Doing a series like this helps me dive into stories in the Bible that I have read before but haven’t always taken the time to really understand. Today’s story is one that I’ve read many times before but had been confused by because of Jesus’s seemingly out of character response. We are used to reading stories of Jesus’s love and kindness toward people who cried out for mercy. We are used to compassion and grace, and yet, in this story, he doesn’t seem to offer the reaction we’ve grown accustomed to.
“A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.” Matthew 15:22-28 (NIV)
This woman was a Gentile, and yet, she knew who Jesus was and sought his help and healing for her daughter. She didn’t just ask Jesus to heal her daughter once and call it a day, she was persistent in her requests.
I will rarely ask for something more than once or twice. If I have a request, I have no problem asking the first time but, if what I’m asking for or desire doesn’t happen in a timely manner, I will often give up asking or try and solve the problem for myself. If I’m bringing a request to the Lord, I struggle to pray for it for any extended period of time. Often, I’ll have the faith to pray for it for a little while, a few days or a few weeks, but I will get to a point where I just give up praying for that thing, thinking it to be a lost cause.
The faithful Canaanite woman was persistent in her faith in the face of obstacles and rejection.
While reading through these verses and praying about what to write about this precious woman, I was reminded of some verses in James that I have often found both challenging and comforting.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 (NIV)
Everything in this story points to the fact that this woman’s faith had been tested. Her faith had been in the fiery furnace of circumstance and she had come out of it with strengthened faith and a perseverance that is to be admired.
This woman reminds me that I can persevere in my faith even when circumstances appear to be dire. I can continue to persist even when others reject me or try to point me away. The faithful Canaanite woman’s response to Jesus reminds me that there’s a way to be persistent while still honoring. Perseverance doesn’t mean being pushy and reverence doesn’t mean sitting idly.
Our faith is tested differently depending on the season of life we are in but I’m grateful that we have reminders like this woman.
There will always be people who don’t understand how we live, who will try to dissuade us from pursuing the Lord, but we don’t have to listen to them. We don’t have to give in to the voices of doubt that undoubtedly sneak up on us, telling us that it’s not worth persevering. Instead, we can stand strong in our faith, knowing who God is and who we are. We can diligently pursue him even when things might not look how we want them to.
How do you react to obstacles in life?
How has your faith been tested and perseverance developed in your life?