Ruth 1:16-18, “…wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” (NLT)
Bitter. Why do love stories always seem to start with something so bitter? The Book of Ruth is a love story. It’s a story about family. It’s the story of a Mother-in-Law who suffered great loss and a Daughter-in-Law blessed by and a blessing to her entire family.
SPOILER ALERT. It’s great to know the end of the story. Ruth returns to Judah with Naomi. Ruth meets and marries a son of Israel. The coolest part of all? Through the bloodline of Ruth is born David, King of Israel. Through his bloodline would come Jesus, redeemer and Savior of all. That sounds big. It sounds significant. It sounds important. It sounds blessed.
But that’s not how Naomi felt. She was Ruth’s Mother-in-Law. She is part of this bloodline and a significant part of the story too. But in chapter one she doesn’t feel blessed. She feels bitter. Rightfully so, I think.
She met and married the love of her life. Moved from her homeland. Gave birth to two sons. What happens next is tragic. Her husband dies. Both sons die. She’s left living in a land of foreigners where the economy has crashed, food is hard to come by and she’s the one responsible for her household, two morning Daughters-in-Law.
Mara, bitter, numb – it’s all Naomi has left to feel. Desperate, she returns to her homeland. Her Daughters-in-law follow. Naomi knows what it’s like to live far from home. She graciously releases her Daughters-in-law to return to their family. One goes. Ruth stays. My wife and I borrowed her words for our wedding vows.
“Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”
Through the tragic and bitter beginning to the story of Naomi and Ruth is a glimmer of hope, a brief glimpse of love that cuts through bitterness and out lives tragedy. Naomi had won the heart of Ruth.
There was much to morn. Bitterness seems like the appropriate response. But just beneath the surface of bitterness was the sweet center of genuine love that will eventually write the story of salvation for you and me.
Have you ever had a Sweetart? People deliberately put these bitter pills in their mouth for the sweetness that will later come if only they hold on. This is the pain of bitterness Naomi experienced. Certainly she suffered tragedy. Bitterness was an appropriate response. But she held on. Ruth encouraged her. Her family helped her. And in the end she became great-grandmother to kings. The bitterness of this moment amplified the sweetness of the next.
Life will have bitter moments. The relationships you build before the bitterness can sustain you. Don’t take them for granted. The end of the thing is better than its beginning. Hold on. God is working out the divine story of his relentless affection for you.
Are you living through a bitter season now? Hold on. There’s sweetness ahead.
Help. In moments of tragedy, when things don’t go my way, when the odds are stacked against me, when everything falls apart – help. I love and trust you. I believe you have my best interest at heart. I believe you know what’s best for me. I know that you are able to do exceedingly abundantly above all I ask or think. In my bitter moments give me the presence of mind to remember that the bitterness of this moment amplifies the sweetness of the next. Give me the strength to hold on. Help me trust and follow you in difficult times and celebrate and honor you when things are good. Thank you for my marriage and my family. I am blessed through them. Bless them with your favor today.
I love you, in Jesus name –