In my last post, I told ya’ll that God had been reminding me to wait for Him. To be patient. He is continuing to remind me that He has a purpose.
Proverbs 19:21 says “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (NIV) This is the Bible verse for my Bible study! I’ve been seeing similar verses and reminders everywhere! I think He is reminding me to hold on!
I’ve been doing a Bible study focusing on the book of Ruth. This story is only four chapters, but her story shows us how God’s Will prevails, in unexpected ways. I’ve always heard a lot of praise for this small story, but I’ve never understood what all the hype was about. I’ve read it several times, but it just didn’t mean that much to me. What was so great?
What’s her story?
Naomi had two sons. Both her sons married, and after about ten years, they both died. Her husband being passed away, Naomi took both her daughters in-law and set out to live in her hometown. She urged both the women to return to their own families. One of the women left, but Ruth chose to stay with her mother-in-law.
Factoid: Naomi’s other daughter-in-law was named Orpah. Sound familiar? Yep, this was Oprah’s intended name, but a typo gave her the famous moniker we all know. That is, if you believe everything you read online. Anyway….
Let’s pause here for a moment, and zoom in to street level.
Ruth was married to her husband for ten years. We don’t know how the brothers died. Perhaps it was war (it was Bible times after all..always a war somewhere), maybe it was an illness. I’m sure Ruth’s hopes and dreams were crushed. She no longer had her husband to grow old with. What about dreams of bearing children? This is not what she had in mind. I can relate. We have our lives planned, and then stuff happens. Suddenly, we find ourselves on a path that we never wanted to be on.
Naomi had lost her husband, and now her two sons. When they got to Bethlehem, Naomi told the people to call her “Mara”, which means “bitter”. She was a bitter woman after the tragedies that she experienced. I imagine her life was not what she wanted it to be either. We know that she was a woman of God. I bet she prayed for the protection of her husband and sons. Perhaps she prayed for God to spare them. Yet He did not. She was returning to her hometown at the lowest point in her life. She had lost her identity. She told everyone that “the Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:21) Was she trying to understand why God had done this to her? Why didn’t He answer her prayers? Why had He taken away her family?
As Christians, we like to believe that if we pray hard enough, and are faithful, that God will answer our prayers. We can get so caught up in what we want in our lives.When your prayers don’t get answered, do you believe that other people are not following God’s will, or do you accept that it is part of a greater plan?
Let’s jump back into the story.
Ruth does what she has to do: find work. She meets an honorable man who looks out for her. Long story short, they marry. Their son would be the grandfather of the great King David, and sixteen generations later…Jesus was born from this lineage.
After I had read the book of Ruth the other day, I put it on the coffee table, and just shrugged my shoulders. I still didn’t see what the big deal was. I thought about the story, and pondered. Meditating on His Word.
Later that night, I was lying in bed thinking. It was as if the light switch came on.
When you zoom out, way way out, from Ruth’s story, you see why things happened the way they did. From God’s perspective, you can see how the pieces shifted and fell into place. You realize that Naomi’s husband and sons died for a reason. Ruth’s husband died, to fulfill the ultimate purpose of God.
These women were brought to a place of deep sorrow. But their suffering was not inflicted to please God, but in order to make way for Jesus. The horrible things we face in life. Things we pray for God to NOT allow, or beg God to give us, that we never receive, may be the very things He intends for us. Not because He doesn’t care, but because He does. We pray for God to take away illnesses, or for our loved ones to do the things we want them to do.
If we pray God’s will in our lives, are we really prepared for what He wants. Are we willing to move in His direction? Do we doubt doing the right thing if it seems difficult? If it seems totally crazy, or if we just don’t like it? Was Ruth scared, or angry? She may have questioned, but she went. She chose to work to provide for herself without expecting what God had in store for her. God gave her a new life. A loving husband, and a son. He restored her joy, and gave her more than she expected. Naomi also had joy restored with a grandson. This life would not have been possible. The lineage of Jesus would not have been possible, if not for the tragedies they endured.
You’ve heard the saying “hindsight’s 20/20.” It is easy to see God’s hand in our lives, when looking back. Seeing it in our lives in the moment is the hard part. Our tough situations that we pray long and hard for God to take away, just might be what He has given to us on purpose. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) As a human, Jesus did not want to suffer, so he asked for God to spare him, but he wanted God’s will for him. God’s will was for him to be a living sacrifice for us. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
None of us want to suffer. “Be we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3). This verse coupled with Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” give us some pretty strong promises to hold on to!
Hang on my friends!