Today’s readings are Ruth 1 and Phil 3:12-21.
Over the next few days we will read through the great story of Ruth.
Over the next few days we will see the hand of God at work.
Over the next few days we will wonder about life, about our future, about loss, about bitterness and more importantly about how faith really works and what transformation really looks like. Added to all of this will be the question of how do we really treat others and finally we will focus on the great principle of redemption.
As the story in chapter one unfolds we can sense that Naomi must have had mixed feelings as she urged her daughters-in-law to turn back. To the pain of losing home, husband and sons, she thought that she need to add more pain by returning home alone. We are caught by surprise with Ruth’s unexpected and determined committment to Naomi, which crossed both the bonds of race and religion, as well as human logic and reason, “Where you will go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried” (v16-17).
Believing that God was out to get her, Naomi wanted people to shun her to avoid being sucked into her world of pain and suffering (see v13). Ruth as we know, would not listen to such cries and in fact would attach herself even more closely. Yes, it is true that it is during times of suffering that you discover who your true friends are. For Naomi, God gave her Ruth. Yet, for Naomi, even with the welcoming cries of the women of Bethlehem, she remained detached and negative, failing to even acknowledge Ruth’s presence. Naomi was open about her complaint against God, but her pain had blurred her perception of his love for her, “I went away full, but the Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (v26).
There is a universal truth about suffering and that is that when you are in the middle of pain, it is often very hard to see the hand of God at work. It is only later that one can acknowledged God’s goodness and plan.
For us today, while we ponder this chapter, we can also be encouraged by the words of Paul from Philippians 3, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (v15).
In the race marked out for us, and yes we are all in a race to the finish line, Ruth’s example of how one women stood by another is a wonderful example of grace and friendship. It reminds me of the call of God in my own life to stand alongside others in their times of suffering, to not turn my back away from them, to ensure that as struggles come (and they will come upon us all), that we can all be there for one other. May it be true for our generation of Christ followers that no one ever has to walk alone.