Summary: How should we respond when life falls apart?
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WHEN LIFE FALLS APART
OBJECT LESSON: Jenga
How many of you have ever played the game Jenga? “You take a block from the bottom and you put it on top.” Each of these blocks could represent a day in your life. [One by one, put blocks on top] Each day you try to live the best you can. Each day you try to make wise decisions. Each day you try to obey God. But then there comes a day when life falls apart. [Tower falls down]
At some point in our lives, most of us will probably face a day when life falls apart. Maybe you have already faced a day like that.
[Introduce new series]
Ruth 1 tells the story of a woman whose life fell apart. Her name was Naomi. She was the mother-in-law of Ruth. Her story shows us that the hand of God is at work in our lives even during times of suffering and tragedy. There is still hope even in the darkest of days.
What should you and I do when life falls apart?
[Reading challenge & trivia question]
[Read Ruth 1]
The story of Ruth takes place “when the judges ruled” (v. 1). The days of the judges lasted from the death of Joshua to the coronation of Saul as king (approximately from 1380 to 1050 B.C.). If you want to learn more about this period of Israel’s history, read the book of Judges. The ending of the book goes like this: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (21:25 NKJV). Out of the dark days of the judges comes the book of Ruth—a story full of romance, redemption, and hope.
But in chapter 1, Naomi and Ruth have no idea that their story will have a happy ending.
Naomi’s life had fallen apart:
• She had no HUSBAND.
• She had no SONS.
• She had no GRANDCHILDREN.
• She was ALONE.
Elimelech and Naomi had left Bethlehem to escape a famine, but in Moab Naomi lost her family. The only two people left in her life were her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. And she even tried to get rid of them! (Actually, I think she was trying to act in their best interests.) On the journey back to Judah, she urged Ruth and Orpah to return to Moab. (Useless information: Oprah Winfrey’s name was supposed to be Orpah, but her mother mistakenly wrote Oprah on the birth certificate. The name stuck.) In the end, Orpah went back to Moab, but Ruth clung to Naomi.
We often respond to life’s tragedies like Naomi did:
• “God is AGAINST me.”
“It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has gone out against me!” (v. 13b).
“Don’t hand around me! Bad things will happen!”
• “ I am BITTER.”
“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter” (v. 20).
“Naomi” means “PLEASANT.”
“Mara” means “BITTER.”
“God has ruined my life!” At least she was honest.
• “My life is HOPELESS.”
“I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (v. 21).
THE UNSEEN HAND
But wait a minute. Had the Lord really brought Naomi back empty? No. God had brought her back with Ruth. And little did she know that God was going to use Ruth to bless Naomi in an amazing way.
So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning (v. 22).
The unseen hand of God is at work!
Here are three truths we must remember when life falls apart:
1. God is both SOVEREIGN and GOOD.
Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” (Ruth 2:20 NKJV).
The book of Ruth is a story of God’s providence. “Providence” comes from the Latin word providentia, which means “the ability to see something in advance.”
ILLUSTRATION: Chess (divine sovereignty vs. human freedom)
Are we just pawns in the hand of God? No. God is in control, yet He does not violate our ability to make decisions. In the book of Ruth, Naomi and Ruth make many decisions, and God is working behind the scenes to bless them in the end.
2. God’s plan is often not understood until LATER.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).