As a follower of Christ, I am not completely comfortable with either political party or the candidates they have nominated to be president of the United States. When I think of voting in 2020, my mind goes to this ancient text:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance…If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt…[the doubter] should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
“IN ALL THEY DO”—I think this includes voting.
WHY DO WE NEED GOD’S WISDOM TO VOTE?
We need God’s wisdom because that which is morally wrong cannot be politically correct. Voting in 2020 requires Believers to support a candidate and political platform that is promoting ideas and behaviors that are morally wrong. Neither mainstream candidate, or the platforms they represent, are 100% morally correct. Both parties have policies that are morally wrong; and, they have nominated candidates that have very public moral failures, character deficits, and evil ideas cloaked in stumping points that are communicated as “good for the majority of people.”
We need God’s wisdom when voting because all sin is equally wrong, but the consequences for specific sins are not equal. The consequence for cowardice is different than the consequence for arrogance. The consequence for sexual immorality is different than the consequence for a deceptive heart that has wicked schemes. The consequence for sowing discord is different than the consequence for shedding innocent blood. The consequence for speaking lies is different than the consequence for purposely lying about someone to deceive people. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
We need God’s wisdom when voting for 2020’s presidential candidates because we are not just choosing between personalities, platforms, and promised policies. We are choosing between the consequences of what is morally wrong that they have made politically correct. When Jesus followers begin to justify what is morally wrong in any candidate claiming that it is for the better good of everyone, we become the double-minded, unstable person.
We need God’s wisdom when voting because by-and-large, God’s people are terrified of offending someone by talking about Christ in an election year. However, it does not seem to bother us to offend someone with our political views, and in the process, destroy our credibility to share the hope of the Gospel with them.
Believers need God’s wisdom when voting because in America when we choose a candidate, we must be committed to opposing the evil that candidate will promote as good. This is not hypocrisy. It is voting with our eyes wide open because our loyalty is to the King of Kings.
Naaman, the leading general in the Aram Empire, had defeated and enslaved God’s people. He had leprosy. A Jewish slave girl he had acquired to serve his wife, told him the God of Israel could heal him. She advised him to go to the prophet Elisha and seek his help. To keep the story short, God healed Naaman because he humbled himself and obeyed the Lord’s instructions given through Elisha. As a result, he wanted to pay the prophet and Elisha would have known of that.
Look closely at Naaman’s words and request to Elisha as he prepares to go back to Aram:
“I will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. But may the Lord forgive me for this one thing: When my king enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down…I have to bow there also—when I bow down…may the Lord forgive me for this.”
Naaman knows who is God. He has just declared his loyalty to him, but he also knows that he lives in a culture and a system that asks him to kneel before idols. He wants to know if God will forgive him for this. Doesn’t this feel like voting?
Elisha responds with 3 words: “Go in peace.” He does not scratch where Naaman is itching. He neither condones or condemns what Naaman confesses.
What does this say to me? No matter who I vote for, they will bow to idols that I do not kneel to. Does this make me a hypocrite? Does this mean it is okay for me to vote for someone knowing this will happen?
Elisha’s response reveals this is a valid concern, but not something that needed to be answered in that moment. It as if God is saying, “Go in peace knowing that if you are going to follow Christ there will be conflict.”
The impending conflict will be dealt with at the appropriate time. Until then, go in peace.
It is with this in mind, I will go vote. I encourage you to do the same.
When I dream of the International Welcome Center (IWC), I see an organization where the love of God is brought to life through people who have been empowered to love their neighbor. I see people who love God acting most like God would act. I see Americans being the very best America can be.
I see a place where persons of different origins and cultures, different languages and colors, different customs and religions, are accepted. They are not accepted out of pity, but because of their value and diversity and knowledge. I see a place a where those who serve the foreigner find their own worth not in what they have to offer, but in their capacity to bear the burden of another. To give to a stranger until that stranger becomes a friend.
I see a place where xenophobia is not allowed to exist because faith in the Almighty has pushed it out. I see American citizens coming alongside someone who has fled from death and disease, genocide and political tyranny, ethnic cleansing and civil war to find the healing of a caring nation. A nation willing to give them a new start, build a new home, and walk them down the path of citizenship.
I see a place where selfishness takes a back seat to advocacy. A place where vulnerable foreigners are seen as valuable people. A place where the advocate takes up the cause of another to empower them and in the process discovers their own humanity.
I see a place where racism is overcome with affection motivated by love. A place where a different color of skin is an invitation—not a reservation. A place where diversity is the new normal building a stronger community instead of it being a wall that builds segregated clusters of people.
I see the IWC as part of a modern day fulfillment to an ancient prophecy. At the end of time when humanity has run its course, Jesus explained he would divide the human race into two groups: those who loved him and those who did not.
How will he know who loved him from those who cared nothing for him? He explained: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Those to whom Jesus will be speaking will respond: “When did we see you hungry or thirsty? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in? When did we see you needing clothes? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?”
Then Jesus explains, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one fo the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
I imagine in that great moment Jesus pointing to the strangers who came from all over the world to live in our neighborhoods. I imagine the family that escaped religious purging in Afghanistan and the single mom with fatherless children who survived the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I imagine the survivors of ethnic cleansing in Nepal who carry the guilt of surviving and those who live with PTSD because they endured unspeakable violence in Iraq. I imagine in that moment those of us who never endured such tragedy will see in full the losses they lived through and our hearts will finally understand.
In that great moment, I imagine the pride and joy of the Almighty for his people. Those humans, motivated by a love for Jesus, who embraced those strangers even though they had no way to fully understand them. I imagine laughter at the misunderstanding different cultures and languages produced. I imagine big tears and huge smiles as those who helped the stranger begin to understand just how much they helped. I believe those who funded the work, gave themselves, or donated time, energy, skills, or items will finally understand the full impact of their generosity.
You and I have an opportunity to be a part of that moment. We can fulfill a prophecy today few on earth will notice. Even fewer will care, but it will not go unnoticed in eternity. It will not be overlooked by the Great Lover of Souls.
I realize people who have visions can be crazy. Honestly, as God placed this dream in my heart, I wondered if I was crazy; but I began to share the idea. First, I shared it with the Elders of GBC. They didn’t think it was crazy. I then shared it with other Godly men and women. They didn’t think it was crazy. I have now shared the idea with hundreds of people. No one has said it is crazy. Ultimately, I have shared it with you.
Will you support the IWC? Will you help the stranger today? Will you embrace this opportunity?
Here are 3 ways to learn how you can support the stranger that has become your neighbor:
When COVID hit the scene, I began writing a Word of Encouragement. It was a way for me to stay connected and encourage the partners, guests, and friends of Grace Bible Church while in lockdown. When GBC opened back up, I continued to write weekly emails and posts.
I enjoy writing. I also enjoy the feedback from those who have gained something from my efforts. I will continue to write, but I am postponing the weekly Word of Encouragement until January so I can put more energy into pursuing the development of the International Welcome Center.
God has given me a burden and placed a passion in my heart to see the IWC become a light for our Lord and a force for good in our community. I cannot carry this burden or flesh out this passion and continue to write a Word of Encouragement. Time simply will not permit it, but it is more than just a time issue.
I started writing a Word of Encouragement to strengthen people during a difficult season. I pray that happened. I will continue to build up the body of Christ through my preaching, writing, attitude, and lifestyle; but part of what God has called me to do through the IWC is to motivate people to respond to a great need.
As I think about the purpose of the IWC, I am reminded of all the evils it pushes against: racism, inequality, xenophobia, illegal immigration, poverty, selfishness and ignorance. Many of these evils are the monsters taking swipes at our nation’s moral compass.
The IWC provides an opportunity for local people (me and you) to confront national evils. It gives us the chance to be a part of the solution instead of just being frustrated about all the problems. It opens doors for individuals to impact their neighbors and overcome darkness with the love, compassion, and courage of Christ. It builds bridges so the hope of the Gospel can be shared.
Few organizations provide you with an opportunity to impact society on an individual, local, and national level; but the IWC does. Few organizations will allow you to build God’s kingdom, make your city a better place, help a wounded family start over, and personally follow Christ; but the IWC does. When you and I support the IWC,…
You and I have before us the opportunity to live out the teachings of both the Old and New Testaments in a world that is embracing the idea that God is distant. That He is not speaking. That He does not care. We can prove them wrong. We can show them the relevancy and power of following the teachings of the Bible. Who knows what would happen locally and nationally if a group of Christ followers said,
We don’t have to be swept away by the chaos and confusion of our times. We don’t have to be be suspicious, confused, or frustrated with the foreigners, neighbors, and strangers among us. We can be a part of something God is doing.
The IWC needs $425,000 to build an office and classrooms. For the next 3 months I will be using the time and energy I spent writing a Word of Encouragement to follow God in meeting this need. My hope is that you will support me and join me in this effort.
Here are 2 things you can do right now:
I will be sharing more with you as the weeks unfold. Native Tongue by Switchfoot helps me remember the importance of the IWC.
So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal. —Ruth 2:17-18
The relationship between Boaz and Ruth is picture of the relationship we can have with God through Christ. This fact can never leave our mind as we consider the implications of what is recorded in this part of Scripture. Ruth received the opportunities Boaz’s grace provided, but then she did something that proved her uncommon humility:
Ruth gathered barley…beat out the grain…carried it back to town…gave her [mother-in-law] roasted grain…
After encountering and receiving Boaz’s unworldly kindness and extreme generosity, Ruth went to work. She did not have an arrogant, privileged, or entitled attitude. She did not think or behave like…I knew my good looks would get his attention…I knew my loyalty to Naomi would pay off…He is wealthy so he should help me…I am poor and underprivileged and deserve some pity.
Ruth sweated. All day. Even though she was noticed by the wealthy landowner, she did not expect any special treatment. She worked the field and was grateful for the opportunity to labor. How do we know this?
She gathered grain all day without complaining. She did not ask anyone to beat out her grain. She did not batt her eyes and use female charm to sucker some poor fellow into carrying her bags back to town. She freely shared with Naomi what had been offered to her.
From a horizontal view, divine grace looks like an undeserved handout with no strings attached. For all practical purposes many religious people treat God’s grace this way. We would never say it that way, but we behave that way. We begin to think, feel, and act as though we deserve grace because God is gracious. When this happens, grace becomes a privilege we flaunt or a license we use to sin.
From a vertical view, God’s grace is undeserved kindness motivated by unconditional love. Few people ever grasp the magnitude of grace, but the ones who do are easy to find. After receiving divine grace, they work. Not out of obligation or hope for an easier life, but out of deep gratitude for the One who noticed them when they had nothing worth noticing.
Ruth, after receiving Boaz’s attention and generosity, went home exhausted and satisfied willing to share with others what she had freely received. I know many religious people who are exhausted, but they are not satisfied. I know many who are fatigued with their good works, but they are selfish with their blessings. Why is this? Because it is possible to work and never experience grace. When it happens, it leaves us worn out and self-centered.
I’ve noticed those who have truly received grace work hard on their character, their Godly lifestyle, and their generous attitude. I would dare say, most who have truly received God’s grace need a spiritual nap, but they are reluctant to do so because they have been so overwhelmed by God’s kindness motivated by his unconditional love that was offered to them.
What about you? Has God’s grace changed your work ethic (and I’m not talking about your career or chores)? Has the miracle of grace made it next to impossible for you to stop working the opportunities offered to you? Can you find yourself in Ruth?
The Goodness of God by Bethel Music and Jenn Johnson is a great song for the journey. Check it out.
Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there?…the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi…Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields.—Ruth 2:5-8
People have a difficult time relating to God. I realize some have grown so disenchanted with the idea of God that they are no longer even trying, but most people have a God-sized emptiness in their life they are trying to fill, even if they don’t know it.
Two common misconceptions about God misguide us in our efforts to relate to him.
Boaz went over and said to Ruth…
This is a picture of how God approaches people.
Boaz approached Ruth. She did not introduce herself to Boaz. The rich land owner was not obligated to meet her. The needy immigrant had no right to converse with Boaz. Why did the introduction take place?
God, the Creator, owes us nothing. As needy, fallen creatures we have nothing to offer him that he needs. Why would he come to us?
Here is a secret to the inner life: We don’t find God—he moves towards us. It is called grace. The Holy One, the Almighty, the Lover of Souls—he comes to us first. We don’t approach him.
It was Boaz who noticed Ruth. It was Boaz who took the initiative to speak to Ruth. It was Boaz who freely offered Ruth what she needed. She needed grace. She needed someone to see her and care. Someone to not hold her past against her. To give her a voice. To offer her a future she did not deserve. To extend an opportunity she could not earn. God’s grace does all of that and more for us.
One of our human struggles is assuming that we deserve opportunity because we exist. Another is believing that we are entitled to blessings because we prop God up with our beliefs and morality. Ruth was doing the best she could with the strength she had. It was here that Boaz approached her.
God is still in the business of approaching people, but it is the humble, broken person who is extended grace first. God will not waste the opportunities grace offers on those looking to make bargains. He does not extend the future grace provides to those who feel entitled to it. God gives proud skeptics a cold shoulder, but if we are down on our luck, he is right there to help.*
Quit trying to bargain with God. Stop attempting to believe him into blessing you. Be you. Work with what you have. Humble yourself. Wait. He will approach you and extend grace.
I Need a Miracle by Third Day is a song that reminds me I need God’s grace. May it do the same for you.
* Proverbs 3:34 from The Message
Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing…, whose name was Boaz…So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. —Ruth 2:1, 8
Our world is tribal. We like to think we are global, accepting one another, and moving towards a common unity, but watch the news. Our world is broken and we can find many of the fractures around the tribes vying for our allegiance. Political parties, the issue of racial inequality, educational groups, financial status’, ethnic heritages, and generational descriptions are just some of the tribes promoting fear, hate, and mistrust. These tribes point out what makes us different and rarely highlight what we have in common. Instead of using diversity to strengthen society, they use differences to stir discontent and create targets. As long as there are humans, there will be tribes.
One of the things I love about Ruth’s story is that it shows us how to defeat tribalism.
…a man of standing…whose name was Boaz
Ruth did not know that she was harvesting grain in Boaz’s field. She also did not know that he was a “man of standing.” It is a difficult phrase. It means three things:
Here is how he met Ruth. He comes to check on his employees to discover an immigrant—one he did not hire—gathering grain from from his field. She was working alongside his hired employees as if she belonged there. She had asked permission and it had been granted by the field manager, but Boaz is just discovering it. To Ruth’s credit, she was not looking for pity. She was engaged in hard labor to feed herself and her mother-in-law.
Boaz could have shamed her, shooed her away, mistreated her or even assaulted her. No one would have cared because she was a female immigrant without legal status or protection working in his field, digging into his profits, without his permission. But because he was a man of standing who loved the Lord, he pushed back against the normal tendencies of tribalism, fear, mistrust, and indignation over perceived wrongs. Instead, he extended equality and generosity to someone who was different and uninvited.
“Don’t go glean in another field and don’t go away from here.”
He did not do this blindly. He had heard of Ruth’s sacrifices to care for Naomi. He had seen with his own eyes her work ethic and disdain for pity. He combined his heart to follow God with the information he had about Ruth and he let his tribal walls fall down.
The same must happen today if we are going to see violence, racism, prejudice, inequality, and fear of differences dissipate in our communities. Boaz lived in an era of dysfunctional political leadership and poor morals. It is said that during his time everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Each had their own tribe. Their own set of values. Their own preferences. Their own filters. It was a tumultuous, dark season in ancient Israel’s history. Yet, we find this man of standing being different.
We can be different in our tumultuous time. We can combine our desire to follow God with intelligent, non-biased information and extend grace to someone we might initially mistrust or fear. And in the process, our own tribal walls will fall. To not do this would mean we value our fears over our hopes. That we value self-preservation over loving-kindness. That we value the darkness of our world over the Light that has entered our world.
Here is a song for your journey. It has helped me much in my own: Fear Is A Liar by Zach Williams.
One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.” Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, —Ruth 2:2-3
“Let me go…pick up…grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”
Ruth and Naomi are destitute widows. They have no source of income, no property, and no one to advocate for them. Widowhood has created holes in their financial stability, social standing, and opportunities for the future. Ancient Israel provided no social safety nets for poor widows. They were solely dependent upon the kindness of others to have their basic needs met.
COVID has taken things from our lives and left holes. Each person has been impacted by it differently, but the one thing we all have in common is the knowledge of being powerless to make the world the way we want it to be or the way it used to be. Just as Ruth could not change her poverty, we cannot change our powerlessness.
Ruth, in spite of her desperate situation, decided she would do what she could. By begging to work for grain, she was communicating her willingness to work where she could work and act where she could move. Here is a secret to the inner life: God seems to be most active in our lives when we are willing to work where we can. Moses was tending sheep when he had his burning bush moment. Gideon was harvesting grain when the Angel of the Lord showed up. David was doing chores when the prophet came to find the next king. Peter, James, and John were on the clock when Jesus showed up and said, “Come, follow me.” Ruth will meet Boaz, her God-send, because she was willing to work wherever the door was open.
If God has gone silent in your COVID world, I suggest you get busy doing what you can with what you have where you are. Stop mourning. Stop complaining. Stop being afraid. Stop distracting yourself. Stop having a pity party. Stop giving up. Do something. Work. Serve. Share. Give. Don’t just be busy. Start adulting. Care for yourself and someone else at the same time. We greatly increase our chances of encountering God when we are responsibly caring, working, moving, and doing. This kind of living is proof that we are trusting God to provide and move on our behalf.
As it happened…
From Ruth’s perspective, she just happened to start working in Boaz’s field. To her, it was a random wheat field where no one chased her away. But when one is moving in faith, nothing happens by chance. It is all part of a Divine plan. Ruth had no idea she had just started moving towards God’s grace for her.
When you and I actively “faith” God, nothing happens by chance. We enter the Faith Zone. The Faith Zone rarely feels comfortable. We feel dependent and vulnerable. We usually feel humble and needy and small. We bring nothing to the table but the meager resources of a willing attitude and a weak hope—but that’s enough. God seems to notice our limitations more than our abilities.
I can’t prove it, but I bet Ruth felt pretty small that day working in a stranger’s backyard. It is how I feel some days when I come into the office or get ready to share God’s Word on a Sunday morning. I bet it is how you feel sometimes in this world right now.
If this is you—if you are responsibly moving forward the best you can with the little faith you have—you are in good company. You have entered the Faith Zone and are racing toward the grace God has for you. Press on. The Almighty God will meet you there. I know it doesn’t make sense, but God’s ways are just different from ours.
Only You, by Young Oceans featuring Evan Wickham, is a good song for the journey. Enjoy.
When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked.“Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. —Ruth 1:19-20
…call me Mara…
In ancient Israel, names were not labels. They were descriptions of inner character traits that parents would speak into the life of their child. As an infant, Naomi’s parents gave her the name pleasant. Upon her arrival in Bethlehem, her old neighbors and relatives called her by that name. She quickly informed them, “Don’t call me that. Call me Mara.” She declared that she is no longer pleasant. She is now bitter.
The pain life can bring has a way of robbing the very best away from us. It happened to Naomi. It happens to us. Loved ones die, careers crash, dreams morph into nightmares, friends turn into enemies, good days fade into social distancing and masks. No one is exempt from the strange turn of events that turn a pleasant life into a bitter one.
When it happens, it is not uncommon for us to look for a reason or a culprit. Naomi views her past decisions as the reason, and she sees God as the culprit. She tells everyone that will listen: “God has made my life bitter. He has emptied all that was good out of my days. He is holding my sins against me and punishing me. He has broken my world and I see no recovery.”
Not everyone blames God when things go sour. Some people don’t point to God because they don’t even think of him enough to blame him, but for those of us who believe he is sovereign, pain can cause us to ask, “Is God really good?” Just as COVID exposed all that is wrong with government and society, bitterness exposes all of our flawed ideas about God.
Bitterness also blinds us. When we grow bitter there are three things we cannot see:
When we are suffering, we tend to magnify what we don’t have and minimize what we do. We tend to forget what God has done when we’re convinced there’s something he should be doing. Bitterness blinds us. Fortunately, it does not disqualify us. God has a good plan for bitter people. Naomi will discover this.
If we will give God some space, we will discover it too.
Here is a song that helps me when I get frustrated with God: Hurry Up and Wait by Mercy Me.
“Look,” Naomi said to Ruth, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.”But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” —Ruth 1:15-16
…your God will be my God.
Ruth’s declaration of faith in God is one of the strongest in all of the Bible.
Ruth married into a family that believed in Yahweh, then her husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law all died. I have to think she had some serious questions about the love of God. Not to mention, to go with Naomi, Ruth would be turning her back on her citizenship, her family, her culture, and any means of security that might be available to her. Ruth has no logical reason to say to Naomi “Your God will be my God.”
God spoke to Abraham, was in the burning bush for Moses, wrestled with Jacob, gave strength to Samson, and sent an angel to Gideon. All of these men experienced something that would bolster their faith. Ruth had no dream, no experience, no voice and no angel. Why would she claim Naomi’s God as her own? What incentive did she have?
Most who place their faith in God are like Ruth. Few people today hear God’s audible voice, see a burning bush, receive a supernatural ability, or rub shoulders with an angelic visitor (and if they claim to have experienced any of these things…we have serious reservations). Ruth was able to place her faith in God without any of these experiences. She has endured pain, listened to Naomi’s inaccurate rants about God’s character, and received no special messages convincing her God has some special plan for her life. Where did Ruth find faith?
I don’t know the answer to the question. All I know is that somewhere along the way, Ruth heard some truth about God and she believed it. She trusted what had been revealed to her and it became an opportunity for her to trust Him more. It is a divine mystery, but all faith in God is. If all elements of faith can be understood, it is no longer a faith in the Almighty.
The Bible tells us faith in God comes from hearing the word of God. Even though I cannot pinpoint where Ruth heard about the true, living God; we can be certain this is where her faith was birthed. The same is true for you and I today. Our faith springs forth when we hear, accept, and trust real truth about the living God.
Many of us have endured the obstacles Ruth faced. We have experienced the pain of our broken world. We have waded through all the comments about God that do not even come close to explaining who he really is. We have had no “aha” moments or special visions. We, like Ruth, get tidbits of truth that nudge at our hearts. It is in those moments we must decide to follow the truth or lean on logic. Ruth chose the truth.
When we follow truth and let faith blossom, we also gain wisdom. By the end of Ruth’s story you are going to think she was really wise when she chose to follow God. But wisdom is a by-product of accepting truth and living by faith. She doesn’t look wise right now, but heavenly wisdom rarely looks wise in our world. To learn more about wisdom read this.
Don’t neglect the nudges of truth God sends your way. Accept them. Trust them. Each time you do, you are telling God you want more of him. He never disappoints.
Here is a song to encourage you in the journey: Word of God Speak by Mercy Me.
But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes…Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept. “No,” they said. “We want to go with you…But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me?…Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.” And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. —Ruth 1:8-14
Why would Naomi encourage two young women who love her as their mother to return to Moab? Why would she tell them to leave her side and go back to a people who worship a false god? Why would she ask them to consider finding men to marry who do not know the Lord? Why would she advise them to raise children in a society that sacrificed children in cult worship? This is Naomi’s worst moment.
Why would anyone discourage another person from trusting the Lord? It happens frequently. We may not say it the way Naomi said it, but we are capable of advising someone near us to go back to a life away from God. Why would we do that?
…the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.
Like a footnote at the bottom of a page, this comment reveals some background information about Naomi’s strange advice to her daughter-in-laws. Naomi believes in God, but she believes God is against her. She believes God is angry with her. She believes God is out to crush her, ruin her, or teach her a lesson.
I am always shocked when I encounter someone who feels this way. They believe in God, but they also believe God is against them. Two things feed this faulty thinking and we find them in Naomi: pain and shame.
Naomi has endured much pain. Three trips to the cemetery has convinced her God is angry at her. She also has shame. She allowed her sons to marry godless women from a godless place. In ancient times, there was no greater sin than allowing your children to marry outside of the faith. Naomi let it happen twice. No wonder she believes God is angry with her.
Bad things happen to us everyday. Believing in God is not umbrella of protection from pain nor a guarantee that we will not make decisions we deeply regret. Sin has broken our world. It has broken us. We will feel pain. We will have shame. But, don’t ever think God is not for you. He is in your corner. He desires for you to see him as he really is, not as how you think he is. That’s why Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. God was in that hug. Naomi just doesn’t know it yet.
There is a way to remain happy even when life hurts. If you would like to know how, read this.
I’ve shared this song before, but it has become a “go to” song when my life is hurting. I hope you enjoy it: There was Jesus by Zach Williams & Dolly Parton
If this has encouraged you, please share it. Someone in your world is feeling pain and shame.