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Ruth 1:1517; 2:27, 1012; 4:1317comment (0)

May 4, 2006

By Ron Wilson

Related Scripture: Ruth 1:1517; 2:27, 1012; 4:1317

Family Bible Study
University Relations, Samford University; Southwestern Seminary graduate

Ruth: Gracious Caring
Ruth 1:15–17; 2:2–7, 10–12; 4:13–17

The Book of Ruth is filled in its early verses with calamities: famine and multiple deaths of family. The women in this story were left as widows with no male protection and no male source of income. The women were truly endangered. Tragedy and destitution characterize the essence of Ruth’s story as it begins. But quickly the providence of God made its presence felt in Ruth and Naomi’s predicament. The story of Ruth gives us a pathway to follow when tragedy befalls us in life.

Tragedy Strikes
Tragedy strikes every person’s life at some point. When these experiences come our way, they begin to move us in a life-changing direction. As this motion picks up momentum, we must remember that we have a crucial role to play in determining not only the direction but also what we are becoming as we move in response to the tragedy.
Tragedy struck Naomi and Ruth when their husbands died. Naomi seemed to be living out the meaning of her name — bitterness — as she made plans to return to Bethlehem. She told both her daughters-in-law that they should return to their families in Moab (Ruth 1:9–13). Orpah did return to her family but Ruth clung to Naomi. She then spoke those memorable words, “Do not entreat 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 will be my people, and your God, my God” (1:16).

When tragedies strike and begin to move us in a life-changing direction, the first step we take in response is crucial. Ruth’s first step  set her on a pathway to redemption for herself and others. Ruth had no way of knowing for sure how life would turn out, but to stay with Naomi seemed to be the best decision to make. It is in taking a positive step that the possibilities for good can be released. In life’s tragedies, discern the best step to take and then take it.

Crafting a Lifestyle
Once Ruth decided to pitch her life with Naomi, she pursued an industrious life to provide life’s necessities for Naomi and herself. Ruth went to work in the field and found herself in Boaz’s crop, a relative in the family of her father-in-law, Elimelech (2:3). Is this coincidence or God’s providence? Time and further events will reveal a clear answer to this question. What is plain to see is Ruth’s gracious, caring spirit. She chose to craft a life with Naomi in which she resisted becoming bitter in the face of tragedy but chose rather to affirm life, productivity and love.
Viktor Frankl in “Man’s Search for Meaning” tells the story of surviving the Nazi death camps. Frankl said his captors could dictate and control everything in his life except the attitude he would take toward what he experienced. Those decisions were entirely his own. He determined to make life-affirming, soul-enriching decisions whenever possible — regardless of what came his way in the camps. By crafting this lifestyle, Frankl impacted the direction the suffering was taking him and the kind of person he would be once the suffering would come to an end. Ruth chose to be gracious and caring in her sorrowful situation. Crafting a lifestyle of positive responses is the second step to take in life’s tragedies.

God’s Providential Care

There is a truth that states, “God can make straight lines out of the crooked lines of our lives.” The lives Ruth and Naomi brought to God had been twisted and tangled by the tragedies they had experienced, but Ruth’s story ends with her marriage to Boaz and the birth of a son, Obed. In time, Obed became the grandfather to Israel’s greatest king, David.

It almost sounds like a “fairy-tale” ending but we know differently. In response to the tragedy, Ruth and Naomi could have continued down a path to sorrowful self-pity and destructive despair. Ruth chose otherwise and led the way to new life for herself and Naomi. Ruth exercised a gracious, caring spirit and trusted the outcome to God. In the end, many lives were blessed and changed for good and for God. Entrusting one’s life and its outcome to God is the third step to take in life’s tragedies.

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