When the New Year is Filled with the Old

Originally published Tuesday, 20 January 2015.

We’ve kicked off the New Year and for some of us the newness is still clean and bright. For some of us, the New Year came with last year’s “laundry” or maybe you’ve been carrying around some things you wish would have gone out with the old year for the past decade or so. If that is the case for you this morning, hopefully this woman’s story from Scripture will be an encouragement to you:

And Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman came out from that region, and began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying, "Send her away, for she is shouting out after us." But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."  But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once.  Matthew 15:21-28 NASB

I wonder how many of us out there have prayed for something and felt as if God was silent. I wonder how many of us have prayed until we felt that surely our constant request had become an annoying clamoring in God’s ears... because certainly we were exhausted with hearing this same prayer from our own lips and it felt like everyone around us was tired of hearing the same prayer too. But yet, the need continued to compel us to cry out for our Lord’s help. This story is for those of us who have gone through seasons where we felt like God’s work went “quiet.”

Notice in verse 23 that Jesus “did not answer her a word.” And the disciples were even sick of hearing this woman crying out for help. It seemed like Jesus was ignoring her! Then when He finally did give her attention, He appeared to be less than immediately sympathetic. Have you ever been tempted to feel like God was ignoring you or tempted to think that His response toward you was less than compassionate? Sometimes all the external circumstances make it seem as though God isn’t paying attention to our plight; or that perhaps, He doesn’t really even care all that much. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!

Jesus wasn’t ignoring her or lacking compassion toward her need. He was “setting the stage.” This woman who was an “outsider” to the Jewish faith displayed more belief than the very people who were supposed to have been ready and waiting for Jesus’ coming. In addition, her story prepared the way for the Gospel being preached to those outside the Jewish faith. She was a symbol and foreshadowing of the work God was planning to accomplish among the gentiles. And she was a great example of faith!  Jesus’ response to her only allowed the rest of us to see her faith and humility clearly displayed. If He hadn’t responded to her the way He did, we wouldn’t be challenged and inspired by her heart for God.

Her story ought to bring us some encouragement for our prayer lives as well! Like the Canaanite woman we ought not give up, even when it feels like our prayers aren’t being heard! And in the midst of the seasons where we might be tempted to feel like God isn’t hearing or compassionate toward our need, we can to follow the kind of example of humility this woman displayed. She didn’t get angry at Jesus. She didn’t waiver in her faith. She cast herself completely at His feet and trusted Him.

By following her example, we can use her words for our own prayer pattern (the pattern we can use is in bold/underlined and the italicized phrases are her quotes from the passage):

    • Ask for mercy Have mercy on me
    • Worship the Lord for who He is O Lord, Son of David
    • Present your need my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed
    • Worship the Lord as you position your heart in humility But she came and began to bow down before Him saying, "Lord, help me!"
    • Be genuinely grateful for however He chooses to work, believing that even His crumbs are precious and sweet. "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." 

May 2015 be filled with break-through answers to prayer, but in the meantime, may the Lord strengthen your faith while you wait and make you a beautiful example of trusting Him.