Before reading this story out loud, ask people to think of questions that occur to them as they hear it read. Note down those questions and be sensitive to them as you move through the study. You could refer back to them at the end.
Looking first at 2 Kings 4:8-13
1. Compile a list of the ways in which the Shunammite women demonstrates her faith.
2. Thinking about her example of generosity, hospitality and contentment, how far would you say you live like this? Why would faith in God make a difference to someone’s behaviour in these areas?
This Might Help. In the ancient world people weren’t sure what happened when you died. Consequently having children was vital – they carried your memory and family line into the future. To not have children was not just an emotionally difficult thing as it can be today, it was considered to be a shameful thing, a sign of God’s displeasure. There are a number of Bible stories that revolve around the theme of God giving children to the childless.
Next look again at 2 Kings 4:14-17
The Shunammite woman responds to Elisha’s prophecy saying, “Don’t mislead me” (v16), in other words “Don’t raise my hopes” (v28).
3. Why do you think this she reacts in this way?
Given what we know about her faith already, how far are you surprised by her response?
4. How easy do you find it to trust really trust God with things you long for?
Why do you think that is the case?
Sometimes we ‘settle’ for the way our life, family, even society looks. Rather than being peaceful and content with our circumstances, trusting God - we are disappointed and resigned, saying the right things but resentful or frustrated in our hearts.
You might want to ask people to talk in pairs/ 3’s about this, it’s very personal and depending on the group people may not feel able to bare their soul in this way
5. Why do you think that happens?
In what areas do you think a fear of disappointment might be holding you back in some way & how do you think God would want you to respond to that?
Finally look again at 2 King’s 4:18-37
6. What does the Shunammite woman’s response tell us about how her faith has grown?
How far do you think her ‘faith growth’ is typical of the journey Christian’s walk?
7. In what ways do Elisha’s response and actions foreshadow Jesus’ ministry? (what parallels can you think of?)
How might this episode and the promises of Jesus help us to deal with disappointments we face in life?
This subject may have raised painful things for people in the group, break back into small groups and pray for each other, or those you know of who are struggling with either disappointment or faith that God will change a situation.
This study is looking at 2 things, one is the subject of disappointment but the other is how faith grows – often through struggle or painful experiences. Because of the subject matter this study is probably best for an established group where people know and trust each other.Do handle it sensitively and make sure there is time for prayer.
© Ruth Perrin 2009. Last revised on 11 November 2009
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Cloud of Witnesses is a series of Bible studies on the men and women of scripture. You'll find everyone from Gideon and Andrew through to Tamar and Tabitha.
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Ruth Perrin, the author, is on staff at King's Church Durham and holds an MA in Theology and Ministry.
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