What do you do when you find yourself in circumstances that are not your fault? Circumstances that have been brought about by another person’s choices and decisions. As Ruth opens, we read the story that sets up the rest of the story. We are told about how Ruth came to be widowed and childless in a foreign land. Tucked into the most romantic love story in the Bible we find a woman who is hurt and feeling rather down about her life’s circumstances. In the first chapter of Ruth, I unexpectedly found myself deeply relating to this woman who had her life turned upside down because of the choices of another person.
Naomi’s husband Elimelech had taken his family to Moab to provide for them as was his duty as head of household. In leading his family away from Israel, he brings on hardship to them. He ultimately didn’t trust God to provide in the hard times God had brought on Israel. Elimelech saw the prosperity of the pagans and took his family there.
Sadly, his decision not only brought about his death but also the death of his two sons and left his wife destitute. His decisions bring about the bitter life that Naomi speaks of when she returns to Bethlehem. Naomi’s bitterness was brought on by the actions of another and that seems unfair. How often do we, too, suffer at the hands of others or because of others actions?
We must remember that we shouldn’t take offense to people because people are just tools in the hands of God. Tools that God sovereignly uses to bring about His purposes in and with our lives.
I find comfort in the familiarity of Naomi’s response to her life’s circumstances. How often haven’t I interpreted the hard times and trials as God’s bitter dealings with me or his goodness withheld from me. Only to find that God used them for good in my life.
In response to her travels, the loss of her husband and 2 sons, her widowhood and childlessness, we find her saying ‘don’t call me Naomi because my life is not pleasant rather call me Mara because my life is so bitter’. She took the circumstances of her life personally and misunderstood what was going on. She viewed her life circumstances through the lens of self rather than through the lens of God’s sovereignty.
The truth is that it’s never about us. We need to get good at viewing our circumstances through the lens of God’s sovereignty.
It’s truly all about God’s sovereign, overarching plan and sometimes He needs us to play a difficult part. Sometimes that difficult part is training for something else He needs us to do. Sometimes the painful part is discipline to shape, mold and change us. And sometimes that difficult part is to test us. But regardless, those painful parts bring Him glory and fulfill His ultimate plan for humanity.
Keeping that perspective through trials and troubles is crucial for keeping our feelings from being hurt and taking things personally. Keeping that perspective allows us to be willing servants of the King- pliable, moldable and soft in his hands.
See, without the famine Naomi and Elimelech would never have gone to Moab. Without going to Moab, Mahlon would have never married Ruth and Ruth would have never come to faith in God. Without Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion’s deaths, Naomi and Ruth would have never returned to Judah and Ruth could have never married Boaz. And it was from Boaz and Ruth’s marriage God had planned to bring both David and later Christ.
God had a plan and all of the heartache had a purpose.
Who knows what other Moabites came to faith because of their journey and life story. We are only told about Ruth but who knows what other kingdom advancing things happened because of and through the pain of both women’s lives.
May we never take God’s plan personally and become bitter! May we always be willing to be used by a sovereign God, no matter the cost to us!