Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you 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. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” – Ruth 1:16-17
For a social psychology journal, college students and adults with incurable diseases were asked to list five blessings every week for which they were thankful. They named things like friends…tropical beaches…iPhones and iPods…and DirecTV. Then…comparable groups were asked to count their hassles instead of their blessings. They listed aggravations such as hard to find parking and finances depleting quickly. The results? The grateful groups felt better about their lives…exercised more…woke up more refreshed and were more willing to help others.
Do you think Ruth might have listed blessings or aggravations? Do you remember her background? One of Naomi’s sons swept Ruth, the Moabitess, off her feet…what a blessing! Her heart stretched out to include her husband’s family. Enjoying laughter and love…what a blessing! Enjoying a place to live and a God who loved her…what a blessing! As quickly as blessings came, they went…death struck. Her husband dies. Her brother-in-law dies. Her sister-in-law decides to go back to her original family and Naomi to her original land. What aggravations!
Do you think Ruth felt loneliness? Have you? A disaster disrupts your dreams…excluded from a group of friends…forgotten in your senior years…or politely thanked but dismissed after the interview. A spouse who’s not around or a parent who just doesn’t “get it”. And there’s nothing you can do about it, except vent…and so you vent. You slam a door…you pout…you cry…you throw a pity party for yourself…and…you give no thought to God’s good and gracious intentions. Yes, God who seems like a million miles away hanging out with the good and healthy people.
But the truth is that God allows us to be infected with loneliness and hopelessness and illness and aggravations so that we are led to call for help. God allows us to feel guilty. God allows us to make bad decisions. God allows us to get hurt. Then…our hopelessness and loneliness help us see what we wouldn’t otherwise see: a way that is much better than ours. It is perfect and divine. And we see Jesus. Jesus traveled out of his way to walk on this earth and leave the footprints of his forgiveness wherever we go. Jesus secured our hope and connection to God as he spilled his holy blood on the cross and as he rose from death’s knockout blow.
The rest of Ruth’s story (and, it is worth your time to read) shows that God had something better for Ruth…and she trusted in what the God of Israel had planned for her. So much good did the Lord have in store for her that you can find her name as one of Jesus’ ancestors in Matthew 1…Ruth, the foreigner, a Moabitess. God recorded stories like Ruth’s in the Scriptures for us to believe that he won’t turn away from anyone. God still listens today when feeble voices uncertain of what to say call to him. This promise is yours today. Hold on to it!
Prayer: Dear Lord, for life’s aggravations and difficulties that allow me to struggle, thank you. Please use those aggravations and difficulties to make me see Jesus…all that he has done for me, has planned for me and promises to me. Amen.