Vertically Connected Blog
In the Old Testament, we learn about Naaman, the powerful commander who had delivered the Syrian army in a great battle. A respected man and natural leader, Naaman was held in high regard among many.
However, that doesn’t seem to be why his story is in the scriptures. Naaman was a leper, and because his wife’s handmaid knew of a prophet in Samaria, Naaman was part of an incredible miracle. The story leading up to that miracle is where we will begin our study about “boxing the Lord in.”
Once Naaman discovered there was a way to be healed, he rode to Samaria with his chariots, a large sum of money, and, it seems, the beginnings of faith. However, when he got to the house of Elisha, the prophet did not come out to meet him. Instead, he sent out his servant, who told Naaman to go down and wash himself seven times in the river Jordan to become cleansed of his leprosy.
This angered Naaman, and he exclaimed, “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. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So, he turned and went away in a rage” (2 Kings 5:11-12).
Although there might be many reasons why Naaman was angered — including pride or misunderstanding or cultural tradition — there could be at least one other explanation: Naaman might have been upset because nothing in that experience ended up going the way he thought it should: “Elisha should have come out to meet me.” “He was supposed to do something dramatic and perform a miracle right then.” “Surely, he could have asked me to go bathe in some other river?”
In other words, Naaman had set parameters for how he was to be healed.
He “boxed the Lord in.”
And because the Lord’s help didn’t fit in that box, Naaman wanted nothing to do with it.
Thankfully, we know that’s not how the story ends.
One of Naaman’s servants was brave enough to ask him this important question: “Just because you didn’t get the respect you thought you would, and just because this hasn’t gone the way you thought it should, does that mean it is not of God?”
It seems this servant didn’t have a box for the answers to fit in. Naaman then chose to humble himself and went down into the Jordan seven times “according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (v. 14).
Naaman wanted to be healed of his leprosy. Yet, God seemed to have greater things in mind. He wanted to heal Naaman, not just of a skin disease, but of what was keeping Naaman from finding true joy and peace, even what was keeping Naaman from finding Him. So, He sent Naaman an answer that wasn’t in his “box.”
Sometimes, we carry around a similar box: a mental receptacle meant to receive the answers, help, or comfort we are seeking from the Lord.
Our box, intentional or not, can set parameters of not only what He is supposed to do for us, but also how and when and where He is supposed to do it.
We limit the Lord by “boxing Him in.”
I find that we might not necessarily set these parameters because we think we know more than God. Instead, it might be because we think we know our specific situation better than He does, or at least that we, like Naaman, know what we want in that situation.
However, when we dictate how revelation works in our lives, we can diminish what revelation we receive in our lives.
Can you think of a time in your life when you may have set these kinds of parameters with the Lord? Have you found yourself pleading with Him for guidance or answers, but actually limiting what guidance or answers He can give? Have you realized times you may have been “waiting on the Lord” for a long time for an answer and it could have simply been because you were unwilling to accept a certain answer? Have you discovered an overflowing box that doesn’t have any room for the Lord’s answers?
Here are a few examples of what this looks like:
We can also have expectations like these:
Elder Neal A. Maxwell once asked this poignant question:
“How can we sincerely pray to be an instrument in [the Lord’s] hands if the instrument seeks to do the instructing?”
We can also ask ourselves some similar questions:
“If I have parameters for the Lord, how guided do I really want to be?"
"If I will only accept an answer that’s already in my box, then do I honestly want an answer?”
As we begin to answer these questions, we can begin to recognize the boxes we may be setting out for the Lord to fill. And as we remove these boxes, we will find that revelation can flow so much more in our lives.
Stephen & Michelle Hunsaker
Stephen teaches at the Logan Institute of Religion for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been teaching for over 26 years.
Michelle is a full-time mom who enjoys reading, writing, teaching, and anything and everything to do with musicals.
They are the parents of ten children and authors of the book : Boxing the Lord In and Other Ways We Hinder Revelation.
Their hope is that each week through the thoughts and ideas they share in this blog, you can become more "vertically connected" in your lives. They seek to see and share "things as they really are" and "as they really will be" (Jacob 4:13) by learning how to build more and more on the sure foundation of the Savior, Jesus Christ and the doctrines and principles of His gospel.