Reflections on Ruth: Seeing and Asking

Over the years I have come to find the Bible to be an amazing, beautiful book especially for the ways that it speaks to the nature of humankind and the character of God. God’s revealed word helps me to truly believe that God knows me (and people like me), and the Bible enables me to better know myself. As we’ve been studying the book of Ruth and Psalms on Wednesday mornings, I have been humbled by the beauty and power of God’s word. The book of Ruth tells an incredible, well-crafted story that is filled with rich truths and ideas: God’s faithfulness, restoration, hope in the midst of despair, human despair and suffering, diligence in adversity, and so much more.

Lifting Our Eyes to See God's Faithfulness

If you’re unfamiliar with the story told in the book of Ruth, it begins with a woman named Naomi who has lost everything—her husband, her sons, essentially everyone and everything that could help to take care of her. In the midst of this pain—despite a great promise from Ruth (her daughter-in-law) to remain with her—Naomi is immovable in her despair and bitterness. Naomi even insists to her friends, “Do not call me Naomi [pleasant]; call me Mara [bitter], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” (Ruth 1:20) Life has not gone as she had hoped or expected and it seems there is nowhere else to turn except to bitterness. She is dejected, living in the fog of her grief and confusion. Can’t we relate to Naomi in her despair?

Over the next chapters of the story, something begins to change in Naomi. Her circumstances have not changed; Naomi is still a widow at the mercy of the kindness of the community. And yet we hear a change in Naomi’s words. The very same woman who declared that the “Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” is being transformed as she catches glimpses of God’s kindness to her and her daughter in law Ruth through the generosity of Boaz, a local farmer in Bethlehem. Naomi exclaims: “May he [Boaz] be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” (Ruth 2:20). This kindness that does not forsake is the kindness of God. As the fog of bitterness lifts, Naomi begins to look up and see that God is faithful, kind and loving. 

Whether I am hurt, grieving, or simply just trying to control my life and circumstances, it seems easier to just put my head down—to ignore God, be angry at God and others, or just work harder. When I feel like Naomi, I live a “head-down” kind of life. But God is in the business of lifting our heads. He invites us to lift our heads, to lift our eyes up and see that he is there. 

I love that Naomi begins to see that God is kind, that God remembers her, before her circumstances have actually changed. God allows for Naomi to see his character before she sees Him totally rewrite her story. I often want to have it the other way around — I want God to change things in the world and then I will reflect on his character as good, loving and gracious. But what a difference it would make in my heart and my view of my life if I lifted my eyes to see Jesus rather than keeping my head down and only seeing my pain and ordinary life!

Asking God to Wondrously Show His Steadfast Love

As I have considered the difference in living with my head down versus living with my head lifted up, the Psalms help me to pray towards that end. God wants to know our prayers and desires—there is no end to the things that we can ask Him for!—but the Psalms model how we can pray in relationship to God rather than coming to a genie who grants our wishes. In Psalm 17:7 I am struck by the thing that David beseeches God to give him. David writes: “Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge…” Essentially David is asking God—powerfully demonstrate that you are the God who is loving, faithful, and kind. 

What if I started praying more like this? What if I prayed with this kind of faith that asks for God to show that he is God (and that I am not)? If I’m honest, praying like this is kind of scary. Praying like this can feel intimidating because I do not know how God will “wondrously show his steadfast love” to me or those that I love. But praying like this helps me to lift my eyes above the fog of life. Praying like this helps me to live with my head lifted up so that I might see Jesus who is full of steadfast love no matter what my circumstances.