Portrait of a Persistent Woman

Her daughter was asleep. She peered carefully into her scratched-up face. Only strong herbs mixed with wine would calm her poor girl, ever since the demon had taken hold of her. Her sweet, loving, obedient daughter, the pride of the family and the village, had become hateful, violent, and abusive overnight.

They had chained her daughter to the bed to keep her from destroying every item in the house. She had broken half their pottery and torn their linens to shreds. She spewed vicious hatred from her mouth, and her eyes were wild with turbulence. They swaddled her hands so she would stop tearing at her own flesh.

A memory floated back: when her daughter was a newborn, she had fashioned tiny mittens to prevent her little fingernails from scratching her baby face. Oh, those days were long gone. Sorrow and desperation welled up in her spirit. She missed her girl terribly, and feared that the demon would kill her daughter unless she got help. She had to find healing, and she needed it now!

The Son of David was coming to her town. She didn’t know why he was leaving his own people, the house of Israel. For many generations, Israelites had separated themselves from the Canaanites. But many years ago, one of the Israelite men had married a Canaanite woman in her family, and the Israelite stories had passed down to her.

The story that intrigued her most was Jacob’s story. He had been a deceiver, stealing the birthright from his brother. He had endured years of hardship. He had once wrestled with God all night long. The phrase that still stuck in her mind was this: “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

That’s what she had determined to receive today. She had heard that the Son of David had healed others and cast out demons in the land of Israel. She had heard about the woman who simply touched the edge of his robe and was healed, and he credited her with great faith.

She had great faith too. She knew he could heal her daughter with nary a word, if he willed. Even though she was an outsider. Even though she didn’t deserve the blessing, just as Jacob hadn’t deserved it, she would ask for it until he gave her healing. She would wrestle with him all night long if need be.

She saw him in the village square, surrounded by his disciples. She approached him tentatively, bowing low and keeping her distance. But she couldn’t remain quiet. Her need bubbled up inside. She cried out to him, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

The crowd hushed. These people knew of her suffering. They also wanted her daughter to be restored to health. Everyone waited for the Son of David’s reply.

But he said nothing. He didn’t even look her way. Perhaps he hadn’t heard? Or perhaps, he would heal without words? She had to know. She persisted in her pleas, kneeling at his feet.

His disciples weren’t impressed. They implored him, “Tell her to go away. She is bothering us with all her begging.” They looked at her with the condescension she expected. She was an outsider, and always would be. Yet she still hoped for healing.

The Son of David turned in her direction. He still wouldn’t look into her face, but he said, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

She knew she didn’t belong to the house of Israel. But she also knew he was kind, loving, and compassionate. She had heard so many healing stories. How could he have nothing left for her? She didn’t believe it.

She sensed he was wrestling with her, like Jacob had wrestled with God. He would always have the upper hand in their tussle. He was stronger and more powerful and guaranteed to win. Yet she refused to give up. She would get her blessing, one way or another.

She worshiped him, bowing again and again at his feet. Then the face of her daughter, sweet and whole and beautiful like she was before the demon possession, flashed in her mind. She cried out again, “Lord, help me!”

His eyes would not connect with hers. As he looked away he said to her, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

Again he was pinning her in a wrestling move. But she found a way to wriggle free. She spied some crumbs that had fallen in the square, and she gathered them in her palm. She lifted her palm to show him the crumbs and said, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

Then he finally looked into her face. In his eyes she saw compassion. She saw acceptance. She saw abundant love, enough even for her.

He smiled at her as he said, “Dear woman, your faith is great. Your request is granted.” She kissed his feet and her heart overflowed with hope.

She hurried home, whispering prayers of thanks along the way. As she neared the house, her daughter ran to her, hands unbound. “Mama, I’m all better!” she cried with her old, familiar smile lighting her face.

Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! The demon had fled, and her daughter had been restored! She wrapped her daughter in a joyful embrace.

She hadn’t deserved the Son of David’s healing, but he gave it anyway. He hadn’t given her just a crumb. He had given her a full portion, as if she was a member of his family. She hadn’t let him go, and he had blessed her. She would be forever grateful.

***

Has God ever tested your faith?

I remember a time of rebellion, when I thought God had turned his back on me in silence and condemnation. What I see now is that he was testing my faith with his loving discipline. He used that test of silence to eventually open new reservoirs of blessing and closeness, even though I didn’t deserve them.

I admire this woman’s tenacity, persistence, and family commitment. I am amazed that Jesus’ words didn’t discourage her. This text in Matthew 15:21-28 is one of the hardest texts I’ve grappled with, because Jesus seems so harsh and unlike himself.

Yet I know that God has sometimes been stern with me, and it’s always been for my good. His sternness smooths my rough edges of self-pity, entitlement, and attempts to earn his favor. He wrestles with me to show me my utter dependence upon his grace.

When God uses tests to refine my faith, he shares his winnings with me. My faith matures and grows stronger from wrestling. He is more pleased with me and grants me more responsibility, and he receives glory from my refinement. I don’t deserve his blessing, but he grants it to me anyway.

What rewards have you received after tests of faith?

***

You’ll find the Women Who Jesus Loved series here every Wednesday morning through the end of July.

Read the previous posts in this series:

Portrait of a Thirsty Woman

Portrait of a Shamed Woman

Portrait of a Desperate Woman

Portrait of Mary, mother of Jesus

You’re invited to join my brand-new, four-part mini course on Trusting God in Times of Transition.

Sign up here to join my free course!

***

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  • Calvonia Radford

    I love your portrait of this unnamed women Jesus loved. She fought for her daughter, didn’t she. I have wrestled with God in the wee hours of the night and found him to be faithful. He will not let me wrestle in vain. Sometimes those wrestling matches last for days, weeks or even months but God honors my tenacity. Thanks for this beautiful picturesque reminder. See you later, I have some more wrestling to do.

    • Sarah Geringer

      I’m glad to hear your wrestling story, Calvonia. That is similar to mine. Thanks for sharing and visiting!

  • This is a great post, Sarah. It’s not an easy story but I love how you brought it to life and I love the link you make with Jacob wrestling with God and his refusal to let go until he received the blessing. I think God does call us to persevere at times and this woman is a great example.

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hello Lesley! This was the hardest story to write in my series. I consulted Matthew Henry’s commentary, which helped me examine the story from new angles. I agree, this woman’s tenacity is admirable!

  • I’ve never given much thought to the back story of this woman. What an example of perseverance and bold petition she is!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Thank you, Michele! Blessings to you this summer morning!

  • Marty

    A beautiful portrayal and example of the right kind of persistence. The joy of not giving up and God answering!
    Visiting from Writer Wednesday

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hello Marty. I’m glad you came over from Writer Wednesday. Praying blessings on your day!

  • Karen

    I love the life that you added to this story. i did a study on her a while ago and loved what she teaches us about persistence and faith. Adding the back story like you did helps her become that much more real. thanks!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Karen, thank you so much for your comment. Which study did you do? I’m curious.

      • Karen

        It was when I was teaching a women’s Bible study class. we were going through the book called Desperate Women of the Bible that chronicled the lives of women in the scripture who were important but weren’t given names. Like this woman, the woman at the well, the woman with the issue of blood, etc.

        • Sarah Geringer

          Thanks for the feedback. I will check it out!

  • This is beautiful, Sarah! I love the way you wrote the story from the woman’s perspective and how you connected it to the story of Jacob, and I really appreciate your insight into being persistent even in times of testing. Thank you so much!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Thank you Charlie! I appreciate your visit!

  • Love this connection between the woman’s persistence and Jacob’s wrestling, Sarah! Neither gave up, and both received their blessing.
    Sweet blessings to you, Sarah!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Crystal, I treasure your visit here today! Praying blessings on your blogging break!

  • Liz

    Mmmm… SO good again this week! Loving this series! I, too, struggle with Jesus’ apparent attitude in this passage. But perhaps you’ve unlocked the real meaning in persistence. Blessings in your wrestlings!

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Liz! I’m glad to hear from you. Catching up on comments today. Blessings to you as you wrap up your recent series!

  • This is so beautiful, Sarah! Love seeing the miracle through the eyes of the desperate mother. Thanks so much for sharing… stopping by from #FreshMarketFriday

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Laura, I’m going through comments today, and I’m glad to see that you visited. This series has been special to me, and I’m glad you like it!

  • Sarah – I love learning about the women in the bible from you. You have a way of retelling the story in a new way which creates in me fresh eyes to see. I am amaze by the the woman persistence, strength, and faith. Yes, God has allowed my faith to be tested and I feel so blessed because it created in an unstoppable faith and relationship with him. Maree

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Maree, thank you for your kind comments. I’m glad to open new doors of understanding on these women. Blessings to you!

  • Julie Loos

    Sarah- thanks for sharing this! I enjoy learning about the women of the Bible in a new way!
    Visiting from #Grace&Truth

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hi Julie! I’m grateful for your visit. Blessings to you!

  • Gretchen

    What a great read Sarah! Enjoyed the storytelling nature of it. Like hearing it for the first time👌☺️ Thank you for sharing the application of it as well. Always helpful to learn how others apply His lessons to them👍

    • Sarah Geringer

      Hello Gretchen! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I always gain fresh insights from visiting your blog!

  • Amanda Jonsson

    You have brought me to tears with this. I so appreciate your breath of fresh life into this story. Thank you for this encouragement that I needed so badly. #encouragingheartsandhomes