Summary: Judges, Pt. 5
IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL (RUTH 1:14-18)
The hymn “It is Well with My Soul” was written by Horatio Spafford after a series of disasters struck his family. Spafford, a successful businessman and a close friend of the evangelist D.L. Moody, lost his only son at about the same time the Chicago fire in 1871 ravaged his business.
The worse was yet to come. Two tears later, Spafford’s wife and four children were sailing to Europe for a vacation when another vessel struck the ship and sank it. Spafford was supposed to join them later after he had wrapped up some business. Thirty minutes later, less than fifty of the hundreds on board survived the wreckage. Three of Spafford children were swept away by the waves while the mother held on fiercely to the youngest. A little while later the youngest child, too, was swept from her arms. Mrs. Spafford became unconscious and was rescued by sailors.
Back in the United States, Horatio Spafford waited anxiously ten days for the news of his family’s well-being. His grief-stricken wife sent him a telegram, with two words only: “Saved alone.” As he mourned his family’s loss, he wrote this defiant hymn:
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea-billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Ruth was one of the bravest women in the Bible. She was a Moabite, a foreigner and an outsider, but she was one of two women to have a book named after her and the only Gentile with a book that bore her name in the Jewish Scriptures. How does an alien make such a name, leave such a mark and garner such an honor in the face of tragedy, disaster and heartbreak? How could one possibly pick up the pieces after suffering such a shattering loss? Not without toughness on the inside, tenderness to others and trust in God.
Be Tough on Yourself
14 At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her. (Ruth 1:14)
A problem-plagued daughter complained to her chef father about how things were so hard for her. Her father took her to the kitchen, boiled three pots of water, and placed carrots, eggs, and coffee beans in separate pots. Twenty minutes later, he took them out and placed them in a bowl. What do you see?” asked the father. “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.
The father asked her to feel the carrot, break the egg, and sip the coffee. The daughter felt the softness of the carrot, noted the hardness of the egg, and tasted the richness of the coffee. She then asked the father what it meant. The father explained, “Each of them had faced the same adversity, boiling water, but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had (always) protected its liquid interior. But after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.” The father then asked her daughter, “Which are you?”
Which are you? Soft carrot, hard-boiled egg, or rich, strong, aromatic coffee?
Ruth displayed a stubborn streak of toughness and a high tolerance of pain when tragedy struck. She was one tough cookie with a tough hide and a tough mindset. She had lost her husband, but she had precious things left: her life, her health and her sanity. The Gentile widow did not believe in fate, omens and curses. She did not and would not yield, bow or surrender to doom and gloom. Her grief, pain and loneliness were unspeakable but to throw in the towel, to wallow in self-pity or to rail at God were unimaginable.
The first solo action of Ruth in the book describes her character. When the other daughter-in-law Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, Ruth clung to Naomi (Ruth 1:14). She was a clinger, a hugger and a sticker; tenacious, steadfast and feisty. The feisty daughter-in-law stuck to Naomi like glue, Velcro and gum. That’s who she was and who she chose to be. She was Naomi’s shadow, her twin and angel, fastening to her mother-in-law before Naomi could notice, turn and leave. The Hebrew word for “cling” occurs four times in the book, all related to Ruth (v 14, 2:8, 21, 23). She literally owned, defined and glorified the word in the Bible. In another instance, upon arrival in Israel Ruth stayed, kept or stuck close to the servant girls of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished (Ruth 2:23). She never strayed or departed from that way of thinking in her life or in her job, with Naomi or with others, whether for an entire day or a full season. What a testimony to her tenacity, fortitude and resolve. She never gave up on life, herself and others.