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 ESV
Once upon a time, a long time ago, a girl named Ruth married a guy from another country. Their countries were not on the best of terms, but she chose to marry him anyway. Perhaps she heard some feedback about that from her family. The Bible doesn’t say either way, but marry him she did. It seems that she lived with or near her husband’s family and had more contact with her new family than with her own.
Ruth probably hoped for children. But had none. And then, her husband died. In fact, not only he but also his brother and his father died as well. This left Ruth without any male in her husband’s family to care for her at a time when women had no way to provide for themselves. Only her mother-in-law, Naomi, was left, and she was in the throes of depression. In fact, Naomi even refused to be called by her name. “No,” she said. “Call me Mara.” Mara means “bitter.” Her mother-in-law prepared to go back to her own country alone and broken. She told Ruth and her other daughter-in-law to return to their mothers’ homes and try to find new husbands. Naomi was done.
Not a happy story, is it? I think most of us would have understood if Ruth had also changed her name to “bitter.” Have you ever been there? Been in circumstances that absolutely stink? Had dreams snatched away, your life overturned? What do you do when the pieces of your life are torn apart and you have no idea how to make a new pattern out of them? For you and for me, Ruth has some sweet lessons to teach us today about loving, even when you have been emptied:
- Don’t run away from God. Ruth must have learned about her husband’s God during her marriage. Perhaps he or Naomi had shared with her the wonderful truth that there is one God who created all things and who loves His people and wants all people to be His. It sure looked like that God had deserted her, but our Ruth chose Him still. “Your God will be my God,” she said. Even then. Even emptied. She chose to stay close to the true God.
- Stay faithful to the people in your life. How easy it is to withdraw into a wounded, prickly ball of pain when our lives have been upended. Even our closest family and friends seem to say the wrong things. They tend to either be there too often or not often enough and just plain don’t understand. The temptation is to walk away. Ruth did not. She stayed loyal to Naomi, her beloved mother-in-law, even when she had a good excuse to walk away.
- Keep doing the right things. Even when it’s hard and you feel like you’re dragging yourself through sludge, do what’s right. In Ruth’s case, it was caring for an older woman who had lost her entire nuclear family. She made sure Naomi made it safely back to her own country of Israel. Ruth then made sure Naomi had food and was provided for. It would have been easier, perhaps, to stay in her familiar land. But no, she cared for her husband’s mother tenaciously. Even when the mother was depressed and urged Ruth to go away, Ruth refused to leave.
You know what? Ruth loved well. “Love is patient, love is kind … It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs … Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV 1984). Ruth loved when it wasn’t easy. Ruth loved in the midst of hurt and ruin. Ruth loved with a fierce and stubborn loyalty.
You know what else? Ruth’s God, our great God, noticed her in an incredibly special way. First of all, He miraculously led her to a wonderful and loving new husband (check out the story in the Bible in the book of Ruth if it’s been a while since you’ve read this amazing tale), and then God placed our Ruth, a “foreigner,” in the lineage of Jesus. Yes. Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David, who was promised that from his line would come the Messiah, our Jesus. How cool is that?
Dear Lord, help me to love well, like Ruth. I thank You for her beautiful example of selfless loyalty to You and to her obligations. I thank You that she didn’t just say she loved … she showed it in the way she lived. Thank You, too, for a story with a happy ending. Sometimes, when I’m in the middle of a mess, it’s hard to see that a happy ending could ever be possible. Yet You work all things out for the good of those who love You … and I can trust in that. Like Ruth. Thank You for Your great love for me, dear Lord Jesus! In Your Name I pray, Amen.
You are loved,
Sweet Selah Ministries
Vision To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)
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