A young woman loses her husband. She is heartsick, troubled. She doesn't know where to turn, what to say, what to do, or who she even is anymore. The life she knew is completely gone. She is suffocated, unable to move, to breathe.
But instead of looking to herself, she looks to another. The mother of her beloved, who is also hurting just as much, for she has lost her husband as well as her son. And she is just as troubled, just as heartsick. She's lost the very fiber of her own identity just like the girl, with one difference. She is old. And the prospects of her remarrying seem slim.
So the girl goes to the woman amidst all this pain, and she says, "I will stay with you. No matter what else happens, I will stay." And the older woman tries to convince her this isn't a good idea. That she's old. That she's insignificant. That she doesn't matter. But the girl sees something else in this woman. Something worth affirming, something worth being faithful to. And she tells her, "Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and I."
And the young woman stayed by her side. Even though she had nothing to gain.
God clearly honored this woman's choice. Because He gave her the book of Ruth.
How many times in our lives have we felt like Naomi? Abandoned, with nothing but the hope of the harvest to cling to? How many times have we faced a decision like Ruth? To be within our rights to leave just when someone needs us the most?
One of my favorite verses from this first chapter of Ruth is verse 22. It says, "So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning."
See, a little background: Naomi left Bethlehem because it was in famine, and she needed food to eat, sustenance. Here, she's returning because she's heard these rumors that God had "come to the aid of His people." So she packed everything up, figuring "What do I have to loose?" and moved back. But she returned as a different person. She returned as "Mara" and told her old friends God had made her life bitter, empty.
The beautiful thing is, this last verse in the chapter points not toward the emptiness, but toward the harvest. In fact, bounty is contrasted here with lack, so that an implicit promise is given through the foreshadowing imagery of the harvest, and we can see that Naomi's faith will yield plenty.
Maybe you're in the midst of a drought in your life right now. Maybe all you're clinging to is the faint hope of a promise God has declared over your life. Be of good cheer today. The harvest is coming. God, like Ruth, will remain by your side through it all.
Or maybe you're a "Ruth" in someone else's desolation. Please don't give up on them, even if they tell you to pack your bags and head back home. God's faithfulness is most clearly demonstrated during those times we most desperately need it.
Questions for conversation: Have you, like Naomi, struggled with feeling empty? How can we overcome this feeling of desolation? What does faithfulness look like in the day-to-day, and how can we enact that in our lives?