Aspiring to a higher standard isn’t always easy…
“Things are far more bitter for me than for you.” Ruth 1:13
As I continue to read through the Bible, the common theme in many of the stories is the amazingly strong faith that is portrayed. When I read this chapter in Ruth, it reminded me of the story of Horatio Spafford, who, in the midst of dealing with unimaginable tragedy at the loss of all his children, one to pneumonia, and four to an accident at sea, he penned the words to the song ‘It is Well with My Soul.’ Spafford demonstrated in action his amazing faith in God, that we are to trust that He is in control.
In this first chapter of Ruth, it is intriguing to note that the book begins as Naomi’s story, with Ruth’s mother-in-law as the main character. Naomi was faced with losing her husband and two sons, leaving her a widow with no support, typically resulting in financial ruin. As readers, we’re left with trying to imagine the pain she must have been experiencing and the bleak future before her.
As humans, we don’t like pain… directly, as in when we, ourselves, are going through something difficult, or indirectly, when we witness others experiencing pain. The pain we experience directly, however, isn’t typically a personal choice, but indirect pain typically has choice attached to it. Is our decision not to engage in someone else’s hurt because it will ruin our otherwise pain-free life at the time? Or is it based on fear, that if we engage with those who are dealing directly with pain, we’ll get pulled into something we don’t have the ability to tactfully back away from if the circumstances get to be too much?
Ruth, however, modeled for us a different approach to struggle… a path based on a higher standard. Instead of shying away from Naomi’s sorrow, she aligned herself with it, all while dealing with her own grief of widowhood. She chose the way of pain out of loyalty for her husband’s mother, picking a difficult future for herself because her life was about more than herself. She understood and practiced what it means to live for others.
I would suspect that for most of us, it is difficult to comprehend the sacrifices Ruth made. Imagine a similar situation happening today… knowing that someone experienced a significant loss, air travel has made it possible to get on a plane and travel to just about any location worldwide. Our finances aren’t limited by gender or marital status as they once were during the time of the Old Testament. Ruth really did give up everything to help Naomi, and God blessed her with a second family and the honor of being an ancestor of Jesus.
Today will bring choices of whether to care deeply for others going through hard times. Are we willing to invest ourselves in someone else’s pain? Consider the rewards God has in store for those who make the sacrifices of loyalty and love.
Heavenly Father… sometimes showing loyalty seems costly, especially when it requires taking on someone else’s pain and feeling that pain as if it were mine. But, Father, Your way isn’t always easy… help me to choose right over easy, even though the reasons may not be clear at the time. Amen!