Sometimes life can just bring you down with what goes on around you. It can leave you wondering how to rise above your circumstances. My daughter’s friends, and my favorite person in the Bible (Ruth) taught me about that this week.
I realized something was wrong with Olivia when I tried to send Charlie, her, and their friends down to their friend’s house so that the mom could bring them to camp. She was whiny, clingy, said her stomach hurt, and only wanted to spend the day with me.
That is usually a sign of anxiety for her, so I asked her if someone bothered her at school the day before. At first she said no, but as we walked down to our friend’s house, she confessed.
“My friend at school called me dumb and stupid.” She is 5, and her classmates are 5. This broke my heart, and what broke my heart more was when she told me her teacher responded by telling her “well I didn’t hear it.”
(Side note: I probably wouldn’t want to school either… just saying)
As Charlie and our friends heard, they came over to her as she cried and embraced her. Offering words of encouragement and comfort. The youngest rubbed her back and said, “it’s okay Olivia.” And later his mom told me he had gone up to her and said, “you are smart and beautiful.”
Cue the awwwww.
I know all too well what it feels like to be nervous about going somewhere. Even a place that is supposed to be safe.
So what do we do? I think we get a great picture of how we should respond to a hurting world by how Olivia’s friends came around her.
But let’s look at the book of Ruth, and what Ruth teaches us about how to rise above our circumstances.
She was in a difficult situation because of her undying commitment to Naomi. She was a Moabite, and by making her famous pledge of loyalty to Naomi, her people, and her God, she was stepping into a life where she would not be favored.
What Ruth teaches us about how to rise above our circumstances.
When her and Naomi got back to Bethlehem, scripture said that the whole town stirred, and the women exclaimed “Can this be Naomi?” Now the word “stirred” in Hebrew can be translated to mean “to distract, murmur, roar, be discomfited, agitate greatly, or show disquietude”.
If I am understanding this right, it doesn’t sound like the town was exactly excited to see her. And when the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”… and the word exclaimed is translated as “to say, answer, say in one’s heart, boast, or to act proud.”
Considering the town was in a stir, it sounded like their arrival in Bethlehem was being talked about in a very social way. Another word for it is gossip. Is it possible these are only questions that were thought and never expressed? Sure. But I imagine it kind of went more like this…
The town was in a stir…
And I bet instead of welcoming Naomi and Ruth with open warms, they acted in a way that gave a message that held pride that they all had stayed and endured the famine, while her husband took her to a land that had more resources instead of trusting God to provide. And judging by the way Naomi responded, they probably acted in a way that made Naomi feel worse than she already did.
I mean, she wasn’t coming back with her husband, children, and a big family, but a Moabite woman. The Israelite’s past with the Moabites would probably something that people “talked about”. But this is definitely more personal.
So how does Naomi respond in the aftermath of everything she had been through. Leaving Bethlehem full, and coming back empty, with only a faithful Moabite woman, who loved her unshakably, and desired to follow her God. “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara (meaning bitter) because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.”
Have you ever felt like the world around you was in a stir?
Oh my friend, I feel you. I am there. And it is something I have been praying about fervently recently, with 2 separate situations. Things on a worldly level, and things on a more personal level.
And I think Ruth gives us a really good model to follow in how we need to be responding in times like these.
Ready? I really do love Ruth, and her response just makes me love her more.
What Ruth Teaches Us About How To Rise Above Our Circumstances
She doesn’t engage in the chatter, the stir, the great agitation, and disquietude. But she also doesn’t defend Naomi or publicly invite others to be sympathetic to her. She doesn’t defend herself, or her desire to love Naomi well, and stay by her side no matter what.
She is firm in following Naomi’s God. Their God. The Israelites. God’s chosen people.
We all know the story (and if you don’t, please take the time to read the book of Ruth. It is fairly short, but there is so much we can glean here!) She is noticed and praised for walking alongside Naomi with hesed love. A love that is loyal, and unshaken by circumstance. She doesn’t turn her back on Naomi by engaging in gossip.
The only thing that she engages in is making sure Naomi is cared and provided for. She does this by doing what is right in the eyes of God. Gossip didn’t gain her favor. What stood out to Boaz was her seeking shelter under the wings of the God of Israel. Her trust in Him alone, and what she had done for Naomi. Her love and devotion to someone who called herself “bitter”.
Living Like The Deer, and Ruth
That sounds a lot like being the deer who treads on the heights despite the surrounding circumstances in real life that I wrote about last week, doesn’t it?
So in closing, when we find ourselves in moments that leave us wondering how to respond… we must know that we will never find favor in God’s eyes, by engaging in the ways of the world. And we will never lead people to Jesus if we are more committed to having our voice heard, than loving those around us well.
Let us stay in His word, and out of the stir, because that is where God’s shelter is going to be found. God will always respond to us with words of hope, and assurance that, despite what is going on around us, and because of that, we can be like that deer, who dreads on the heights.