Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Finding Wholeness Again


The story of Naomi and Ruth is told in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament. I encourage you to sit down and read all four chapters. I want to summarize just part of it for you today.

Houston pastor, Dr. Ralph West, states that Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, was a potter, making lovely pitchers and jugs for people. He, his wife and two sons were happily living in Bethlehem until a famine struck. No one buys lovely new jugs and pitchers in a famine, so their income became as dry as the parched earth which had stopped providing food for their table. Consequently, one day Elimelech told his wife and two sons that they were going to move east to Arabia. He would rather live in Arabia than die in Bethlehem so they settled in the region of Moab where Elimelech was able to make a living for the family again.

That is until he suddenly dies leaving Naomi in a foreign country with two sons. Her boys matured into young men of marriageable age and she tells them to take wives from the girls in Moab. So, Mahlon and Kilion marry Orpah and Ruth. Here we have two Jewish boys marrying
two Arab girls. Life went along pretty well for them…until both young men died. We’re not given any details about any of these three deaths. But what we do know is that now there are three widows living in a society where males were necessary or else poverty was a certain way of life. Life expectancy in those days was only 27 years, and Naomi has now dealt with its brevity 3 times.

Unfortunately, Naomi concluded that God was against her and she developed a root of bitterness in her spirit toward God. She actually believed that God had become hostile toward her. Soon thereafter she made the pragmatic decision to return to Bethlehem because she heard that the famine was over and she felt that she would be better off there. Plus she wouldn’t have three graves to remind her of her losses. So she and her daughters-in-law set out, most likely with a caravan of travelers, on a return trip. Early on the way, she implored Orpah and Ruth to return to Moab. She knew that life as foreign women would be difficult for them and in her state of poverty, she didn’t have much to offer them. Orpah returned, but Ruth would not be dissuaded from going with her.

You widows have endured suffering and grief. Regardless of how death and its resulting grief entered your life, you found yourself much like Naomi, totally grief stricken as well as angry at God. It is very common to rail against God when life goes awry, when death visits our families and life is turned topsy-turvy. The sad part of Naomi’s story at this point is that she saw no hope for joy to ever enter her life again. When our hearts are so full of grief coupled with anger at God, we open the door to hopelessness and we become enslaved to it. Naomi was there. Yet, God was sending an answer to Naomi’s despondency long before she recognized it.

When Ruth made clear that she would not return to her birth family, she didn’t just state that she would stay with Naomi, she declared her undying love and devotion, not just to Naomi, but also to her God. Ruth’s presence in her life was pivotal in giving Naomi a purpose for living, looking beyond her own grief, and finding freedom from the hopelessness to which she was enslaved.

Ladies, most likely there is a door to wholeness and freedom that is just awaiting your opening. It may come in the form of a family member who is trying to get you out again, or a friend who keeps calling for a luncheon date, perhaps a church family who is just waiting to welcome you back, or organizations like Friends Needing Friends who walk through your grief with you. What I implore you not to do is turn down these invitations just because you “don’t feel like it.” You may never feel like it if you never take the first step to opening new doors of opportunity. Grieving is natural and right, but allowing your grief to consume you is not healthy. I’m convinced that if Ruth had not insisted on coming back with Naomi, had not pledged her

love and devotion to her, Naomi would have gone back to Bethlehem and simply wrapped her cloak of grief and bitterness tighter around herself and died an early death, bereft of friends and hope.  And God wants to do the same thing for you. Ultimately, it is God’s wholeness and the freedom that He offers that you need and I encourage you to pray the Psalmist’s prayer,  “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long, Psalm 25:5.

                                                    Message by Shari Hervold
                                               Bible teacher for Friends Needing Friends
                                                    International Widow Ministry
                                Music by Lynda Randle - Worship Songs