Over the next four weeks, we will be taking a look at some life lessons to be learned from the Book of Ruth. There are lessons in this book we can apply to our lives that will bring us closer to God. The first lessons we will look at is that there will be unexpected grief in our lives and that people who truly love us will be loyal during our hard times.
The Story of Grief and Loyalty
As we begin with Ruth Chapter 1, we are introduced to Naomi. Naomi was from Bethlehem and during a famine, she moved to Moab with her husband, Elimelech and sons. Then Elimelech died and left Naomi with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other named Ruth. After 10 years, Naomi’s sons also died.
Naomi’s future could not have been more hopeless, because she had no one to provide for her. If she were in Israel, the community would care for her but because she was in Moab, there was no one. Once she heard that the famine in Israel was over, she decided to return to her homeland.
Knowing that she had no way to provide for her daughters-in-law, she told them to return to the homes of their fathers. She had no way to find them new husbands. Although the reasons Naomi gives are valid, I think that she also saw them as reminders of all that she had lost. She was pushing them away because of her grief.
Naomi’s daughter-in-law, Orpah had to be convinced but ultimately, she did as she was told and returned to the home of her father. Ruth, on the other hand, refused to abandon her mother-in-law in this most desperate time. It was then that Ruth made a proclamation of loyalty that even Naomi couldn’t argue with.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”RUTH 1:16-17
Naomi’s Deep Despair
When Naomi and Ruth reach Bethlehem, the entire town was talking about them. The women recognized Naomi and her response showed us just how deep Naomi’s despair was. She didn’t even want to be known as Naomi because of her grief.
She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”RUTH 1:20-21
The first thing that we can learn from Ruth Chapter 1 is that there will be times of grief in our lives. In this story, we see Naomi going through varying stages of pain as she works through her great losses.
- She feels hopeless because she finds herself destitute in a foreign land with no one to turn to.
- Naomi is pushing the ones that love her away because of her pain.
- She is bitter and resentful because she feels she has no choices.
- She blames God for taking away her husband and her sons.
We learn that it is important to give ourselves permission to feel our pain when grieving a great loss. If Naomi had acted like everything in life was just fine, would Ruth have been willing to give up everything? If Naomi had not shown her grief, would Ruth have stayed with her? These two questions are interesting ways to think of this story. But ultimately, those that love you can not offer support to you if you do not show your pain.
The next lesson from this chapter is that it is ok to blame God. Honestly, God is strong and He can handle your bitterness. Because Naomi allowed herself to not only feel her bitterness toward God but to verbally state it, God was able to bring her through the pain. In my mind, if we can blame God for our pain (even though that blame is misplaced), then it is easy to see that God can heal our pain as well.
This first chapter of the Book of Ruth takes us through Naomi’s grief and introduces us to Ruth’s loyalty. As we continue through this book over the next four weeks what other lessons do you think we will discover?
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