In this life, we face hardships that can weaken our faith. In those times, it seems that our prayers are unanswered and do not seem to go beyond the roof. It feels like despite of our fervent prayer, everything is getting worse rather than being better. Defeat is staring us right on the face.
When we are confronted with insurmountable problems, what should be our attitude? How should we respond to the fiery darts of the devil? And more importantly, do we have the faith to trust God with all our hearts that His purpose will be fulfilled in our lives?
While many disheartening situations can send us face down on the ground during our Christian walk, we can always go to the Scripture and let God talk to us. In this article, I want to invite you to revisit the story of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus for the healing of her daughter. Let us examine Matthew 15:21-28 and see what should be our attitude when we are confronted with spiritual storms in our lives.
Beginning of the story
The story started after Jesus had a confrontation with the Pharisees. He went to the region of Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 15:21) and there a woman from Canaanite presented her request. She said, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed” (Matt. 15:22). Here we can find the woman presenting her request to Jesus and asking Him not for her own good but for her beloved daughter. She took the problem of her daughter as her own and now presenting herself before the Creator and Master of the universe. How often do we find ourselves being in the same situation with the woman? We present our petition to God through our prayers and earnestly wait for the answer.
An unexpected response
When we look at the request of the woman, one cannot argue that her request is benevolent and for the good of her daughter. There is no doubt that Jesus will surely answer her request immediately, right? But what was the response of Jesus Christ? “He answered her not a word”. This can be the most shattering response that the Canaanite woman did not expect from our Savior. She approached Jesus with all the hopes and faith that Jesus will respond to her problem in the most favorable way, especially her request is not selfish. To add to the dilemma, Christ’s disciples “came and urged Him, saying, ‘send her away, for she cries after us’” (Matt. 15:23). But Jesus knows EXACTLY what He was doing. He want to try the faith of the Canaanite woman that the “genuineness of [her] faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:7). In effect, Jesus also wants to teach His disciples a very vital lesson that they should learn from this incident.
When the disciples urge Christ to send her away, Jesus said to the woman, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. This is another statement that could have broken the woman’s faith in pieces. The woman, at this point should have stopped and turn away from Jesus Christ. She could have plagued herself with hundred of questions of doubt.
Is this the Christ whom everyone was talking about?
The Christ who healed many people?
The same Christ who had compassion to the poor and have mercy on the whole world?
The Christ who can bring a person back to life? Why not heal my suffering daughter?
Why stop healing now?
Is my request too hard or too small for Him to answer?
Hope and despair
Surely, the woman should have left in despair and disappointment. But we can read her reply, “Lord, help me!” By reading this statement, I can feel how badly the woman needed the healing. She is really fervent in her prayer. She “came and worshiped Him” is a reinforcement of her faith to Jesus Christ. Just in case her first statement to Jesus does not suffice or maybe she asked amiss, she repeated her request with more zeal, urgency, and fervency. This is reminiscent of the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 which tells us God will avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them.
But Jesus, who searches the heart and test the mind, still has one final statement to further test the Canaanite woman’s faith. This statement could have left her devastated and ripped her off of all remaining faith she has.
Jesus said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs”. At the surface, it may seem that Jesus is insulting the woman but nothing is further than the truth. What Jesus is saying here is, will the woman be prepared to ask help from a Jew, a race that had disgusted them throughout the century and regarded them as dog? In addition to this, in essence, the Canaanite woman is not of the Jew which means that she “cannot eat of the family’s table”.
From faith comes humility
In most cases, those people who want to follow Jesus need to be humbled first. Instead of resenting the Statement of Jesus, instead of actually being aroused in anger, the Canaanite woman did not retaliate and tried to argue with Jesus. After Christ’s statement, she could have said, “I am not a dog! I am a woman who has a child who needs help. If you are going to demean my personality, then you really are not a man of good reputation. I do not need your help anymore.” But NO, thanks to her undying and unshakable faith, she was able to answer, “Truth, Lord” (KJV version). She does not want to argue but she accepts this statement. Her answer is a sign of her humility. She continues, “… yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” It is true that the Jews rejected the Bread of Life in their own land and disregard the importance of the Bread which was given to them. The Jews let the bread fall down from their table and here is a gentile who is ready to receive the Bread of Life. She is so humble that she recognize her state of being nothing and do not deserve anything that even a small crumb of bread will she receive with all gladness! There is no doubt in her mind that Jesus is able and more than willing to save her suffering daughter from Satan’s minion.
O woman, great is your faith!
As a result of the perseverance of the woman’s faith, she was personally commended by none other than our Master and Supreme Creator Jesus Christ. “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” How good and pleasant can it be if those same words are told to us? We too want to hear Jesus’ words when we finally stand before His judgment seat and He will tell us, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:23).
The daughter of the Canaanite woman was immediately “healed from that very hour”. Jesus does not need to go near her daughter to be healed. This is the SWEETEST REWARD for her faith.
A lesson we all need to translate in our lives
I sincerely hope that all of us will have a living legacy of faith. Though our prayers may not be answered immediately and there are more trials that will beset us, remember the story of the Canaanite woman and how she overcame temptation and trial in her life. Know that every time we pray for something, the answer is ALREADY ON ITS WAY before we even asked God. We just need to trust God’s timetable and infinite wisdom that he will answer us according to His will and purpose. Truly, there is no other better way to close this article than leaving you a statement mentioned in Hebrews 11:6; “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”