The pain we have not grieved over will always stand between us and life.
Dr. Rachel Naomi Reman
At first glance, the Book of Ruth is a beautiful story of love and loyalty. But when I began to dig further, I found a rich source of life lessons for dealing with emotional hurts.
As Dr. Reman’s quote suggests, unresolved grief can lead to other problems including depression. Perhaps it was the sheer volume of Naomi’s grief – moving away from friends and family, then losing her husband and two sons in a foreign land – that caused her to lapse into such a deep depression. We know she was depressed because she tells her friends to call her “bitter” (Mara) when she finally returns to Bethlehem.
Because Naomi felt responsible for her two daughters-in-law, she may not have allowed herself to fully grieve the loss of her sons. Her depression may have escalated into anxiety and desperation causing her to push the girls back to their own families – to ensure that they would have a future and to relieve herself of the burden of responsibility.
When Ruth refused to go back, the weight of responsibility for the young woman’s welfare must have hung even more heavily around Naomi’s shoulders. She truly loved Ruth and wanted only the best for her, but in her depressed state of mind, Naomi couldn’t even imagine a solution. She became anxious and desperate grasping at any small hope for a future for Ruth.
The Lord was orchestrating events for the two women in response to Ruth’s faith. He pointed her to the fields of Boaz, a perfect candidate to become the kinsman redeemer, a provision of Jewish law which ensured the care of widows and allowed the deceased family to retain their inheritance. But in Naomi’s depression she was unable to trust the Lord. When she realized Boaz could be a potential savior for herself and Ruth, she saw a glimmer of hope. But as time dragged on and Boaz didn’t follow through, Naomi became desperate and took matters into her own hands. She prostituted her daughter-in-law, hoping nature would take its course which would force Boaz to “do what was right” by the women.
Because Ruth’s marriage to Boaz was part of God’s plan, there was no need for Naomi’s anxious and desperate measures. It would have worked out in God’s time with or without Naomi’s help.
God is in control of our lives as his children. Can you think of any times where you felt so desperate for something that you took matters into your own hands? What lessons have you learned about peace, rest and trust from these experiences?