Okay, one more negative, and potentially the hardest, one that could have sent people like us away in disgust: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs” (v. 26). What is he? A racist? Is he calling her a dog? Sure sounds like it. But instead of turning and stomping away with her feelings hurt and her daughter still demonized, she said in effect, “That’s right. How about letting this dog have just a few crumbs? It wouldn’t take much.” What incredible persistence. Humble people are not easily offended, while overly sensitive people take up their offense and others as well. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11). When God offends us, when He disappoints us by not doing what we need, our wounded hearts can close themselves to His love. But not this woman.
Jesus cannot but respond to her astounding endurance: “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted” (v. 28). God is not reluctant. He simply asks people to press in. We want to say, “If it be your will,” which matches our passive stance. Our faith easily drifts into fatalism. It resigns itself to an inferior situation rather than persisting and rising to a greater possibility. Faith, on the other hand, grabs on and does not let go. It is not demanding God, but it is seeking Him in a way that He wants us to. He is called “the rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). The Canaanite went after Jesus in a way few Jews ever did—and Jesus memorialized her faith.
He didn’t say, “Woman, great is your persistence.” He called her perseverance faith. Her humility and faith translated into boldness, and her little child had a powerful mother to thank for her deliverance. Most would have been gone after the first two rebuffs. She stuck around for four—and received what she came for.
The cause of demonic assault upon children sometimes rests with a parent. Perhaps she took responsibility for the attack, so she also took responsibility for the release, which Jesus granted because she would not back down. The writer of Hebrews said that “through faith and patience” we inherit the promises of God (Heb. 6:12).
Think of the lesson the disciples learned. The woman they wanted to send away was held up for her great faith. Theirs—not so great. Had they been in charge, the daughter would have remained under the power of the devil. How tragic when we allow personal irritations to rule over the will of God, and people who need deliverance must try elsewhere because of our pettiness.
We find only one person in the Gospels whose faith Jesus called “great,” this Gentile woman. She recognized Jesus as one capable of delivering her child even from a distance, apparently not even bringing her child along. And an unnamed woman of the wrong race gives us a powerful message: “Never give up—never, never, never give up!”