June 11, 2018

Dealing With Pain

By: Larry Shaffer

Ruth 1, part 3

Ruth clung to Naomi and was determined to stay with her mother-in-law. Ruth did not want to return to her old life and her former gods. The true God of Israel had saved her. Ruth was saved the same way we are in the New Testament era. It wasn’t because she followed the law of Moses or participated in Jewish rituals that saved her. It wasn’t through works. She heard the message of God, of the coming Messiah and God enlightened her heart and she, by faith, received the grace of God. Her heart was changed from the inside out. She took Naomi’s God as her God and her heart was turned toward Him. The beauty of how God saves an individual and changes them from the inside out, never ceases to amaze me.

Don’t call me Naomi

They traveled together and returned to Naomi’s home, Bethlehem. “And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city stirred because of it, and the women said, is this Naomi?” There’s not a lot going on in small, agrarian villages such as Bethlehem. Naomi’s 10-year absence and arrival caused some excitement. No doubt, Naomi told the entire painful story. Naomi told the people, “Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, (meaning bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” Now I believe Naomi was a God-fearing woman of God, but her faith was in deep crisis.  She didn’t see the big picture. I’m sure she believed in God’s Sovereignty, but she tended toward a belief that her adversity and pain was indicative of God’s displeasure with her. The result was that bitterness had made its way into Naomi’s heart.

I came back empty

Naomi went on to emphasize to the people of Bethlehem her current state in this way: “I went out full (with a husband and two sons) but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” Once again, Naomi is to be commended for her understanding of God’s sovereignty, but she considered God as One who would abandon her and “witness” against her. Her outlook is bleak, her faith is weak, and her hope is all but gone. She is walking by sight and not by faith. We all have been there.

Give me the GOOD stuff

The Bible does teach that God not only allows us to suffer at times, but sometimes it states that He brings about suffering in our lives. Some Christians have a hard time believing that, but we see it over and over in scripture. As Christians, suffering brings us face-to-face with a decision of faith; do we view God with bitterness or do we accept suffering by faith knowing that God is at work in our lives to do “GOOD” things? Romans 8:28 says “He causes all things to work together for good.” God’s “good” for us is in His estimation. God never gives us more than we can endure but at times He allows suffering and difficulty because it will strengthen us.  That is GOOD!  It’s easy for me to write about it, but it’s difficult to live out in moments of pain. Other times, He sees it best to bless us with healing, with happiness, with protection and with the good things in this world.  The good things of this world are temporary but God still, at His discretion, gives it to us when He deems it best. That also is GOOD. Let’s surrender to God according to His definition of “good” and according to the need of the moment — in His estimation. Like I said, easy to write about, difficult to sometimes live out.

Some days seem like crucifixion Friday when the disciples felt like their hopes were dashed forever. But have faith, Sunday is coming! Little did Naomi know that God had orchestrated these difficult circumstances in order to set the stage for blessings upon blessings upon blessings.

Lord, keep us from falling into bitterness toward You. In suffering, grant us an extra measure of faith. Let us lift our eyes and by faith see You in all your glory, power and LOVE. Let us not be like Job’s wife who said, “curse God and die.” On the other hand, let us believe as Job when he said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity? In all this Job did not sin with his lips,” Job 2:10. Lift our hearts and our minds up to the heavens with a view toward Your eternal plan of blessings. Amen!