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Summary: You can tell who your friend is when you are in a pickle!

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One of the great paradoxes of life is that - in order for new life to appear, then what formerly existed must be changed in some way or the other, or it must be completely destroyed. Jesus gave an example of this when he said that in order for a tree to grow, then the seed must first be buried and die, then and only then can the new life come. But you have heard it said that “...everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.”

Please forgive me if I sound insensitive, because that is exactly what I don’t want to be. My aim is not to appear trite or glib or uncaring of the deep sense of grief that you have to contend with at this time. I am not pretending as if the experience of death is a simple routine event which requires little attention; where if you close your eyes for long enough, it will go away - NO - the death of your mother, grandmother, sister, friend is real and has left immeasurable hurts. So since the pain is real; since the loss is not made up; since the loneliness you are experiencing is legitimate then you can feel comfortable in mourning, then you can permit yourself to feel your sorrow - for when you cry, you do not cry alone - but Christ cries alongside you in solidarity. And then, there is a precious promise that your grief will continue for a while but then you will see the light at the end of the tunnel. Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

In the midst of life changing experiences over which we have no control, there is a tendency to despair and think there is no hope. We feel now that there is no way we can get over the dark clouds before us. But now is when we must realize that things are not always as they appear to be. So the obvious must not be mistaken for reality. This is where, then, we find some comfort, that death is not the end. The Christian’s understanding of reality is that he is on a journey through this world and so he does not become too preoccupied with the things of this world which are merely physical and fleeting. He is a citizen in the Kingdom of God - so when he dies, he simply changes the sphere of his existence. He leaves behind the corruption and limitations of this world to enjoy the purity and in-exhaustive supply of God’s presence. So death becomes a welcome inevitability - “O death where is thy sting?” In the face of the dreaded, the Christian can ask almost in defiance - “O grave where is thy victory?”

The story of Ruth is about this paradox. It tells about the tragedy and seeming defeat of Naomi and Ruth. It is a story which could crush anyone’s spirit. These two ladies were living in a time characterized by Moral Decline in their land; Natural Disaster - Famine; and deep Personal Tragedy - the loss of husband and children. So great was their loss that Naomi changed her name from Naomi (pleasant/sweetness) to Mara (bitter). But somewhere in the description of their adversity, Ruth breaks in and makes a pronouncement which betrays her deep-seated desire and her determination. She says to Naomi,


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