It was confirmed again yesterday – Jerry is aging. The eye exam yesterday that while I am a long way from losing my sight (hopefully!) I do need stronger lens. And yes, I struggle to hear speech clearly. My friends see the blank look on my face when I ‘hear’ the noise but do not get the words. I am irritated by the need to say, “would you mind repeating that for me?” But these things are part of the expected march of time, reminders of mortality that come to us all. My faith is not challenged by the fact of an aging body.
What does challenge me is that unexpected hardship, that development for which no preparation is made. We are living in such a time. The world I knew even a year ago seems no longer to exist. The values I cherish are increasingly rejected by others. The future is murky – for me personally, for the world in which I live. Yes, friend, it is time to ‘walk by faith.’
In the little book of Ruth, which is a story of faith in the middle of the unexpected, we meet Naomi. She was a Jew who moved to Moab with her husband and two young sons to escape a famine in Israel. Life was finally coming together, when suddenly her husband, Elimelech, died. Naomi, picked up the pieces of her life and went on. Her two sons married. A decade passed in which life was good, then… unexpectedly both sons died! Naomi’s life was shattered again.
When life falls apart, as her’s did, there are seldom ‘explanations’ that are adequate. Yes, it is important to understand what we can, to adjust course as we are able, to know where we have failed, but often life, to our view, just seems random: one life shatters, another flourishes.
Christian, you can be a person of faith and still think that our God can be infuriatingly unpredictable. I have cried myself to sleep more than one night, wondering “God, why is one dream realized and another shattered?” Yet, my faith holds.
While there are not enough answers this side of Heaven to satisfy every question, there are enough testimonies of grace to help us to trust Him even when we cannot understand His ways. When the mystery overwhelms us, we can borrow the prayer of a desperate father who brought his son for healing to Jesus. “I do believe, but help me not to doubt!” (Mark 9.24)
IF we will trust Him, He is able to lead us into a new life, a new kind of JOY! Too often what we insist is that God give back our old life. That is not the best or wisest prayer. Better to invite Him to lead us into the future, shaping us around His plans.
Let’s go back to the story of Naomi. This woman decided to return to Israel. One of her daughters in law, Ruth, for whom the story is named, decided to accompany her. Her love and loyalty were bright lights in Naomi’s life. Once there we learn that they were very poor. Ruth went to pick up the leftovers in the fields of Naomi’s kinsfolk after harvest. While there she caught the eye of Boaz.
Spoiler alert! “Boaz married Ruth. She became his wife. Boaz slept with her. By God’s gracious gift she conceived and had a son. The town women said to Naomi, “Blessed be God! He didn’t leave you without family to carry on your life. May this baby grow up to be famous in Israel! He’ll make you young again! He’ll take care of you in old age. And this daughter-in-law who has brought him into the world and loves you so much, why, she’s worth more to you than seven sons!” Naomi took the baby and held him in her arms, cuddling him, cooing over him, waiting on him hand and foot.” (Ruth 4:13-16, The Message) That baby became the grandfather of Israel’s great king, David! An alien woman, Ruth, was brought to Israel and included in the line of David and the line of the Messiah, Jesus.
It would be silly to conclude that the joy in those verses somehow erased the sorrow of three deaths. They are different events and cannot be compared! We make a grave mistake to think that somehow life is about living in a perfectly balanced state where the pain is always offset by the blessings, where the hard times are offset by the good times. Life is about living in full faith. When we are willing to keep walking with God, He seldom chooses to give us back our ‘old life’ but He does lead us into NEW joy and fruitfulness in this season and situation.
Are you struggling with life?
Maybe it is the expected stuff of aging, which became a little more real to me yesterday. Maybe it is a maelstrom of disaster, an unexpected collapse of your dreams. God is present. Be like Naomi and choose to live. Strengthen the ties to those who love you, those who will weep with you. There will be days (how I know!) when your faith will waver and you will need to borrow the strength of another to stand. Wait for faith to become strong enough for you to touch the heart of God again.
A hundred people will offer ‘explanations.’ Love them anyway.
More will hand you some clichés and their simplistic answers. Smile with grace.
Links to podcasts and offers of books will be loving given to you in your pain. See the love behind the efforts to make you better.
Above all, do not reject God. Ask Him for courage to weep yet keep hope and faith intact as you pray — “I do believe, but help me not to doubt!”
Our word from the Word today is a call to the choice of faith.
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:23-26, NIV)
O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
(You cannot listen to this without being stirred in heart and faith!)
O love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee.
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow,
May richer fuller be.
O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee.
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
O Love that will not let me go
Oh Cross that liftest up my head
I dare not ask to fly from Thee
I lay in dust life’s glory dead
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be
O Love That Will Not Let Me Go – George Matteson © Public Domain