“I Thought” Syndrome

But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. 2 Kings 5:11 

“I thought…” How many times have we spoken or heard those words to only have them complicate a situation? Our thoughts, despite what our pride leads us to believe, are often immaterial to what needs to happen especially for the Christian. In II kings 5 is the story of a man who had to discover what he thought served only himself and not the greater purpose of trusting and obeying God.

Naaman was a valiant and mighty man, captain of the host of the king of Syria; yet, he had a problem, a disease called leprosy. A young girl taken captive from Israel tells her mistress of a prophet in Samaria who could heal her husband Naaman. Naaman is told of this hopeful news. He approaches his king with the girl’s story. The king of Syria granted permission for Naaman to go to the prophet and give him a letter of introduction to the king of Israel. Naaman went to Israel laden with gifts of silver, gold, and ten sets of clothes. After going by way of the king of Israel, who had a very wrong impression of the letter, Naaman finally pulls up in front of Elisha’s home. We can only speculate, but Naaman was probably hoping against hope this would work. He comes to Elisha with all kinds of grandeur and huge amounts of payment. It appears as though he is expecting to impress the prophet with his wealth and status. Naaman wanted this to be full of pomp and circumstance, splendor and glory for him. Yet, Elisha never even comes out to see Naaman. He only sends word to tell Naaman what to do to be healed; it was not even that spectacular of a cure. In fact, it was repulsive to Naaman. Go dip in the water of the Jordan River seven times! Naaman was angry and he speaks those immortal words, “I thought….”

How often do we set things up in our mind which is nothing of God’s plan? We process, analysis, and legitimize our ideas, our expectations, even our dreams to have God thwart them with something totally simple, totally out of the ordinary, which totally never crossed our mind. Naaman was a captain of the entire Syrian army. He was accustomed to pageantry and ceremony. He was a man who was used to being bowed down to, exalting his position. Naaman expected Elisha to come out to meet him and marvel at his gifts then to call upon the Lord waving his hands over the spot of leprosy thereby healing him. What a jolt to Naaman’s ego, Elisha did not even come tot the door but sent a servant with a very simple and quick message. This prophet did nothing Naaman thought he would do; therefore, he wanted to abandon the whole idea and go home. Thankfully for us the story does not stop there. Naaman had wise servants who were not blinded by prestige or wealth. They convinced the great and mighty Naaman to do the simple thing…obey the prophet.

We may fancy ourselves to be great and mighty Christians since we adopted; then tragedy, disappointment, or troubles arise. We go to God in prayer, fasting, good works, and sacrifice, but nothing changes. God says, in the daily burdens and trials of parenting our challenging adopted children, ‘trust and obey’, we balk; it’s to simple, not enough pomp and circumstance. He says, ‘suffer the little children to come unto me’, we bristle; there is too much suffering, not enough splendor. And He says ‘do good to those who hate you’, we rage; it requires too much self-dying, not enough glory. You may say, look haven’t we been faithful? We tithe 10% of our income, we home school our children, we do family worship, we wear modest clothing, dad leads faithfully and mom submits happily (well, at least both of us try), we eat healthy food (at least mostly), we adopted a child just like you did us, and the list of works goes on.

I thought…we would be blessed and exalted, not persecuted by our family and friends.

I thought…if we obeyed James 1:27 life would be easy and successful, not full of sorrow and suffering.

I thought…if we obeyed Deuteronomy 6 our children would not rebel, breaking our hearts.

The wisdom of Scripture answers with:

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Matthew 5:11

Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Hebrews 5:8

And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. Psalm 9:10

Did you catch that, we are blessed, learning obedience, and God knows us! These are not meant to be panaceas for deep and real hurting pain, but only to expound upon the point; no matter what we are facing. or troubled with, the Lord only wants us to do the simple thing, trust Him and obey His commandments. God’s ways are not our ways. He will never glorify the man, only his Son. Naaman humbled himself, obeyed the prophet, and dipped in the Jordan River seven times. We can only wonder if at each coming up out of the water whether his servants saw a change in his skin or if it was not until the coming up out of the water on the seventh dip. Either way Naaman was healed. His obedience made his skin fresh and new like that of a young child.

This same principle works for us today as well. When we obey our Lord as he has set forth in his Word, our heart, relationships, and vision is made fresh and new. Our leprous sin is removed upon his healing Naaman became an ardent worshipper of God. We, too, when we obey cannot help but worship the Lord.

We must try to refrain from the ‘I thought’ syndrome and teach our children the dangers of it as well. What if Naaman had stomped off when things did not go as he thought? What if he had not listened to the wise counsel of his servants? Pride has a way of exalting us to a level above the simple answer and above godly advice. We must humble ourselves and judge our obedience not by fame, wealth, health, or prestige, but by keeping our eyes on Christ no matter what is going on around us. If the eyes of faith drop, with suffering, trials, or even blessings, then anger or a sense of betrayal may come and the ‘I thought’ syndrome follows. Naaman learned there was a God in Israel who could do wondrous things. No doubt he shared this news with others. Let us do the same. And when we hear ourselves saying, “I thought…” let the wise counsel of the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit speak to our heart, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Copyright © 2011 Robert Sanford. All rights reserved

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