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When you look into your future what do you see?
Many people look into their future and just see more of the same. The same frustrations. The same struggles. The same daily grind.
They see no exit.
They see no bend in the road.
What are we to do as Christian women when life seems hopeless?
What are we to do when look at our future and all we see is hardship, battles, and sorrow? We know that God is our hope, but we have trouble believing that we can ever feel the joy of that hope we have in Him.
As we begin our second week in the book of Ruth, we see Naomi in just such a place.
Her husband led her and their two sons out of Bethlehem to Moab when a famine hit. Did Naomi even want leave her family and friends?
Did she even want to live in a country that had a history of oppressing her people?
The Bible doesn’t tell us. But we do know that after living in Moab for ten years, we find Naomi as a widow who had lost literally everything.
The past ten years had been far from kind to her. As a widow, she had no husband to provide for her. But even worse, now she didn’t have children to care for their mother.
She was utterly helpless.
She didn’t even have grandchildren to occupy her thoughts and give her a reprieve from the swirling questions and suffocating grief.
All she had now were her two widowed daughters-in-law. Their situation was only made better by the fact that they were much younger than she and would likely remarry.
But who would marry an old widow who was past her child-bearing years?
Who was going to provide for her now?
When her daughters-in-law remarried, they’d have no obligation to her anymore. And then she’d truly be all alone in this God-forsaken land of her enemies with no one to care for her or provide for her.
I can only imagine the sleepless nights she had, tossing and turning, trying to shut off her restless thoughts.
Wanting to be the best mother-in-law for Orpah and Ruth, setting them free to find love again, but wrestling with the selfishness of holding on to their precious relationship.
Wondering what would become of her when they did move on.
It’s one thing when we’ve made bad choices and we end up in a dead-end situation that was of our choosing. We can be angry at ourselves and learn something from the bad choices we made.
It’s a whole different situation when we’re in a situation not of our choosing.
And here’s Naomi in a situation she didn’t choose, and she can’t even be properly upset with the person who led her there, because he’s dead.
Scripture doesn’t tell us that Elimelech sought God before he left Bethlehem for Moab, so one can somewhat conclude that he didn’t.
Likely out of fear for his family’s well being he led them out of the House of Bread to Moab – to live among the very people who oppressed his people.
Now it appears they’ve jumped from the frying pan into the fire, because even though there is food in the land, she has no one to provide it for her.
When You’re Feeling Hopeless, Do These Two Things
It is in situations like this when we see what people’s faith is made of.
We get to see if they look to God as God or as a means to get what they want and need from Him.
So often it is in situations like these when people abandon God because they feel He has abandoned them; and out of bitterness and disillusionment, they walk away.
But Naomi didn’t walk away.
Instead of walking away from God, she walked toward Him.
1. Remember the source of your nourishment
Maybe the decision to move to Moab wasn’t what she would have chosen, but that didn’t leave her without a choice now. Word had reached Moab that the famine was over in Judah. God had visited them, and there was bread again in the House of Bread.
Knowing that she still had family in Bethlehem, she decided to return home.
She knew she could throw herself on their good graces, and that was more than what she had now. She knew where she would find nourishment, and decided to go to the source of her nourishment.
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Where do we find nourishment for our souls?
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
While we should find nourishment for our souls and spirits in Jesus, we often look to fill that emptiness with other things
- The beach
- Reading novels
- Extreme sports
These things may fill us up temporarily, but they will never nourish us.
Just like a bag of chips may fill us up temporarily, but it is soon over and we’re looking for more junk food…and then more junk food…..and then more junk food – because our body is craving nourishment, not just something to fill our stomachs.
Naomi knew where her nourishment was, and she was willing to say goodbye to the only two women who held the last remnants of her ties to her family.
Saying goodbye to them meant saying goodbye to the last connection she had with her babies.
But she was willing to do this in order to find the nourishment she needed for her body and spirit.
2. Remember the community you have
I find it interesting that when we are grieving, and need community the most, is when we’re most tempted to isolate ourselves from the community God has given us.
In fact, I’ve seen some repeatedly reject the open arms of their community, a community that desperately wanted to love and help heal them, and then wonder why they were so lonely.
Other times I’ve seen some walk away from a loving community and seek comfort among strangers.
But Naomi made the right decision – rather than wallowing in self-pity, squalor, and poverty, she chose to gather what was left of her life…and her dignity…and return home to her community.
This couldn’t have been easy.
The fact that when she arrived in Bethlehem, everyone knew who she was, speaks to the fact that she must have come from a well-known family.
So, returning home a widow and childless, impoverished and very likely much-aged, couldn’t have been easy.
In fact, it must have been humiliating.
But they were her community. I don’t imagine she even hoped for a second for the welcome party she received. Ruth 1:19 says, “And it happened that when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them…”
It was a true welcoming home.
As we will discover over the next few weeks, God honored Naomi’s decision to return to the home and the God of her fathers.
Because of God’s civil laws, they would never be hungry.
And because of Ruth’s loyalty, Naomi would come to be well-provided for. Ruth would marry once again into Naomi’s family – and this time she would marry a very wealthy man.
Naomi went from the pleasantness of a husband and children to the bitterness of loss and poverty, back to the pleasantness of a fruitful life.
She ended her days rich in her fervent faith in God. Rich in family. And rich in community.
To be sure, while still in Moab, she could never have imagined her life so rich. All she could see were endless days of grief and poverty stretched before her like a Montana highway.
But one humbling and seemingly insignificant choice turned her whole life around.
I wonder today, are you daily finding nourishment at Jesus’ feet?
Are you daily in His Word and in prayer?
Are you opening yourself up to the community of believers He has given you?
This isn’t a recipe to change your circumstances, but it will change your outlook on life. It is never hopeless. As long as we have Jesus by our side; as long as we have God’s Word in our hearts; as long as we have a community of believers walking with us, we have hope!