Spiritual Rumination by Julia Phillips

God has a plan to revive your hope.

Have you ever studied the Book of Ruth? It addresses sudden trouble, tragedy, and even death. But even more importantly it is a story of redemption in which love prevails. God has a plan, friends, to walk alongside you through your valley, to lead you out of lack to plenty, out of sorrow and into joy and hope for living and rescued from fear to a true trust in God’s love for you.

The teaching in Ruth reminds me of a verse in Hebrews, “He takes away the first that He may establish the second.” Hebrews 10:9.

When you lose something precious in your life, God is not only able to replace it, but He gives you something even better or more valuable. Just look at what He did for Ruth.

Decisions we make today will affect our lives tomorrow. Most of the time we make choices based on an expected outcome. Young believers tend to naturally flee conflict and cling to improvement. It seems so hard to believe that a good God would allow bad things to happen to people who spend their lives serving God with all their heart, mind, and strength.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 says, “Your Father in heaven sends rain on the just and the unjust.”

The outcome of our lives and our faith during difficult storms comes down to the foundation on which we have built our faith.

Some foundations melt under the pressure of circumstances because the belief system was built on sand, or upon unsustainable or even ungodly expectations.

Have you ever noticed that others may go through the same storms, stand dripping wet in the thunder and lightning, and yet come out the other side with even stronger resolve and trust in Jesus?

Even excited about what new beginning God has waiting for them once the sun shines again. It all boils down to who and what they are placing their trust in every time trouble comes. The Book of Ruth is an amazing example of how we should react when the unexpected challenges and trials enter our lives.

There was a terrible famine going on in Bethlehem when a husband and father named Elimelech packed up his family and moved to a place called Moab. After ten years living and working in the new country, he and both his sons all died suddenly and unexpectedly in one day.

His sons were both married to Moabite women.

With this tragedy there were now three widows left to fend for themselves overnight in a location and culture that didn’t lend itself to survival if you were a woman out on your own. Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth appeared to be on their own. 

Tragedies move us either closer to God or further away from Him. This can only be learned through suffering and the trials of our faith and trust in God.

Naomi, for example, was a strong woman, who instead of being humbled, became resentful and bitter. Before you begin throwing rocks at her, you need to try and put yourself in her shoes. In a single day she lost her husband and her children. And she had two daughters-in-law to care for.

Why would God put her in such a place?

I’m sure her mind was flooded with memories of all the times she sacrificed for her family, times she worshipped God when it wasn’t the easy path to walk. She felt abandoned and afraid. However, while hosting self-pity, she forgot all the promises of God. She got angry and questioned the Most High’s plans. When she and her family fled the famine in Judah, I’m sure she was convinced it was the Lord’s provision.

But who did she blame for all her painful circumstances now?

“The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” Ruth 1:20.

Her present troubles caused her to lose her vision, her purpose, and her concept of God’s infinite love.

Troubles can test our patience.

Too often we blame God for every bad thing that happens, not remembering that even death is an enemy of God. We equate frequent, painful trials with what must be His displeasure, and we are out of sorts immediately. But if we open our hearts and refuse to become bitter, we can understand how today’s circumstances are part of His long-term purposes—even before our storms arrive.

After the death of all the men in the family, Naomi made the decision to return to Bethlehem-Judah.

When we go through difficulties we can’t seem to solve, hard places where we don’t see any way out, it’s not unusual to just give up and draw away from others and even God. Naomi’s last card to play was to return and claim any inheritance left by her husband’s death.

One of her husband’s relatives would need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for her care — the law of the “kinsman redeemer.” Her fight was uphill all the way, not to mention the bitterness she was carrying in her heart day and night.

So often, people who have been hurt can’t see themselves rising above their pain because they have more faith in the power of where they’ve been than in the potential of where they’re going. 

When Naomi decided to make the journey home, one of her daughters-in-laws, Orpah, decided to remain in Moab at the coaxing of Naomi. She decided to “live in the past.”

Moab is a place of bad experiences and bad memories. In Moab you’re always living in the past. It’s the “If I had just done this, or that” land. It’s a place of sorrow. Linger in your “Moab,” and you will be constantly reminded of your past failures, times you felt constantly down on your luck, and all the experiences you felt like God abandoned you unfairly or unjustly — events in life you’d rather forget. To come into the future purpose and relationship God has in store for you, you must make your break from Moab. You must “forget those things that are behind and press forward to those things that are ahead.” Philippians 3:13.

It takes faith to leave your past and head toward your future.

I’m sure we all know people who have remained in their “Moab,” and whether it was a divorce, a sickness, the death of a loved one or a dream, they talk about it as if it just happened no matter how much time has passed. They’re trapped in the pit of bitterness and are paralyzed, angry, and lonely even when they’re in a crowd. They’re not drawn to help others — their faith is bruised. They live in a constant state of introspection. It’s not a place you want to call home, my friends.

But glory to God, there’s another path and we can see it through Ruth’s life.

Ruth knew Naomi needed inner healing. She knew there was a wonderful woman locked up inside that bitter and wounded heart.

Remember, Moab was Ruth’s birthplace, but it was not her permanent home, and she knew it.

There was a big difference between the daughters Ruth and Orpah.

Orpah was selfish. She decided to remain in Moab where she felt comfortable and proceed to hunt for another husband to dull her pain and supply her needs.

Ruth, on the other hand, refused to leave her hurting mother-in-law or the God she served. She just couldn’t bear to leave her all alone. That merciful heart of ministry coupled with her willingness to move from her past toward her destiny was the door to Ruth’s future.

One of the most vital lessons in life is to know by experience that it is more blessed to give than to receive. The path to life is the path of servanthood.

Ruth’s cry to Naomi was, “For wherever you go, I will go. And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” Ruth 1:16.

Determination drives us to our destinies — and at times it will feel like it’s just you and God.

When your hope and desire finally become stronger than your discouragement, and you can forget those things behind, you will be ignited with a fresh desire and hope, leaving behind the painful bitterness and its vice-like grip on your faith. When Satan cannot determine your future, he is left with merely tormenting you with your past or present circumstances. When you refuse to dwell in your Moab, he will no longer have all his formers tactics of opportunity.

I’m sure all of you know the story of Ruth and the man Boaz — who is a type of Jesus in our lives today. 

But my focus today is from a different perspective. Boaz took notice of this woman, Ruth, even though she had a few strikes against her. She was a woman, she was a Moabite – considered a cursed pagan—and she was a widow. But listen to what Boaz says about her and remember this is a type of how God sees you. 

“And Boaz answered and said, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of her husband, and how you have left your father and mother and the land of your birth and have come to a people whom you did not know before.” Ruth 2:11.

“The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” Ruth 2:12.

Notice the phrase “full reward.” In the New Testament that phrase is defined as “a great recompense.”

“Cast not away your confidence, which has great recompense of reward.” Hebrews 10:35.

The Greek word for “recompense” is “misthapodosia,” which is the same word used for reimbursement and reward.

Boaz knew God was the paymaster and would repay Ruth for all her labors, just as “God will reward those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6.

God will never leave you with less. When He blesses you, He has your future in mind.

Ruth had a servant’s heart, and she was full of compassion.

Like Ruth, let go of your past, and all the events and traumas that cause you to shrivel up and that leave your faith paralyzed.

We live a day at a time, but God sees the fullness of time in a moment. As Isaiah 46:10 says, he who is “declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done” has already seen your future.

Naomi was bitter due to her circumstances. That bitterness had to be sifted from her life. Likewise, you and I must be sifted so any chaff can be removed from us, but Jesus says He will pray for our faith will remain strong. Then God can continue His work. Don’t get discouraged. Season after season, as we grow up into Christ, our Kinsman-Redeemer, there will be a major breaking of our will. The Lord may use loss, famine, or storms to cause it to happen, but it must happen.

The beginning of the Book of Ruth is about death, separation, frustration, and sorrow. But because of the obedience of a young woman from the wrong side of the tracks of Moab, who after she lost everything chose to follow the God of Israel and serve others and not herself, we can now see the bloodline develop through which David was born and the promise of the Messiah was given.

Ruth was the great grandmother of David.

I became a grandmother for the eleventh time three days ago. The joy is indescribable. My choices and my obedience will directly impact the lives of generations to follow. Today, I want you to stop and pause, and look at how you are interpreting your past and present storms, battles, or losses.

Will you become bitter and blame God in your heart for allowing you to end up in your Moab? Or will you, like Ruth, choose to press forward into the unfamiliar and the unknown, keeping a servant’s heart and trusting God for every single day that lies in front of you?

Drop the bitterness and allow the sweet aroma of Jesus to fill your heart and soul while touching those around you.

Your Kinsman-Redeemer, Jesus Christ, sees you this day and His plan is in motion to love you, cover you, and care for your every need. It’s His promise. Call upon Him this day and watch as He unfolds His provision and His love.

It might take time.

A delay is not a refusal. Hold fast your confidence and your confession firm unto the end. Take a deep breath of the fresh air that’s about to fill you, bringing times of refreshing from His presence and will, and let patience have her perfect work in your corner of the field of the Lord. The harvest is ripe.

Ruminate on that.