Tuesday, August 29

Learning From Ruth--Part 1: Leaning on the Faith of Others

But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to 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. --Ruth 1:16 (NIV)

The book of Ruth begins by establishing the family relationships between Naomi and Elimelech, their sons, and daughters-in-law. Sadly, the women of the family are thrust into a time of crisis and sorrow as a famine sweeps through their land, and each woman’s husband dies. In a culture where men were the bedrock of a family’s stability and well-being, Naomi and her son’s wives decide that, to ensure their survival, they must seek out extended family. Naomi readies herself for a trip to Bethlehem, while urging her daughters-in-law to return to their land of origin. Rather than return to Moab, Ruth declares rather adamantly that she will continue to stay with Naomi.

Moab was a place that didn’t have the greatest reputation. In fact, its origins are rooted in the sinful way that Lot’s daughters attempted to preserve their family line. Consequently, Moab was not known for its morality. Ruth, who was a Moabitess, was not of Jewish heritage, so it was extremely unusual for her to want to stay with Naomi. In doing so she consciously made the decision to go from being a Gentile to a Jew.

I’ve often wondered what motivated Ruth to stay at Naomi’s side. Was it because her mother-in-law represented her only link to her late husband? Was it because she was afraid to return to Moab unaccompanied? Or was it because there was something compelling about the way Naomi lived her life as a woman of faith?

When Ruth said “where you go, I go... your people will be my people and your God my God”, she demonstrates that she knows full well what Naomi’s personal beliefs are. Even though she is in the midst of incredible suffering and heartache, Ruth knows that on some level she can find the peace and comfort she longs for. Ruth has every right to be upset at her circumstances—she’s lost a spouse, a brother-in-law, and her father-in-law all in the same brief period. However, Ruth clings to hope through her sorrow. She decides to start a new life at Naomi’s side, adapting herself to the faith that Naomi has exemplified in her life.

There have been times when I, like Ruth, have felt completely overwhelmed. I cannot tell which end is up and it seems like everything I once held dear was slipping from my grasp. Rather than give up and give in to despair, I press on, clinging to the hope and faith that I have in my Savior. Life is no easier for a Christian than it is for anyone else, but by faith I am sustained. When my willingness to believe God’s promises starts to wane, I, like Ruth, am bolstered by the strength of the convictions of others in my Christian community.

When I have come faced to face with frightening or desperate circumstances and cannot rely on my own strength, I find tremendous healing as I benefit from the faithful actions of my friends and family. I would much rather venture forth to a place where I know I can find comfort and healing than return to a forsaken Moab.

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