Reflections on Ruth
We have a mental checklist for life. Happy marriage: check. Healthy kids: check. Good reputation: check. Great job: check. Enough money: check. All the pieces are lining up. But then tragedy strikes: The bottom falls out on your finances; you get breast cancer; your spouse dies; or, in my case, you learn that your son was born with a brain injury.
It’s in these times that we can relate with Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, whose life was also hit with tragedy: because of a famine she was forced to move to a foreign land, her husband dies, and then both of her sons die (Ruth 1:3–5). It’s easy to see why Naomi felt bitter toward God (Ruth 1:20–21).
I heartily proclaim “God is good” when circumstances are good. When I think God is producing the outcome I desire, I am pleased. But how should I react when my prayers seem to go unanswered? When I, like Naomi, feel as though God has turned his back on me? Is he still good? Does he hear my prayers for my son? Where can I find comfort?
There are times I am tempted to blame God for the condition of my son. I feel wronged. (What possible good could this serve?) And then he reproves me: “ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts ” (Isa 55:8–9 NIV).
I’ve struggled and wrestled with this. I’ve even been angry and brokenhearted. One hand pushes away from God while the other hand reaches for him. Like Paul, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do” (Rom 7:15). I am torn. “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Rom 7:18).
But then, God’s Word comes with power and pierces through my emotions. I realize that God is “my refuge and my shield.” I echo what the Psalmist proclaimed: “I have put my hope in your word” (Psa 119:114).
Maintaining that hope is difficult. I am tempted to despair. My son may never walk or talk, and he is likely nearly blind. The mountains that loom ahead overwhelm me. I feel like I cannot climb them. Then, I’m reminded: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
I still ask, though, is this how God rewards those who follow Him? Where is his loving-kindness? He returns with, “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange was happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet 4:12–13).
When I am tired of the battle, Christ comforts me with his presence. “Never will I leave you,” he says, “never will I forsake you” (Heb 13:5). As Paul persists, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor 4:16–17).
Every time we wrestle with God, we can find solace in his Word. For this reason, I say with David, “My soul melts away for sorrow.” I press on, knowing that he will “strengthen me according to (His) word” (Psa 119:28).
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN BIBLE STUDY MAGAZINE SEPT–OCT’10
BIBLICAL REFERENCES FROM NIV