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Ruth: A Strong Faith and a Generous Heart in Hard Times

By Catherine Durant | 24 September 2020 | Comments (4)

The Bible is totally honest about the realities of life. Grief, loss, hardship, fear… it doesn’t shy away from any.

 

When reading the book of Ruth, it struck me that three of the main characters might reflect some of the different ways in which we’ve been affected by the pandemic.

 

  • You might be in a Ruth position, having to humble yourself as your life has changed dramatically.
  • You might be in a Naomi position, struck by grief and depressed but holding on to your faith in God.
  • You might be in a Boaz position, needing to carefully think about how you use your resources to help others.


In this blog, we’re going to focus on Ruth, but first, let’s recap the story from her perspective: 


Ruth is born in Moab but marries the son of an Israelite family who have fled their own land in a time of famine. She has rejected the gods of her own people and become a convert to the Jewish faith. So when her husband dies, Ruth travels to Israel with her mother in law, Naomi, who is also a widow and has lost both of her sons. Naomi pleads with Ruth to return to her Moab family so that she might have a chance of marrying again, but Ruth refuses and ‘clings’ (1:14) to her.

The two reach Israel in very humble circumstances. To support them both, Ruth resorts to the exhausting and humiliating work of gleaning: begging by looking for grain that the workers have missed while harvesting. The field belongs to Boaz, who shows compassion towards Ruth and asks his workers to look out for her. Ruth eventually marries him, as Boaz fulfils the role of ‘kinsman redeemer’, providing for both her and Naomi.

 

If our circumstances have recently been turned upside down, what can we learn from Ruth to encourage us in our hard times?

 

She chooses sacrifice and takes the narrow path

Ruth chooses to do what’s right rather than what’s easy. Naomi’s other widowed daughter in law, Orpah, decides to turn back, knowing the journey ahead would be dangerous and the prospects in Israel for three widows would not be better. But Ruth says to Naomi: ‘Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.’ (1:16-17)

When everything seems to go wrong for us, it’s tempting to throw in the towel and abandon God because it feels like he’s abandoned us. But Ruth shows us how to cling onto hope in him, even if the only hope we can see is beyond this life.

 

She keeps her eyes fixed on what she can do in the present

Ruth doesn’t look back longingly on her old life in Moab – she focuses on what she can do to provide for Naomi and herself in that moment. She resourcefully uses what’s available to her, even if it means gleaning, and God honours her efforts.

Jesus tells us: ‘do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’ (Matthew 6:34). We can take the opportunities God gives us and look to him to provide our daily bread. We know that he’s with us in each present moment and take it day by day.


She isn’t afraid to ask for help

Ruth’s life is marked by constant humility. Despite probably coming from a wealthy family in Moab, she voluntarily gleans, having to depend on the leftovers of others and the kindness of the field owner. She risks rejection and embarrassment when she approaches Boaz, essentially asking him to marry her.

As members of his Church, God has given us a community to offer support. It can be really vulnerable to ask for help, but in doing so we give people opportunities to care and give. We can be Jesus to each other and an example of God’s love to those who don’t yet know him (John 13:35).

 

She focuses on others above herself

Although Ruth was also a widow and surely grieving herself, she concentrates on how she can comfort Naomi. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says that God ‘comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.’ Later on, once her circumstances have improved, Ruth even surrenders her first-born son to give him to her mother-in-law.

By concentrating on Naomi, Ruth gave herself a purpose in her suffering by being a source of joy and peace to someone else.

 

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Ruth’s faith and obedience to show generosity through hardship and struggle lead ultimately to hope. Though she was a gentile, Ruth becomes part of the genealogical line of David that led to the birth of Jesus. Little did she know that God would use her story to show his love for the whole world.


Read more...

Boaz: The Generous Steward

 

Catherine works in Content (which means mainly writing and editing) for Stewardship. She is happiest when making new friends or catching up with old ones, loves art in all its forms and anything French, especially cheese.

comments:

Julie Croydon

September 29, 2020 7:18 AM
Thank you for your observation of Ruth taking exhausting and humiliating work. It’s instructive to note the difficulty farmers have had during the pandemic in getting people to work in the fields. ‘Open the Book’ produced a script for Harvest which said that Ruth ‘soon’ gathered sufficient to make barley loaves. We are filming videos for teachers to show in class. To make it clear that gleaning and making bread is not easy, we filmed some of the stages involved. https://vimeo.com/456343655

Ruth Leigh

September 28, 2020 10:05 AM
I'm a big fan of Ruth (as it were!) I so enjoyed this blog.

Fiona Rossington

September 26, 2020 12:04 PM
Ruth is one of my favourite books in the Bible, so thank you. I have a grandson called Boaz, after the kind and generous man who married Ruth and was King David's great grandfather.

Charles Osewalt

October 8, 2020 11:10 PM
well done you !!!

only a person with true - Chesed (Hebrew: חֶסֶד‎, also Romanized ḥesed - Or loving kindness - can write so beautifully about Ruth

Looking forward to Boaz

&

Naomi

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