“The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
~ Job 1:21b-22 ~
Loss and the subsequent grieving process seem to always be a part of our lives. We lose loved ones, jobs, our health, our faculties, relationships, material possessions, status and especially our car keys LOL!
Learning to grieve and work through those losses are the most important tasks of our lives, often determining the extent of our spiritual growth and ministry on this earth. Jesus pointed that out when he shared the parable about the kernel of wheat falling into the ground and dying in order to yield a large harvest. (John 12:24)
One of my favorite Bible stories centers around Ruth and Naomi. (The Book of Ruth, chapters 1-4) Both women suffered heavy losses. Naomi was uprooted from friends and family in Bethlehem to move to a new land where she experienced the pain of being an outsider.
Then her husband died, leaving her and her sons to fend for themselves. They were stuck in a strange land because returning to Israel meant a further loss of livelihood – the famine was heavy there, leaving no grazing land for their flocks.
As long as she had her two sons, Naomi felt compelled to be strong – to bear her losses and carry on in this foreign place. She even managed to rejoice and grew to love her new daughters-in-law when her sons married local girls.
But when both of her sons died, leaving her virtually alone and unprotected in a foreign place, Naomi’s resolve cracked and a deep depression which had been building up for a long time overcame her soul. She lost her faith in God, allowing the pent up anger and bitterness inside to well up to the point where she wanted to change her name to Mara(bitter).Even returning to her home and friends didn’t help break through her depression.
Orpah coped with her loss of her husband by taking the easier route away from her pain. At the first opportunity, she returned to the safety of her home, despite the fact that she belonged to Naomi’s family through the marriage contract.We can’t really fault Orpah – she was doing what she needed to do for herself to carry on; choosing to be surrounded by family and friends and the potential of remarriage rather than making the drastic life changes involved in staying with Naomi.
Ruth, on the other hand,had discovered something powerful and real through her marriage to Mahlon – she discovered faith in a new God who cared for His people and offered her a way of escape from the hardships of her life in Moab. We don’t know what her life was like before she married Mahlon, but it must have been bad enough to cause her to to be desperate to leave Moab with Naomi, despite the fact that Naomi painted a very bleak picture of the future in Israel for her daughter-in-law.
Through her newfound faith, Ruth embraced the pain of her loss. She worked through it to the point where she accepted the future, no matter what it held, because she trusted God. Sure Ruth keenly felt the loss of her husband, but the thoughts of losing her relationship with Naomi and Naomi’s God hurt worse – a loss she couldn’t bear. So she worked through her feelings of loss with trust in her new God to take care of her even if things got as bad as Naomi said they would.
Her attitude, like that of Job in today’s quote, pleased God. He brought her into a new land where she put down roots and flourished under His care. Her tears were wiped away and her life morphed into more than she ever dreamed it could as she married Boaz, had a son and was welcomed into Bethlehem’s society. God even blessed her by incorporating her into the lineage of the Messiah. Through Ruth’s healing, the lives of all around her were touched. Naomi eventually overcame her own depression and learned to live again.
I wish I could say I always reacted to loss the way Ruth did.But I can’t. I’ve experienced deep depression many times over the course of my life resulting from painful losses. I’ve also coped by taking the easier way out rather than trusting God to walk me through the hard places. But in those times when I have managed to trust Him through the losses, I have seen phenomenal growth and healing in my life. I have reached some of my goals that I never believed possible!
We all suffer loss, but my prayer for you today is that you might know the comfort, strength and even joy of the Lord through those losses; that you might experience the healing, growth and overcoming power of the Lord to bring you to new heights because of those losses like He did for Ruth and Job. Amen!