Saturday, October 1, 2016

When the Storm Clouds Break

I'm currently studying through the book of Ruth. As a side note, I keep hearing lessons and sermons from this book--Sunday evening church, a few weeks ago in SS, a book I'm reading for a launch team, etc. It seems God really wants me to stop and think on this story during this season of life. The thought that I keep meditating on, that I can't seem to get out of my mind is God's faithfulness even in the depths of pain and sorrow. Naomi is a prime example of a bad day, or maybe more accurately, a bad several years. She experienced, in my opinion, ultimate loss--the death of her husband and her two sons. Add to that horrific tragedy the time period we are talking about--around 1100BC. Women who did not have a husband were the poorest of the poor. They literally had nothing and had no way of making a living, so a childless widow was about as poor and destitute as you could be in that time period. It wasn't like today where a woman could go out and get a job and live on her own. It just wasn't the way the civilization of that time was set up. 

So Naomi loses literally everything (imagine being a mother old enough to have married children and trying to move your entire life--on foot--back to your homeland. I'm assuming she left most of her possessions in Moab). The only glimmer of happiness she has in her life is her daughter-in-law Ruth who has committed to stay by her side no matter the circumstances. (I hope to talk about Ruth next time, wow did she have faith!) Naomi and Ruth return to Naomi's homeland, Bethlehem. When Naomi arrives she makes it clear right away to her Bethlehem friends and neighbors that she is not the same woman who left for Moab years prior. She  goes so far as to change her name just to indicate her sad state. "Call me Mara, not Naomi." "Mara." Bitterness. I have been tempted in the past to think, "Well, aren't we dramatic, Naomi." But, I don't think she was looking for a pity party. I think she was truly in the depths of despair and didn't even recognize herself, much less her Creator God that had not left her side.

But God wasn't finished with Naomi's story yet, nor is he finished with your story. God had a beautiful twist in mind for Naomi's sorrow. As the amazing love story of Ruth and Boaz unfolds in chapters 2-4 of the book of Ruth, we begin to see Naomi's hope.We see her transform from a bitter widow wallowing in deep sorrow, to a content, happy woman who has finally seen the Lord's hand. By the end of the book, I feel giddy with excitement for how awesome it must have been for Naomi to finally see everything fall into place as her providential God had orchestrated!

We all know someone who is in a "Naomi-like" situation, maybe it's even your personal story right now. Can I encourage you that God has not forgotten you? He sees your tears, your sorrow, your pain. And He cares. Just like this story has a (kinsman) redeemer, we too have a Redeemer. Our Redeemer loves us, promises to care for us, and never forsakes us. It's true that we don't always understand the why of our pain or the pain of someone we love, but there is hope. If you're struggling right now, your heart is aching, or you feel like things couldn't possibly get worse, look UPWARD. Trust God. Learn from Naomi's story that beauty can come from ashes. You are not alone. You are not forsaken.

And it's okay to ask, "why?" I'm sure Naomi asked God, "Why?" when her husband died, again when her first son died, and yet again when her second son died. Job asked God, "Why?" Moses asked, "Why (me)?" I'm pretty sure from Naomi's own admission of bitterness that she probably questioned what God was doing. So don't be discouraged if the "why" question is haunting your mind. Know that God isn't finished with your story yet.

At the end of Ruth 1, we see a broken, bitter woman who wants to change her name so that everyone can know how broken she is. By the end of the book, we see a totally different woman~a woman who knows she is redeemed and adored by her God.  Be encouraged that God sees you! And your story, like Naomi's in chapter 1, is far from over.


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