Do you ever have those moments when the same story or bible verse or song keeps popping up in your life and no matter how much you try to ignore it, you can’t deny that God is trying to get through to you? I might not always know what He is attempting to tell me, but at least I know to try and listen.
For me lately it has been the story of Ruth from the bible. She just seems to keep popping up in my life and I am not quite sure why. One of my friends and I decided to do a bible study together and we found a study on Ruth that looked interesting so we ordered the book. Well, that was over a month ago and that study has just sat on my counter for weeks waiting for me to dig in. Then this Sunday at church the message was also about Ruth and her mother in law Naomi. Ruth is faithful to her mother in law and exhibits such loyalty and faith. Naomi and Ruth are then shown grace and kindness from a man named Boaz who eventually redeems their social status and provides them with a new life.
Something just struck me about the message on Sunday and I wanted to dig a little deeper. So, I finally opened that book that has been sitting on my counter, (coincidence? I think not) and tried to listen to what God had to say to me through this book of Ruth.
As I have been digging I see how patient, faithful, virtuous, loyal, and selfless Ruth is throughout the story. I wish I could say, “Wow, I so relate to this woman. I am just like her!” But the truth is, the more I read the more I realized I don’t have much in common with Ruth at all. Can you speak a little louder God, I am not seeing the connection?
So louder He spoke.
It wasn’t until I turned my focus to her bitter Mother in law, Naomi, that I saw much more of myself. Ahh, I see what you did there God, well played!
In Naomi I see a woman very bitter in her circumstances. She insists that her daughters in law leave her and go find a better life. She says, “Things are far more bitter for me that for you, for the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.” (Ruth 1:13 NLT). One of the daughters listens and goes back to her family, but not Ruth. Ruth stays with her mother in law despite her bitterness and her insistence that she leave. That Ruth, making us all look bad again.
Naomi continues to dwell in her bitterness, as they arrive back to her home she states, “I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?” (Ruth 1:21 NLT).
It isn’t until her circumstances change that we see her view of the Lord change. After Ruth returns home with food and good news of a man willing to help take care of them that her attitude toward God changes. “Why, God bless that man! God hasn’t quite walked out on us after all! He still loves us, in bad times as well as good!” (Ruth 2:20 MSG).
Naomi, I know you.
Naomi, I am you.
I often let my circumstances affect my view of the Lord. When I am down I shut others out just as Naomi tried to send her daughters away. I take my bitterness and bottle it up and try to take matters into my own hands. I don’t need anyone else, I will handle this myself. Then as soon as the circumstances change for better I am quick to take pride in my own actions and am okay letting God be “good” again.
What a stupid game I play! Right?
In the study I am reading it asked “How should a Christian respond to the kind of tragedy Naomi experienced?” So I did some more digging and here is what I found:
“We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
“Each time he [God] said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I [Paul] am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work though me… For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cronithians 12:5-10).
Instead of pushing others and God away just as Naomi did, just as I do, we are to seek Him out more. It is in those moments that we are forced to rely on Him and not ourselves. Forced to see our weaknesses as His strengths.
I have ALWAYS been afraid to show my weaknesses, afraid to show emotion, afraid to admit my faults, and afraid to confront my difficult circumstances. Afraid because of how I might look, or I might be perceived, or how I will be treated. But is’t not about me. It should be about what God has done IN me. My weaknesses are His strengths. His light shines in my darkness. He is the Boaz to my Naomi. He redeemed me and gave me new life when I thought mine was worthless.
Running from my bitterness and my circumstances is like turning off God’s light. I am not allowing Him to shine through me. I am not protecting myself, I am hiding His light from others. I am making it all about me.
I need to turn the light back on.
I can’t say for certain if this is the point God is trying to get across to me with this Ruth business lately, but I do know that it’s a lesson I need to learn. A lesson I need to really let resonate and be able to apply. Because if I am honest, it’s not the first time He has brought this to my attention.
And with that being said, I am so very thankful for His patience, His grace, His persistence in pursuit of me and His never failing strength in my weakness.