I've been praying for my job-searching friends, asking God for provision on their behalf and to show I can help. I found my answer in the first chapter of the book of Ruth. Long story short, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth both lost their husbands. Ruth decided to stay with her afterward instead of going home to her family. Now let's dive a little deeper.
To understand the significance of this story, you need to understand the context. I've been reading through the Old Testament in order since January. When I reached Ruth, I thought I already knew the story and the lessons to be learned, but reading this book after the previous ones and knowing the context changed my perspective.
The Book of Ruth Context
The Israelites have been living in the Promise Land. They've fallen deeper into sin as time goes on. God periodically sent judges to deliver them from their disparity and turn them towards him, but they kept falling back into sin. Ruth's story happens in the middle of this time.
Naomi is an Israelite from the tribe of Ephraim. Her daughter-in-law Ruth is from Moab, a people originating from when Lot slept with his daughter Moab (Genesis 19:30-38). These people worship other gods. Coming from different races and religions, by societal standards, they should not be associating with each other.
Ruth Chapter 1
A famine drove Naomi and her two sons to Moab. Her sons married in Moab, one of them marrying Ruth. After living there for 10 years, Naomi loses her husbands and two sons. She decides to move back to her hometown of Bethlehem when she hears the famine is over. She's probably distraught with grief and packing her house to stay busy. Ruth looks past their differences and stay with her even though it meant leaving her homeland.
God is so strategic. I think he placed Naomi and her family temporarily in Moab so Ruth could get taste of the presence of God. I think part of the reason why Ruth moved with Naomi was that she wanted to learn more about the God she encountered. Now let's see the personal side of the story.
Imagine your friend has been job searching for six months. They just received another email that they didn't get the job. He or she has lost motivation to apply for another and is tired of sitting at home all day. They feel like the Lord has turned his back on her, but they don't tell anyone. They don't tell anyone the thoughts of failure that keep them awake at night. Instead, they keep a smile on her face day after day, until her bedroom door is closed.
Now you're in her bedroom with the blinds closed, holding her as her sobs unfold. It hurts to see her in so much pain, but you don't know how to help. That's Ruth and Naomi.
In their situation, Naomi says, "My life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord's hand has turned against me." She tells Ruth to go home. Ruth says:
"Don’t beg me to leave you or to stop following you. Where you go, I will go. Where you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. And where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. I ask the Lord to punish me terribly if I do not keep this promise: Not even death will separate us."
Ruth stood by Naomi in her time of grief. In doing so, she mirrors how God sticks with us through pain and sorrow. Singer Kim Walker-Smith uses this analogy: Imagine you're in a really messy house. Jesus walks in. He could easily snap his fingers and make the mess go away, but instead, he sits next to you and gives you peace in the midst of chaos. In that way, he can draw closer to us.
I remember times when I was Naomi, hiding my feelings, pushing them away by keeping busy. I'm grateful for the Ruths I had that helped me thorugh that season.
The first chapter of Ruth has two key takeaways:
- For the Strong Man/Woman Struggling:
Draw near to the Lord. In your quiet time, in His community, you can find unsurmountable peace in spite of your circumstances.
- For the Supportive Friends:
Just be with them. You don't have to offer advice or a scripture or a link to a job posting. Your presence will remind them that they are not going through this alone. So I'll say it again, just be with them. Sit, listen, and speak life as the Lord leads you.
Maybe you have a friend or relative, who graduated or had a miscarriage or lost their job or got into an accident earlier this year. Give them a call today. Ask how they're adjusting. Check on your strong friend.