But Ruth Clung to Her

Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her (Ruth 1:14).

Naomi was bitter…she said so. In fact, she was grieving so bitterly that she wanted to change her name from Naomi which means “pleasant” to Mara which means “bitter” (Ruth 1:20). After the death of her husband and her two sons, she had little room for hope. In her dark valley of grief and despair, she felt as if God was punishing her and had dealt very bitterly with her (Ruth 1:13,20-21). As she began her journey back home to Bethlehem, she tried very hard to send away her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. She did not see any hope that she could provide husbands for her daughters-in-law, so she attempted to send them back to their families and their gods (Ruth 1:8-13,15).

But Ruth clung to her

That is such an impressive statement. Ruth clung to Naomi; she was fully ready to leave her family, her nation, her gods and religion. No matter how hard at this point Naomi tried to push her away, Ruth clung to Naomi. Ruth was leaving all behind to be with Naomi and to come under the wings of the God of Israel for refuge (Ruth 2:11-12).

But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; 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. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).

That says something about Ruth. Naomi was all prickles and stings at this time in her life, but Ruth still clung to her. That is a true friend. This is what friends and family do. Ruth was loving Naomi through this grief even when Naomi was trying to push her away. Everyone noticed what Ruth did for her mother-in-law (Ruth 2:11), and everyone saw that Ruth was better to Naomi than “seven sons” (Ruth 4:15) even if during the great sadness Naomi didn’t see it.

That says something about Naomi. Just because Naomi at this point is bitter and not thinking clearly does not mean that she always was this kind of woman. I believe Ruth’s respect for and commitment to Naomi gives us a clear indication of what Naomi was really like beforehand. Keep in mind that they spent a decade together before this point (Ruth 1:4). If you continue into chapter 2 of Ruth you will see the old Naomi spring back to life again. This is something that we fail to recognize and appreciate at times, men. As people of God we all have our “moments,” and during those moments we can look ugly, but that does not define who we are as a person. All of God’s faithful people had those ugly moments (Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Peter, etc.). Naomi was no different. She was overwhelmed with the grief and hopelessness of losing her husband and her two sons. God was patient with her, and He will keep working in her life until her eyes open again and she will see God’s marvelous hand and His loving care (Ruth 2:20).

So, men, let’s learn a lesson from Ruth and from Naomi and share these concepts with our kids. We can help our kids to see the value in being a Ruth to others. Also, we can help our kids to see that we all have our “Mara” moments, but thankfully God and His people love us through those moments.

And the Lord Remembered

And the Lord remembered Hannah (1 Samuel 1:19).

The Lord remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1).

God is worthy of praise because He “remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever” (Psalms 136:23).

The above verses are so comforting. “And the Lord remembered…” God loves His children. He remembers His promises. God never leaves us nor forsakes us. That is a fact, but in the midst of pain, look at what God’s people sometimes wonder. Watch as they go through the process of despair to hope. These Holy Spirit-given passages are there for us today to help us go through the same process with God (and to help others do the same).

I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Psalms 42:9-11).

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. I cried out to God with my voice–To God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah. And I said, “This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were afraid; the depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalms 77:1-20).

Here is one final passage from Isaiah. Notice how God’s people feel, and how God helps them (and us) to see the reality. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted. But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me” (Isaiah 49:13-16).

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted

The righteous cry, and the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all (Psalms 34:17-19).

Is it okay to cry? The righteous cry, this passage says. That is a fact. We cry sometimes. Grief is part of our lives. This passage also says that “many are the afflictions of the righteous.” We all face various trials and adversity; I may not be going through what you are going through, but we all face afflictions and pain in life. I may not be able to understand your pain, but I can understand pain.

Where is God when I am hurting? Psalm 34 says “God is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” God’s promise to the Christian is so comforting, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Do I have to grieve “perfectly” for God to stay with me? Is there a “better” way to grieve? Sometimes we are tempted to say that someone is handling adversity “better” than another? What does that mean? The grieving process can appear plain ugly sometimes. One person may internalize it all, another may pour it all out with great volume, and another may just focus on keeping busy to suppress the pain. Which is “better”?

Remember that Elijah was ready to die. He asked God to kill him. Elijah in his fear, grief and depression made some unrealistic statements. Did God abandon him? Was God standing aloof and distant until Elijah “got a grip”? Read 1 Kings 19 to see how compassionate the Lord was with Elijah.

If we read the Psalms we will see people in great pain who just pour out their hearts to God. They ask God why. Their hearts wonder where God is, because they feel abandoned. Did God abandon them? Did God remove Himself from them because they didn’t grieve the right way?

We all grieve differently, not necessarily better. I must not place my expectations and understanding of how to grieve upon others. If God is near to the brokenhearted, then that’s where I need to be when someone is brokenhearted, even if they may get a little scary in their pain.

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle (unruly), encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

When my heart is overwhelmed

“When my heart is overwhelmed…” We all face it at some point…being overwhelmed. The busy-ness, the adversity and the fears all hit us like a tsunami.

I searched for the word “overwhelmed” in the Bible, especially in the Psalms (I searched using the New King James Version). Here are some verses of comfort for you today if you are one of the overwhelmed. If you are not, consider sending these verses on to someone who is overwhelmed right now. God’s word has divine comfort for you and me.

When my heart is overwhelmed

To the Chief Musician. On A Stringed Instrument. A Psalm of David. Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah (Psalms 61:1-4).

Here is the entirety of Psalm 77. Look at how Asaph responded to being overwhelmed and what he searched and found out about God.

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. I cried out to God with my voice– To God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.

You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah

And I said, “This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were afraid; the depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalms 77:1-20).

Here are some other very valuable Psalms for when we are overwhelmed (Psalm 55:1-23; 102:1-28; 142:1-7; 143:1-12; Daniel 10:15-19). There are many others, of course. God’s word is relevant to any situation we face in life…you can trust that!