One of my favorite books of the Bible is Ruth. I first got pulled into reading it because, well, it was short. Back when I struggled with the 'begats' and 'heretofores', I was just looking at something I could get through and feel like I actually had been able to read some of the Bible.
But then I read it...and it made sense. It was like a 'real' story and one I could understand. As I've grown in my Christian walk, I've gravitated back to that story...especially when I need a boost on God's provision or reassurance that it's never too late for love or a reminder that doing the right thing is, well, the right thing.
It's a short book (only four chapters), but it has so many great nuggets in it I personally believe that it's overall message is that if we do what we are supposed to be doing, then God will do the rest. And we can reap great things. I've broken this down into 4 posts - one for each chapter - to expand on the gems this book has for us.
1. Die to yourself and love those around you. When we are in the middle of our own mess and pain, our instinct is to turn inward and nurse our wounds. Most of us don't think of helping someone else when we feel we are the ones needing help. Ruth and Orpah both stayed with their husband's families until the husbands died. Even THEN, they both chose to stay with their mother-in-law, Naomi, and travel back to Naomi's homeland (Ruth 1:7). That says a lot about their character...even in the midst of their own pain, they recognized Naomi's was greater (having lost two sons and a husband) and chose to meet her where she was. They chose to not focus as much on their own pain, but to serve Naomi during hers. Naomi did the same for them... she encouraged them to go back to their own mothers' homes and start over with new families. (Ruth 1:8-9) The pain is palpable as they all weep together and hug/kiss on each other.
2. Stay true to what you believe in and stand steadfast. There's something to be said for having a backbone. And by backbone...there's a difference between running over people or being a bully versus standing quietly, solidly in your belief that you are on the right path and doing the right thing. It's especially tough to do it when others don't have faith in you and the odds are stacked against you (such as David and Goliath); or when people, even people who are supposed to know more than you or be wiser than you, are urging you to take a different path. Ruth believed she was on the right path, that she was doing the right thing and she chose to stand steadfast in that belief. She told Naomi that she was sticking by her no matter what. Naomi recognized that determination in Ruth and conceded. (Ruth 1:16-18).
3. Let people meet you where you are. Naomi is pretty upset when she returns home. She doesn't hide her pain. Her hometown recognizes her when she arrives and she tells them to no longer call her Naomi which means pleasant but to call her Mara, which means bitter (Ruth 1:19-21). She tells them God's afflicted her and she feels empty. She's ticked off and hurt, but she feels safe enough with her people to let them know. Isn't that amazing that she wasn't worried about being rejected in her honesty? She just laid it out there and trusted that she was in a safe place. We need a safe place among people like us (fellow believers) where we can share our burden.
4. Know that there is always a harvest just ahead. Even in the middle of pain, we can give thanks that harvest and bounty is just around the corner. I think that's why we can have the ability to give thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:18) - because we know there's good ahead. Thomas Fuller's thought that the 'darkest hour is just before dawn' is reinforced here. As Naomi expounds on her sorrow and bitterness, we find that she and Ruth have arrived at the beginning of the harvest (Ruth 1:22). If that doesn't build some excitement and expectation, I don't know what does! Isn't that something to know in the middle of our pain, we can wait expectantly for God's harvest in the situation?
Come back for part 2 in the series - Reap like Ruth.
I'm a writer... so that means I write a bunch. Blogs are just the pieces that never make it into the final cut.