Have you ever made plans only to see them falter? I have many times. If I were to be honest according to my plans I should have been rich and famous by now… I don’t have to tell you that did not work out too well. I often make plans that fall short. I make financial goals, fitness goals, career goals only to see them constantly fail.
All of us have personal experience in plans failing. Sometimes its because we give up, other times it's situations that are out of our control. Maybe the broken plans are for heartbreaking reasons. Relationships fail, people die. So how are we to respond when life takes a downward turn? The Bible is filled with these types of occurrences, reminding us that God allows hardships, but He is continually working for us and through us. In our Lifegroups for the next month or so we are going to look at the book of Ruth to see how God is moving even when our plans don’t work out.
"So how are we to respond when life takes a downward turn? "
In Ruth 1 we find three ladies whose lives did not turn out like they wanted or hoped for. In fact, when we find them, they were in an awful spot. Because of a famine in Israel, Naomi, her husband and her two sons moved to Moab, an enemy land to the east of Israel. While there Naomi’s sons married two local girls Ruth and Orpah. Very quickly after they moved there Naomi's husband died. Within 10 years, Naomi’s two sons died as well. Naomi and her two daughters were widowed and alone in Moab.
Now this would be heartbreaking under any circumstances. But in that day it was especially bad because women did not have the same privileges as today. Widowed=destitute. Women did not work outside the home. They had no way to support themselves or their family. If a woman’s husband died she would either have to remarry or beg for a living.
When bad things happen it is natural to wonder and ask God why. In Ruth 1, Naomi was still grieving. She went from being married and having two sons to losing everything. Alone in a foreign land. In the first chapter of Ruth we are given insight into a heart wrenching situation. These 3 women are moving from Moab back to Bethlehem in hopes of finding a better life and enough food to feed themselves. Although these two daughters were all that Naomi had in the world, she encourages them to go back to their homeland so they could find a new husband. A new husband was all the hope that a widow had of escaping poverty and begging.
Orpah took Naomi up on the offer and decided to go home, but Ruth would not leave. When a woman in that day married a man she married into the family. The husband's family was her family. So much so that if her husband died and there was a living brother, that brother in law would have to marry her. The problem was both brothers had died and there was no one left to take care of them. But Ruth was still loyal to her commitment. She loved Naomi more than herself and was not going to leave her. This was a huge sacrifice because logically speaking, Ruth was a Moabite. Jews looked down on Moabites, interracial marriage was viewed in that day similar to what it was a hundred years ago in our own county. A Jewish man would not marry a non-Jew if he cared about what others thought about it or social expectations. So when Ruth declared that she would move back to Bethlehem with Naomi she understood that meant she would likely be a widow in a foreign land the rest of her life, even after Naomi was not around. (But thank God he had other plans!)
"You must remember that just because you can’t see how God is working doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a plan for you!"
We have the privilege to see the whole story. Something that Naomi and Ruth couldn’t when they were living the story. God was working both in Ruth’s personal story and for his redemptive story. In the chapters that follow we are going to see how God not only provides food and resources for these two widows, he also uses this moabite widow in a mighty way to effect the world.
How was God working on his story? Read the last word of the book of Ruth: “David”. Ruth ended up being the great great grandmother to King David. Which also means that Ruth was a great grandmother to Jesus himself. Could God have used someone else? Yes, his story was not dependant on Ruth, but Ruth had an amazing opportunity to be a part of God’s story in carrying on the line to Jesus and to beautifully show God's redemptive love.
In the moment when Naomi and Ruth could only see their hardships and troubles. What they do not see is there future victory. You might be in a situation similar to them today. You might be on a figurative road paved with hardship and suffering just like a Naomi and Ruth were on a literal road that was. You must remember that just because you can’t see how God is working doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a plan for you! Romans 8:28 says “ And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”An amazing thing about when God moves it simultaneously benefits us as his children and brings himself glory. God made Ruth and Naomi lives better while also allowing a family line for Jesus to come through and save the world.
This week what is an area that you need to trust that God is working in? Are there hardships or trials that you don’t have a solution to? I encourage you to start reading through the book of Ruth and pray that God would show you how to trust him in the good days and the bad. The secret to knowing what to do when your plans fail is to trust that God is working.
(Over the next few weeks I'll be discussing this idea more)