By Dave Lescalleet
I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
– Ruth 1:21
Often with pain come difficult questions: How could God let this happen? Why would God allow this? How we go about dealing with those very real questions says so much about where we place our hope. But take heart, the questions we wrestle through are not new nor are they unique. In many ways they are as old as the scriptures themselves. The book of Ruth for example, written around 1050 B.C., wrestles through similar questions.
Named after its principal character, this short 4-chapter narrative opens with hopelessness and despair. If you know the story of Ruth, one of the main characters, Naomi, is introduced having lost her husband along with her two sons and any hope of a future appears to be gone. But if you know the full story you also know that the situation is far from hopeless. For in God’s plan there would be a kinsman-redeemer named Boaz who would marry Naomi’s widowed daughter-in-law Ruth and provide an heir to Naomi’s family lineage. But that promised hope was still very much in the future for Naomi. In her immediate present, the pain of losing her husband and two sons, along with her family fortune, was very much alive and real. At that present moment, in the natural, her future looked bleak and uncertain.
But what is impressive is the example of faith that Naomi displayed through her pain. While in that season of suffering, and questioning God through it all, her trust IN God never wavered. For Naomi, there was no hiding the feelings of despair, no pretense that her anger was not there, no sweeping aside her tragedy with some stiff stoic upper lip. She would have none of that. Her pain and grief were real—but so was her rock-solid faith in God.
One commentator describes Naomi’s faith-filled response this way: ‘…Naomi took her grief and pain and raged into the bosom of God.’ Notice the posture. Naomi did not just rage. No. She raged into God’s loving arms. Naomi’s pain was real. But she ran to the only one she knew who could truly bring healing. She ran to God and not away from Him.
Showing one’s pain and suffering is not denying that God is still in control. Nor is it denying that He still has a plan for the lives of his children. God loves us and remains for us, the true kinsman-redeemer of our lives. This is true even during seasons of suffering. How can we know for sure? We have The Cross of Christ to remind us. No matter what the pain we suffer, the Cross is our great assurance that God hears our anguish and pain and joins with us in it.