If you were at Fellowship Bible Church in Springdale last night, you heard Ben share on this topic from Ruth 1. Here are some follow-up devotional thoughts.
Naomi was bitter. Call me Mara, she told her friends who did not even recognize her. She had experienced famine, as a result of God’s judgment on disobedient Israel. She had followed her husband out of God’s promised land, into the land of God’s enemies. She had witnessed her sons take Moabite wives, against God’s will. If all of those were not hardship enough, she lost her husband and both her sons, without heirs left for her to care for, or to care for her.
The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me, she said. In her pain, she did not deny God’s sovereignty. Could he have prevented these hardships in her life? Could he have spared her husband and sons? The Almighty has brought calamity upon me. She did not question his providence.
Perhaps you, like me, have called into question the theology of God’s sovereignty in difficult times, God, do you really have this? Perhaps you have wondered about God’s presence in your life, God, are you even there?
The Lord has testified against me, she said. Though Naomi understood and accepted God’s sovereignty in her life, she could not see past her pain. God, in his sovereignty, had afflicted her and she was consumed by it. She was so consumed by it that she did not notice God’s kindness to her.
For where you go I will go. For absolutely no logical reason, despite all of Naomi’s urging, Ruth insists on staying with her, promising never to leave her. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. She sheds her cultural identity, her religious identity, and any remaining family ties. Naomi is her family now, Naomi’s God is her God. In this life of a widow, a daughter-in-law of this caliber is a great gift.
The Lord has brought me back empty, she said. But does he? Naomi cannot see it. She cannot see that her life is not completely empty. She fails to acknowledge Ruth by her side. She fails to account for Ruth’s sacrifice on her behalf, for Ruth’s loyal love, for Ruth’s kindness.
Likewise, she fails to account for God’s loyal love, for God’s kindness.
Are we so consumed by our own hardships that we are failing to see God’s loyal love? God’s kindness? It might be through the words or actions of another, or through the gorgeous sunrise, or through the peace that comes only from him (Is. 26:3). It might be through the spiritual growth we can feel happening, the development of endurance, of character, of hope (Rom. 5:1-5). It might be that through these hardships, our faith is becoming stronger, more complete (Jam. 1:2-4). Can we take a moment, or more, to step back and consider the love of God from which absolutely nothing can separate us (Rom. 5:31-39)? The kindness of God, which is ultimately found through the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross, for us?
In the rest of the Ruth story, we will see that through this great hardship God brought upon Naomi’s life, an even greater kindness will emerge.
And today, as we face various hardships in our own lives, God’s kindness is ever present.
Let us have eyes to see it.