There is a story in the Bible about a widow approaching the prophet Elisha, pouring out her heartbreaking story: “The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” (2 Kings 4:1) Her husband has died, leaving her not only grieving but destitute. Because of the laws in the land, debts continued after one died, and with no way of paying off the debt, the creditors were coming for her two sons, and they would become enslaved and have to work to pay off their father’s debts. Not only had she lost her husband, but she was also just about to lose her children, and she would be without any emotional or financial support. Her life is a picture of the word dire!
She comes to the prophet for help and relief. She is desperate. Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” (2 Kings 4:2). He asks her two questions and, to our 21st-century ears, sounds quite insensitive: “How can I help you?” and “What do you have in your house?” Wait a minute Elisha, did you not hear what she just said? She is a widow with no resources and is on the verge of losing her children. It is obvious to see what she wants and what she needs.
So, what is going on in this story? First, often amid a problem or difficulty, it does take me a while to figure out exactly what I need. Elisha was not insensitive but helped her understand that she needed extraordinary, even supernatural, help. Then the next question seems as insensitive as the first: “What do you have in your house?” She just indicated that she is destitute; she has no resources. How often have I thought I had nothing and even at times thought I was nothing? I love her answer. I have nothing except. a little oil. We often focus on our lack and fail to realize what we do possess. For a few moments, think about all you have: God, your health, family, a job, and on and on. Might it reshape our reality to focus on what we have rather than always fixating on what we lack?
Elisha reminds her that God does His best work with just a little. A little boy named David, a little stick in Moses’ hand became the rod of God; just a few fish and loaves of bread fed multitudes, and on and on. This little bit of oil and lots of empty jars she borrowed from her neighbors and God working together met her needs and saved her and her family.
Today God can come and bless and multiply the little we have that seems so puny compared to the need. Though I am not Elisha, I want to ask you the same two questions: What do you need? What do you have? Answers these two questions, consecrate yourself and all you possess to God, and watch him work. Amid your heartache, grief, disappointments, and loss, do not grow bitter turn it all over to the Lord. Allow Him to fill you with His Spirit and with Hope.