Summary: Ruth and Naomi teach us how to handle adversity through our trust in God’s ultimate plan for our life.
Ruth: Traveling from Tragedy through Trust to Triumph
SICC April 14th (Morning)
Sometimes tragedy kind of sneaks up on you. It comes at you like termites at an old wood-frame house. It eats away for years, then one day the rafters of the house give way before you ever realized what was happening. Sometimes tragedy simply hits you full-body and knocks you down. The shock of it leaves you disoriented and confused. Many times when tragedy is extreme, you don’t know where to turn or how to move on. It has long-lasting effects. People who have suffered tragedy are known to feel depressed or hopeless for a long time afterwards. Six months, nine months, a year later the effects of tragedy are evident. The bible addresses tragedy. It doesn’t necessarily give us the answers we want. We are usually looking for a reason why tragedy strikes, the Bible doesn’t give us a complete answer to that question. What the Bible does give us is hope in the midst of tragedy. The Bible tells us that tragedy, no matter how encompassing it may be in our life never has the last word. The last word is always Triumph. In the Old Testament a woman named Naomi experienced tragedy, but she traveled from that tragedy by way of trust and found, by God’s grace triumph. Let’s go on that journey with her. Her story is in the Old Testament Book of Ruth.
Naomi’s tragedy began innocently enough. The whole region of Israel was suffering from a famine. Everyone suffered the same from it. Naomi’s family–Elimelech her husband, Mahlon and Kilion her sons left the famine-plagued area and emigrated to Moab. Difficult? Sure! But the family was all together that is what was important. Not long after their move to Moab, Elimelech died. Now the family was missing someone. Difficult? I am sure it was, but I am also sure that Naomi devoted herself to her sons. She would have been busy doing whatever she had to do to keep the family together and raise her two sons in a faithful way in this land of pagans. Her grief over her husband’s loss, though deep, was buried in the concern she had for her sons. After ten years, she raised her sons and they were married. I can imagine that she was beginning to settle down. She was allowing her sons to care for her as she had done for her sons for so many years. Then tragedy struck again. Her sons died. She was left alone in a foreign land. Her daughters-in-law were still young enough that they could marry again and have children, but they had no obligation to care for Naomi. Naomi decided that for her own sake she would return to her home–alone.
Tragedy often leaves us alone. It isolates a person. If we are not careful we might easily build up a wall around ourselves in response to tragedy. That seems especially true when we have worked so hard to overcome a series of difficulties. That is where Naomi was. She had survived the move from her home. She had survived being a widow and a single-parent. She had seen her son get married. She had handled every challenge that came her way, and then came the final straw. Her sons died. It never seems right for a parent to bury her children. She gave up. I can imagine Naomi reacting when someone tried to console her. “Don’t tell me you know how I feel. No one can know how I feel. I am leaving.” Have you ever been there? Have you ever said that to someone else? Have you ever heard someone say the same thing to you: “Don’t tell me you know how I feel. No one knows how I feel.” The natural tendency for us is to isolate ourselves when we are going through difficult times. The fact is though that we need each other. God created us to lean on one another. It is good for us to have someone in whom we can trust and on whom we can lean.
That is why it was so pivotal in the life of Naomi when Ruth, one of her daughters-in-law, refused to abandon her. Ruth would leave her people and her gods and return to Bethlehem with Naomi. Naomi’s people would be Ruth’s people. Naomi’s God would be Ruth’s God. Naomi had done something that prepared her for life’s tragedies and made her able to move from tragedy to triumph. She developed relationships in her life that were not based on the conveniences of the situation. Ruth wasn’t kind to Naomi simply because Ruth was married to Naomi’s son. She was kind because Naomi nurtured a devotion in her that would sustain them through difficult times. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (4:9-10) Foster those relationships in your life that are not based on the conveniences of the situation. Everyone should have one or two people whom they know will be true no matter what else happens. Ruth was that for Naomi.