Meditations for Troubled Times
“Blessed be the LORD who has not left you without a redeemer.” (Ruth 4:14)
“Life is hard.” People like Katharine Hepburn, Bob Dylan, John Wayne, and Sigmund Freud all uttered these words. It is a fact we know too well. Sometimes life is hard because of the choices we’ve made. An ill-chosen word can bring strain to a relationship. A click on the mouse can lead us to become slaves to lust. A discontented thought can bring painful bitterness. However, there are other times when calamity finds us irrespective of our choices, like COVID-19, job layoffs, shelter-in-place orders. No one asks for these things. Yet, in this cursed world, they seem to be, at times, thrust upon us. So, whether it is because of the choices we’ve made or the result of those we haven’t, life is hard. There’s no getting around it.
The book of Ruth mirrors this point, while also telling us where to turn. The story begins with choices. It was during the days of the judges. This is code for, “Things are a sinful mess in Israel.” Everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes. (Judges 17:6). As a result, there was a famine in the land. Ruth 1:1-2 tells us that a man named Elimelech, his wife, Naomi, and their two sons left the Promised Land and went to Moab. This is meant to surprise us. There may have been little food in Israel, but Moab was much worse. There was a spiritual famine in this land. How would Elimelech raise his family in the Lord? Where would they receive nourishment for their souls? Who would give them God’s Word? This was a poor decision. This bad choice was followed by an awful calamity. While in Moab, Naomi’s husband died. Then, about ten years later, after her sons married Moabite women (a no-no per Deuteronomy 7:3-4), Mahlon and Chilion also were placed in the grave. It was gut-wrenching for Naomi. In fact, upon returning to Judah, Naomi told the people of Bethlehem, her hometown, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara.” (1:20) Why? Her life had become “mara”—bitter.
Our days seem to be like Naomi’s. We make sinful choices every day. We don’t love others well nor exercise self-control as we should. We’re impatient and selfish. Our private devotions in the Word and prayer are lacking, and our personal evangelism to the lost is weak. Yet, the similarities don’t stop here. There’s plenty of calamity today: coronavirus, financial downturns, social injustices, and natural disasters. All these things make our lives bitter. What do we do? We remember Ruth 4:14: “Blessed be the LORD who has not left you without a redeemer.” After Naomi’s daughter-in-law, Ruth, married Boaz and they had a child, the women of Bethlehem uttered these words.
These words serve as a reminder of where our hope lies. It’s in Naomi’s descendant, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ—God in flesh who came to save. Christ’s cross and empty tomb tell us, as Christians, that nothing can separate us from God’s love, and this includes our sin and our suffering. Life may be hard east of Eden, but two things that should never characterize us are hopelessness and joylessness. In the words of Wesley’s hymn, “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace.” Our fears are charmed. Our sorrows are bid to cease. Our foulness is made clean. Christ’s blood avails for us. “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (Psalm 103:1)