There was once a woman who had a great life. She had a loving husband whom she moved to a great new town with. They had two awesome sons, and a great place to live. Then one day her husband died and she was left with two awesome sons and some uncertainty about the great place she had to live. She pressed on. Her sons grew into men and found women to marry.
Though she missed her husband, she found hope in the prospect of being a grandmother. She and her sons, and their wives formed a happy little family. But suddenly, and without warning, both of her sons died. She was left with two daughters-in-law and no hope.
What if she and her husband never moved to that great new town? What if they had stayed? Maybe her husband would still be alive. Maybe she would have still had two sons and they would be alive too. What if her sons had married different women? Maybe they would both still be alive. What if she had married someone else? What if God hadn't cursed their land with a famine?
What if she never finds anyone? What if she spends her life alone? What if she's the next one to die?
She finds herself thinking, "God hates me. God has forgotten me. I am worthless."
“Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. 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?”
And there it is.
Our young woman went from a good life with a great family to seemingly nothing. And, in her grief she has turned against God. She has focused all her energy on her self and her situation. She can't see past what she's lost. Her future is bleak because all attention is focused on her current situation.
Maybe that's to be expected...for a time. There is certainly going to be periods of grief and questioning in times of tragedy. At some point though, that time must come to a close, or at least evolve.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
Notice how the Psalmist says they walk through the darkest valley. They don't say they go down and setup camp in the valley.
Bad stuff is going to happen. It's inevitable. We live in a broken world filled with broken people. We are all trying to make our way through life the best we can based on the information we have at the time we make choices. Some of the choices we make are baffling. Some lead to life. Some lead to death. And, sometimes we feel we can never make the right choice.
As believers, we know that God is with us every step of the way. Sometimes, he's working on our behalf without our knowledge. Sometimes, he's waiting in the wings for us to call on him. And sometimes, we can see him working in our lives. We can point to him and say, "Look at what God is doing in my life."
Many times, when we see God working in our lives, it's through the generosity of others. For example, our woman in the story traveled back to her home land. Only, she didn't go alone. One of her daughter's in law went with her, kept her company, and encouraged her. That same girl found work to provide for the two of them and through a series of events that could only have been orchestrated by God, they found the one person who could redeem their family and set their lives on course towards salvation.
What does this show us about God?
God is working.
God is working through people to redeem you. God is calling you to be generous to others to redeem them.
God is with you.
What does this teach us about life?
Our future is not determined by our past.
There is still hope.
We have an opportunity to be part of someone else's redemption story when we take our eyes off of ourselves and look for opportunities to be used by God.
Sometimes we're Naomi. Sometimes we're Ruth. That's just the way life goes.
Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”
Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.
In the end, God will always be glorified.Gather with us this Sunday as we continue our Origins series. In the meant time, check out Blake's message of the story of Ruth here.