Friday, December 13, 2019

Two Women, Centuries Apart, With Parallel Journeys


I have written and spoken about Naomi whose story is recorded in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament, many times. There are so many lessons we can learn from her life. The stories of these women were given to us by God to instruct and help us when our lives face difficulties too.  Today I want to again look at some of the occurrences in the life of Naomi and then introduce you to an incredible widow who lives in India and trace the journeys of each as they traveled the long, hard road to wholeness and productivity after suffering the overwhelming grief of widowhood, coupled with cultural constraints on them and prejudice and mistreatment toward them...First, let me refresh your memory of Naomi. She, along with her husband and two sons, went to Moab from Bethlehem in Judah because Judah was experiencing a severe famine and the economic picture looked brighter in the land of Moab. Things were fine for a while; food was aplenty for them, the two boys grew to adulthood and married and life looked good. Then, Naomi’s husband died and a few years later so did both of her sons. Naomi was cast into an abyss of great grief and despair. She was now a widow with no means of support in a foreign country with no family members that could do anything for her. She heard that things were better in the land of Judah and she made the decision to make the seventy-mile trip back through some very rough and dangerous terrain. Only one of her widowed daughters-in-law made the trip with her.
Whether they walked or rode on an animal of conveyance, they doubtless endured hot dusty days, cold nights, and would have been easy prey for robbers who hid along the roadways. Still, God protected them and they arrived safely to Naomi’s hometown. Yet circumstances didn’t immediately improve for her. Widows without benefit of an adult son automatically became a member of the lowest rung of society in those days. She was an aging woman with a foreign daughter-in-law with small prospect for any change in her economic condition. Sure, she was now again among her own people, understood the culture and spoke the language, but she was a broken, poverty-stricken, bitter old woman with no hope in sight. What was she to do?

Before I finish Naomi’s story, let me introduce you to a woman by the name of Vimala from the nation of India. Vimala lived the life of a wife and mother until, at the age of 47, she became a widow. She was thrown out of her home by her in-laws who blamed
her for their son’s death. Her daughter reluctantly agreed to give her shelter, but this didn’t include food or the necessary medications she needed for her diabetes. In exchange, Vimala had to help support her disabled daughter as well as her two grandchildren. It was at this juncture in her widowhood that she found herself in much the same situation as Naomi. She was uneducated and had no marketable work skills. What was she to do? In her lonely, terrified state of mind, she contemplated suicide as her only way out and these thoughts haunted her day in, day out.

Let’s revisit Naomi’s story. When she arrived back at her hometown the Scriptures describe her homecoming like this: When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. …The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” (Ruth 1:19b-21a) God is sovereign over all of life, but it is never His intent to make us bitter; He is always at work to make us better, more like Him. Soon Naomi’s bitterness was replaced with hope, and God began to orchestrate changes in her life, first through her daughter-in-law, Ruth, and then through Boaz, a close relative of her deceased husband. After a series of God-orchestrated events, Ruth and Boaz married and economic security was restored to Naomi. Ultimately, joy and fullness reigned in her heart again through the birth of her grandson, Obed, who became an ancestor to Jesus our Messiah. (Please read the biblical account of how all of this came about or listen to Naomi’s Journey to Destiny  from 8/5/2016 or read the blog Lessons in Grieving from Naomi from 8/21/2018 at this website.)

Vimala, too, was consumed with despair and saw suicide as her only way out. But, God had other plans. God has placed in India a ministry called the Kerusomen Gospel
Ministries who, among other things, helps the widows with kindness and love. Anju, a member of this ministry, was filled with compassion for Vimala who was an outcast for no other reason than being a widow. Sadly, that is the fate of thousands of India’s widows. Most of them are disowned and live in deplorable conditions. They are shunned by a society steeped in superstition that believes they are bad luck.  It is understandable that Vimala saw suicide as a way out. Her only way to survive would be to beg or turn to prostitution. But, just as God didn’t cause Naomi’s bitterness, neither was He responsible for Vimala’s hopelessness. And God used Kerusomen’s The Well partners to replace thoughts of suicide with hope for her.  They now give Vimala a monthly stipend of $15.00 for food and furnish her medical aid. This guarantees that her daughter will not abandon her.  Local Indian Churches partner with members ofThe Well.  They visit Vimala regularly and this brings comfort and joy to her.
(To learn more, go to 

Here we have the story of two widows, separated by centuries of time, but united through the compassion of our loving heavenly Father. You, too, are somewhere on your own journey from the grief and despair of widowhood to wholeness and productivity.

  It doesn’t matter what culture you may live in or how difficult it is for you to navigate the steps on your particular journey, there are no coincidences with God. With Him as your heavenly Father, you can rely on His promise in Jeremiah 29:11 that says, "For I know the plans I have for you,says, declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

A new year looms for you as it does for each for us. Keep your eye upon the goal and don't allow Satan to thward those good plans God has for you. He attempted to do so for Naomi as well as Vimala, but God intervened in both of their lives. His compassion for you is just as great. Commit your life into His care and keeping, and trust Him to bring you safely through the dark times you may be experiencing.

 My prayer for each of you is that 2020 will see you making great progress forward on your journey to wholeness. If you have not committed your life to Jesus, God's Son, I implore you to do so. He wants to make something beautiful of your life too and demonstrate His great and eternal love for you.    

Message by Shari Hervold

From all of us at "Friends Needing Friends" International Ministry, pray that God will favor you as you continue to serve Him.

Music by Steve Amerson...."Where Else Would a Child be Born"