighteous, expose the lies, and make America sane and good again. But bad goes to worse and the bad become badder, and God seems to be deaf to your pleas.

Take a cue from a woman of great faith. Not me. This woman:

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Matthew 15:21-28

This is one of my favorite accounts from the Gospels, even though it appears to show Jesus being callous and rude. I like it because this unnamed woman is the kind of Christ-follower I want to be. Here’s what I am learning to emulate from her example.

  1. She persisted. She would not be deterred by Jesus’s initial rebuff because she believed him to be merciful and compassionate, and she knew he was her only hope.
  2. She drew nearer to Christ when he didn’t answer her. She came close and knelt at his feet and made her plea again, and her case.
  3. She was humble. She was willing to put herself in the place of a dog grateful for crumbs, and as undeserving of anything more.
  4. She was wise. She took Jesus’s metaphor and turned it to her advantage. She didn’t disown the implications nor take offense. Instead, she took it and ran with it, demonstrating keen understanding and incisive discernment.
  5. She had unshakeable faith. She didn’t turn away in despair or disgust when Jesus at first didn’t even acknowledge her presence. Somehow, as a Gentile, she had come to know that he was the Messiah, the “Son of David,” and was able with a word to free her daughter from the demon. And she knew that his seeming disregard for her daughter’s and her suffering was not characteristic of him, but that he was compassionate and loving.

I believe Jesus responded to this wise woman of faith the way he did so that she would be an example for us. It’s important that we learn to be persistent in prayer, and confident in who we know God to be so that we trust in him even when he seems distant and unresponsive.

I don’t believe he was calling her a dog nor that he was snubbing her because she was not a Jew. There are other accounts in the Gospels of him healing Gentiles and when the crowds came to him for healing, as they did in the passage immediately following this one, he certainly wasn’t checking IDs before healing them. He healed all who came to him.

He discerned her great faith as soon as she approached him and gave her an opportunity to display it, for her benefit as well as ours. Seeing how he commended her and gave her what she asked when she persisted in faith, even though at first he seemed to ignore her, should inspire and encourage us to hang on to what we know to be true about God and wait with confident hope for him to act in response to our prayers for our country.

God is greatly honored and exalted when his children know him well enough to trust that he hears them and will act when the time is right. And when we honor and exalt him, his actions are more likely to be just what we asked for.

God is at work in these tenuously United States. Let’s trust in him with great faith, and he will commend us, and bring forth righteousness as the light.

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

Psalm 37:1-6