Something we know to be true about God is that He is merciful, loving, and willing to help and to heal anyone who comes to Him in true faith. We see time and again in His ministry Christ healing people who come to Him in true faith, but He challenges and exposes those who come to test Him.
Most of the time Christ does amazing things in response to the great faith of people. And sometimes He uses the people’s faith as an example to others, but that may not be fitting our timeline. It can feel like we aren’t getting what we want, or that God is being mean, or abandoning us; but we know from Christ’s actual encounters that through persistence and faith, we find out as the famous song says, “we may just get what we need”.
The pandemic has placed us in scary times and this uncertainty we’ve felt has raised some questions for many peoples about God. “How can God let this happen? Why won’t God just fix this?” Let’s look at today’s Gospel to understand more about how God helps people in unexpected ways.
Christ is approached by a woman who was an outsider. She was from Canaan, which means she was not a resident of Judea, meaning she was not part of the Hebrew people, the chosen people. She would have been looked down upon by the Judeans. But this woman comes to Christ and addresses Him as, “Son of David”. This phrase is used to identify the Jewish Messiah. By calling Him “Son of David” she is recognizing Him as God, and for a non-Jew to say this is our first clue that something special is happening.
This woman has a daughter that is demon possessed. Because she was an outsider, the disciples think she’s a nuisance and ask Christ to just do what she asks so she’ll go away. Christ certainly could have done that. He also could have called down 10 legions of angels while hanging on the Cross, but He didn’t do that either. We have to understand that God is capable of doing anything; but in His humility, He never takes the easy route; He leads by His own example of Christ on the Cross, THE image of unjust suffering, to show us His full identification with humanity; He gets us! He knows the reality that we have hard days, scary times, and have to accept the fact that we’re not in control. Christ shows us through His encounters with others the power of faith; and most importantly the truth that faith shines most brightly in difficulty.
So this woman has a daughter that is demon possessed; it says she was “severely possessed”, meaning her daughter was suffering; their whole family was suffering. She had this incredible faith that Jesus was the Messiah and could heal her daughter. She didn’t say, “well, I’ve heard this Jesus is a special guy; maybe if he can heal my daughter, then I’ll believe He’s the real deal”. That’s how many people today act towards Christ. No, she already believed in Him without seeing one miracle. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”.
Christ takes a woman in a difficult situation and allows her difficulty to continue for a short while in order to teach us that our struggles may not end the moment we come to Him for help. She had to wait and be persistent, but in the end she not only received what she sought, but was praised by Christ for her faith and example!
So when we’re in difficult situations, say, like a pandemic, we can look to this Canaanite woman as an example for us. We don’t come to Christ to test His power or prove to use that He exists. We come to Him in great faith and humility, persisting in our prayer and full of hope despite all pressure to abandon Him.
Like her, our relief may not be immediate. We pray in the services, “for all things that lead to our salvation”. With our faith, we can take courage that whatever struggles we encounter and whatever the duration of that struggle, are an opportunity for Christ to glorify us. “Through the Cross, joy has come into the world.”
We are all carrying a difficult cross through the pandemic. But perhaps, in the midst of this difficulty, we have the opportunity to not only glorify Christ, but for him to raise us up. Perhaps enduring the pain of this past and present year is the very best opportunity for our salvation, so that through the hard times, we learn to lean on Christ who allows our faith to shine more brightly than ever before.