Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. 2 Kings 5:1
There are few things in life that will bring about loneliness of the heart more than a chronic illness. If you suffer from chronic illness then you know how hard it is when others do not seem to understand what it is like. Living day in and day out with the pain or difficulties brought on by this illness affects every aspect of life. Yet, those who live with these illnesses are often expected to carry on with life as usual. At times this can be done, and other times that is impossible.
Naaman lived with leprosy. This caused sores on his skin that were painful and very contagious. So although our verse for today mentions how valiant and great he was in battle, he is also defined by his illness. He can not seem to escape this label. Often times those of us that live with chronic illness are not actually seen for who we are and what we do, but what our ailment is. This can be so discouraging and cause deep depression or loneliness.
As we read on we see that Naaman does go on to Israel to attempt to be cured, but before we move on to that be sure not to look past the fact that verse 1 ends with his illness. See that he was ill and still did great things. If you try and ask the Lord for help, He will allow you to do those things that are within your ability no matter what your illness is. This may not include being a great warrior, but He can still use you even if you are bedridden. As long as you draw breath on this earth, you have purpose for the Lord. Do not miss that.
Now, moving on in the story. Naaman goes to the King of Israel with a letter from his own Syrian king. He is asking for healing and before a fight ensues, Elisha steps in and calms everyone down. He sends Naaman on his way to wash in the Jordan river to be healed. Naaman is furious. Imagine this warrior being told to wash in a dirty river to be cleaned!
Naaman wasn’t ready to admit Elisha’s God as his own. Verse 11 says, “But Naaman was furious 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 wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.” He had his own ideas about how God would heal him, and Elisha's instructions to wash in the dirty Jordan caused him to doubt in Elisha's God. After some convincing he did go and wash and he was healed.
Naaman had allowed the smallest bit of hope in when he went to Israel but once he was given his instructions he was let down. Do you think he had depended on himself for so long, rising to his place and being great even as a leper, that when the healing didn’t go the way he thought, he was ready to go right back to what had worked? Depending on himself? It is possible. Those who have chronic illness and still work hard to push pass their symptoms often rely on themselves heavily after years of doing this.
Two things can be learned from Naaman’s story. First, we are able to do what God has called us to do even if we feel like physically or mentally we can not do it. If he wants you to do it, then God will give you whatever you need to accomplish it. Second, if you have depended on yourself for many years then know that you can allow God to take control and do what needs to be done in your life. This may not always mean healing, but trust in God’s plan for your life.
Meditate: Take some time to remember times in your life that God healed your body of illness. Think of times he did not heal you immediately. Thank God for those experiences in life and show him gratitude for the parts of your body that are healthy.
1. If you struggle with a chronic illness take some time to write down the things that work well in your body, the parts that are not as affected by the illness you carry. Then, spend time daily praising God for this.
2. If you don’t have a chronic illness you can do this as well. There are parts of your body that work well for you, your eyes, legs, hands and mind are a few to mention. Give thanks to God when you get discouraged about something you think you can not do because you aren’t strong enough or tall enough or whatever it is. Just shift that complaint about yourself into a praise.