What Ruth’s Story Can Teach Us about Suffering and Sorrow
- Sarah Frazer Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- Updated Mar 10, 2022
For as long as I can remember the Book of Ruth has been presented as a love story between Ruth and Boaz. Recently I listened to a podcast that suggested it was more of a friendship-love story between Naomi and Ruth.
What if instead of a story of friendship or love, Ruth is a story about sorrow?
Sorrow is a part of life. Rich or poor, famous or unknown, people throughout the world hold some kind of sorrow in their hearts. One day while I held some sorrow in my heart, I heard Andrew Peterson sing these words: “Somehow this sorrow is shaping my heart like it should…”
Sometimes we compare suffering. For example, I’ve never had to bury a child, but I have had to bury dreams for a child. I picture the life I wish my child could have, but because of special needs and hidden diagnosis, I’m not sure those things I picture for her will ever come true. It makes me sad.
I’ve never had to say goodbye forever to a parent (yet), but I have had to say goodbye to a life I spent 16 years building. We moved cross-culturally two years ago and 3000 miles away from everything we both loved. It was so sad. And let me tell you, there is suffering I’ve endured which I can’t even speak about. Things I wish I didn’t have to say I cried and cried about. But we all suffer, don’t we?
The Book of Ruth and Suffering
And as we read the book of Ruth, we realize even thousands of years ago people were suffering. So, what’s the point? I think suffering changes us. As we suffer, we must see how it changes us. And God uses this suffering for His glory.
In our story of Ruth and Naomi, the grief of death, loss, and emptiness created a vacuum of bitterness in Naomi; but in Ruth, it revealed a heart ready to love. When we face sorrow, how will we respond? God never wastes our sorrow, nor does He waste our tears. God walks with us, but He also teaches us through what we go through.
Ruth accepted the sorrow and reached out to Naomi in love and friendship. Ruth chose to use the suffering in her life to draw her to God, to Naomi, and to something new. It is much easier to respond to suffering like Naomi. Naomi withdrew, lashed out, and harbored bitterness.
Suffering is never wasted. God is always Good. When I try to understand what is going on, things I cannot understand, I will always question God’s goodness. Like many of life’s struggles, God hasn’t left us to flounder on our own. So where do we look when we are just struggling to survive through a season of suffering? Christ on the cross would be the perfect place.
The following psalm is one of many attributed to Christ on the cross. It is also a song of lament. These psalms are for us to use today. They give us words for the pain, but they also point us to the promise of Christ.
We can cry out and say with the author, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When we feel sorrow we feel forsaken. We take those feelings, emotions, and thoughts straight to God’s throne.
We lay them at His feet and we say, “Yet you are holy…” (Psalm 22:3) God is with us in our pain. Friend, I cannot know what kind of sorrow you hold, but Christ does. Listen to what is said about our Savior:
For he (GOD) has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. Psalm 22:24
Would you say Christ was afflicted on the cross? We’ve never been crucified, but I never try to diminish the pain you might be feeling. Instead, I would say: look at the cross. Surely Jesus knows about your suffering. What truth can we find to comfort us during our times of heartache?
Remember Psalm 22:24. Today, we can hold on to these truths (straight from a suffering Savior) to get us through the tears.
3 Truths about Suffering from Psalm 22
1. God Doesn’t Take Suffering Lightly. God is not looking for ways to make us suffer or allow suffering lightly. It isn’t that suffering needs to be taken away, but that we can learn to see God more clearly in our suffering. God always. Meets us there but He also recognizes our amazing suffering. God will not let us suffer lightly, there is always a purpose.
2. God Doesn’t Hide Himself During Suffering. Never did we face what Christ did on the cross: the Father looked away from His Son (because of our sin). But as Christians, we will never know what that feels like because of Christ. God will never hide himself from us. His Word is right here. His truth is like a light in the darkness. God is not hidden to those who suffer, in fact, He promises to be even closer to those who are suffering.
3. God Hears Us When We Suffer. The enemy would like nothing more than to tell us He isn’t listening. We want answers, and so when our “answers” aren’t found, we assume the silence of God. the Bible, so many verses (Mark 11:24; Eph. 1:18; John 17:15; Prov. 15:8; Psalm 17:6; Psalm 102:17; Psalm 141:2; Romans 12:2) remind us that God is always listening to our prayers.
God’s Plan for Redemption
The walk back home for Naomi from the country of Moab to Bethlehem was not comforting for either woman. It was a journey of necessity and desperation. It was a lonely, hard journey. Although shorter in distance, longer in time, Jesus took a journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. From the manger to the cross our Savior and Messiah walked a life of 33 years and one filled with suffering as well.
Although Naomi’s and Ruth’s story will teach us lessons about loneliness, Christ is our answer and ultimate source of hope for the suffering we carry.
Many times, we like to skip ahead to the end of the story. But let’s not do that this time. We don’t live at the end of our stories. We live in the messy middle. Our lives might not look like what we think. Naomi's sons were still dead, and she most certainly held that heartache until she died... but God was going to do a great work in her life. She needed to see that restoration can happen even in the middle of our story. That restoration sometimes doesn’t look like what we imagined.
The restoration God promises always involves redemption and even if we are still walking the path of loneliness, we can rest in God’s work in our lives in the process. In the next thirty days I hope to walk you through the story of Ruth and Naomi to show you that even if loneliness lingers, God’s love is unchanging. Their story reminds us that suffering can lead us straight to the kindness of God.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/spukkato
Sarah E. Frazer is a writer, Bible study mentor, wife of Jason, and mother of five. With a background in missionary work, Sarah encourages the weary woman to find peace in Jesus. She is a regular contributor to the Proverbs 31 First 5 app writing team as well as a featured writer for Crosswalk.com. Her favorite place to hang out is Instagram at @sarah_e_frazer.
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