The Cloud of Witnesses
Former title Lessons From the People of the Bible
Lesson 1: Ruth – Bad Things Happen To Good People
Bad Things Happen To Good People
Life is tough! Whoever said, “life is easy” was not only wrong but a deceiver. It never ceases to amaze me how many people seem to think that life should be kind to them and basically easy. The reality is that Christians are not immune to disease, accidents, hardships and death. The sooner we all wake up to that the better life will be for us. We will stop getting angry from harbouring unrealistic expectations.
Naomi and her family lived at a time when their very existence relied entirely upon agriculture and subsistence living. No crops meant no food and no food meant death. So when the famine struck in Israel, it was time to shift, just as Jacob had found out earlier.
Yes, it is absolutely right to trust God through the hard times, but don’t write off ‘common sense’. God does not expect us to turn off our brains as soon as we become Christians. No, God is real and the Christian life is real as well. Yes, we should trust God in every circumstance; however, if He has not given us a specific promise to provide for us during the economic challenge we are facing, if there are things we can do to ease it – like selling up or ‘trading down’ – we should not be too proud to consider it. Above all, we must listen to His voice and do what He says.
Naomi experienced some of the hardest situations we could ever be asked to face. Like Job, she lost all her close relatives. She was devastated emotionally, economically and culturally. Her male relatives – her husband and her sons – represented her security, income and future, and they had all died. What was she to do? She could sit around feeling sorry for herself for the rest of her life or choose to ‘move on’. Yes, it was going to be hard, and yes, it would involve risk and change. However, staying as she was would not be a good choice either. She took a long hard look at herself, her situation, her daughters-in-law and her circumstances, and decided the time was right to start afresh.
There is a time when grieving and mourning cease. Yes, of course, it is right to mourn and grieve – however, they are not supposed to take over. They are supposed to help heal the hurt and release the pain so life can start over again. As we ‘give’ all our hurt and pain to Jesus, He begins the healing process. He can and will turn our mourning into dancing – if we let Him.
When Naomi heard that Israel had grain once more, she decided to return to her roots, her home and her God. Foreign gods will never satisfy – there is a time when we need to realise that and return to our Maker. He alone is our security, help and Friend. He waits for us to come to our senses and ‘come home’. He is constantly waiting for us to return. Naomi decided to take the risk. It took courage and humility.
Yes, it was natural for Naomi’s daughters-in-law to stay with her through the tragedy. After all they had been married for some time to their husbands – her sons. Now that Naomi was contemplating returning to her roots, there was a sense of expectancy and hope. However, Naomi recommended to them to go back to their maternal homes. It is very evident, however, that Naomi had an extremely loving and close relationship with both Ruth and Orpah, which made the separation so much harder to contemplate.
The test of a good relationship is invariably through tough times rather than times of ease. Anyone can be a friend to those living an easy life. True friends stick by you in your worse times after you have let them down, and in those times when everything seems to be going wrong. They support you in whatever decision you make, even if they think it is unwise or not in their best interests.
Ruth was a wonderful girl; she surrendered her life totally for the benefit of Naomi.
Ruth would say to us today...
Life is hard. Bad things do happen to good people. You will always face challenges. Your character is built on how you respond to those challenges. When you befriend someone going through hard times it’s amazing how you get blessed in return.
Father, as I look at Ruth’s devotion to Naomi I feel deeply challenged. Please help me realise the joy that comes through looking beyond myself to help others in need. For Your Name’s sake. Amen.
Job 1:6-22; Ecclesiastes 3:1-14; Psalm 37:3-11.
How do you respond when things don’t go the way you hoped, planned or expected?
How do you handle a crisis?
What can we learn from Ruth about responding positively to the needs of others?