We visited Arizona a few weeks ago for Grandpa Ward's Memorial Service. :) It was bittersweet of course to say goodbye for now but visiting with family was so nice. :)
On Sunday morning we drove up to Show Low (our old stomping grounds) to visit our old church home. Yay! Pastor Steve (one of my honorary Dads) was not there and I missed getting to hear him preach (they were on a missions trip in Mexico) but we heard a good sermon from Pastor Dan, the family pastor who came on staff after we left. :) He spoke on the book of Ruth which is hard to put in one sermon but he did a good job and I so appreciate a sermon where there is much Scripture involved and teaching on the original language, the customs of the day and a deep application for how this should change my life. All so important. :)
Anyhow, something struck me during that sermon in a new way (God's Word is awesome like that.)
Lately I have heard several people express their disappointment with God that something in their life was bad or hard- not what they wanted and not what they expected. It was messy, it was awful and they felt like it slipped through and God hadn't noticed, or He was picking on them for some reason.
Just like Naomi in the book of Ruth! If you aren't familiar with it, it is a quick easy read! Go read it!
I will wait. :)
Ok, so did you catch what Naomi said? Her family moved to a pagan land because their was a famine in their own country. While they were there her husband died. Her sons married outside of the faith and then they died. Naomi then declared that the "hand of the Lord has gone out against me." (Ruth 1:13) She asked her daughters in law to return to their own homes since she was going back to Bethlehem where she belonged and could not provide them with more husbands (as was the custom of the day for the protection of the women.) The rest of the story of Ruth is fabulous as we see a young widow cling to her mother-in-law and beg to go with her and says, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
Naomi allows Ruth to return with her and they both experience the grace and provision of God and a new and godly husband for Ruth! Ruth then becomes the Great-Grandma of King David and is found in the lineage of Christ! Not bad for a poor, pagan widow, right??? I love that there is none too lost or small or wayward for our Lord to reach down, touch with grace and make part of His kingdom. :)
Anyhow, back to my original point. Naomi makes several statements about the Lord's mistreatment of her before God works it all out before their eyes. Not only does she say that the Lord's hand was against her. (Which Pastor Dan said the original language says it is more like pressing down on her than simply against her. She had lost everything. Her husband, her sons, her provision and protection. Pastor Dan pointed out that a widow then was not like a widow now in America but like what you would see in third-world countries. She had nothing. No way to provide for herself and no one to protect her. Nothing.
She told the people of her home when she returned that "the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” (Ruth 1:20-21)
This is the part where I get on my soapbox. I am tired of hearing people disparage the Lord because they are experiencing the consequences of their own actions. There. I said it. Now to be fair, we don't know for sure that the deaths of Naomi's husband and sons was because of their decision to move outside of God's will and move in with godless communities. Perhaps they would have died all the same in Bethlehem had they stayed we don't know for sure. But I am inclined to believe that the premature death of her sons had something to do with the culture they were living in.
Are there times of "famine" in the life of a Christian whether financially, spiritually, physically, emotionally, or relationally? Absolutely! God even ordains them at times for our own long-term well-being! But is it ever ok to abandon what the Lord has for us (living in Bethlehem through the famine) and decide to go the way of the world and what seems to be working for the culture that knows not God? NO.
And just so you know, I am speaking to my own heart too as I stand here on this soapbox. We *cannot* shake our fists at the Lord and ask Him where He was when WE CHOSE sin over what He had for us. They are just consequences.
Did you see those major warning signs about that man before you married him?
Did you ask the Lord what He thought?
Did you maybe think you knew better than God and the wise counselors around you?
Did you marry him anyway?
You chose, Girlfriend!
Did you listen when someone shared with you how to be a better friend so you wouldn't be lonely?
Did you take it to heart or did you remain selfish, back-biting and thus lonely?
You chose, Girlfriend!
Did you decide that the culture knew better than God's very Word and had sex with someone you were not married to?
Are you reaping the consequences of that by experiencing single motherhood, std's, guilt, and/or problems with your spouse?
You chose, Girlfriend!
Did you decide that in spite of what the Bible says about respecting your husband you are going to constantly belittle him at home and in public?
Do you really have to wonder why he doesn't act loving toward you or doesn't try to change to be better?
You chose, Girlfriend!
Did you decide to leave the raising of your children to church, school and media?
Do you like how they are turning out?
You chose, Girlfriend!
There are so many more examples of this in our lives. Girlfriend....we chose.
**So please, if we are frustrated with God let's calm down a second and seek to discover who is really at fault for the way things are in our lives.**
Now, sometimes God does allow things to happen in our lives for our own good and for His glory and in that case while He can definitely handle it when we get angry with Him and ask why, at some point we need to remember that He is Sovereign. He sees the big picture. His thoughts are not our thoughts and neither are His ways our ways. And we need to even thank Him and praise Him for those times eventually (the sooner the better!) God is not mean and vengeful without cause.
However, if we have looked honestly at the situation, I think more often than not we are reaping the consequences of some sinful behavior on our part. The amazing, incomprehensible news is that there is grace and forgiveness for us when we pull our fists out of the sky and repent! He does not enjoy seeing us struggle through the muck and mire (Psalm 69:2) and fall into pit after pit. (Psalm 30:3) No. He longs to restore us, (Psalm 80:19) heal us, (Deuteronomy 32:39) forgive us, (2 Chronicles 7:14) set our feet on the rock, (Psalm 40:2) put a new song in our hearts, (Psalm 40:3) make our faces radiant and unashamed, (Psalm 34:5) light our path, (Psalm 119:105) set us soaring like eagles, (Isaiah 40:31) make us strong, (Zechariah 10:12) help us to stand firm in truth, and arm us with everything we need to remain true to what He has planned for us. (Ephesians 6:10-18) He even wants to restore what we lost. (Joel 2:25)
Amazing, no??? So if this truth struck a chord with you join me in repenting, asking the Lord to forgive us; help us to learn from this so we do not repeat it; give us grace; and help to do what we can to right the wrong.
He can heal our marriages, our hearts, our children and be everything we could possible need. He is miraculous and bigger than we can begin to imagine. Let's allow Him to do so in our lives, shall we? :)
The end of Naomi's story though is interesting. She admits "the , whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” But I find the end of the book puzzling:
Ruth 4: 13-17 says:
So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the , who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
So even after the Lord provided for her and continued the family line, she never admitted really to God's faithfulness? She needed the women around her to tell her how the Lord had been faithful through it all? She was so bold and bitter to proclaim how the Lord had hurt her and yet we see that hadn't really been washed off. Oh that we would not be so blinded and bitter!!!
Girlfriend, let us choose differently!!!
Anyone have stories they can share where they experienced consequences for sin and the Lord healed and restored???