Confession moment: I don’t like suspense.
I like knowing how things are going to work out. It makes it hard to read a book in a series before the whole series has been published because how can I get to the end of one book without being able to read how it all turns out in the next? Before watching a movie I’ll go on imdb.com and read the plot summary so I know what twists and turns are coming and how it all works out before it happens.
And yet… I still get caught up in the story line and all of a sudden I find myself thinking, “Wait a minute… hold on… what just happened?! This can’t be the end!”
Because, as I’m sure you know, that’s how stories are written. They hit points of crisis and climactic scenes where characters face their deepest fears or face ultimate struggle. But remember, I don’t like suspense and I think it is because in the moment there is that chance that things don’t work out well. If the characters cannot triumph over their struggles then end has come.
Funny thing is that if I just glance at the time or look at the remaining number of pages then I’d surely know the end hadn’t come because there was more story left to be told.
That is all well and good for a movie but it hits even harder in real life.
Naomi faced one of those moments in her life, more accurately, she faced more of those moments than I think I could handle.
We meet Naomi in the beginning of the book of Ruth in the middle of a crisis: a famine had come to Israel. Her husband, Elimelech, moved them from Bethlehem to Moab. Sounds innocuous enough but remembering that this was not the time of moving vans and easy travel, I cannot imagine the uncertainty of leaving your homeland and heading to Moab in search of hopes of relief from the famine. But they did. And there her husband died.
These words seem too simple:
Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons.
But as I let the weight of that sentence sink in, I find that I am overwhelmed with the grief, uncertainty of this “suspenseful” moment. We can’t know her relationship with Elimelech but, if it is anything like my own marriage, three words “Then Elimelech died…” would contain a grief beyond what words could adequately express. And the phrase, “and Naomi was left with her two sons…” would be a situation of uncertainty beyond reckoning.
Their life (somehow) continues and her sons, Mahlon and Kilson, marry and on they go for ten more years until…
both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.
It must have (again) felt like the end. What else could be left? How could she go on? How would she go on alone, a widow, a mother without her sons…
But what looks like the end is not the end. God had a plan. And Naomi ,who had been through so much pain and loss, who seemed all alone, whose story seemed all but over… God was not done with her, this was not the end.
Reading through the rest of the book of Ruth, we can see how God continues to write the story of Naomi and Ruth through this pivotal moment where their lives seemingly had come to an end. Because Naomi wasn’t alone and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, faithfully stayed by her side and walked the journey with Naomi. What seemed to be the end then springs forth in a new beginning.
And the kicker?
Ruth (Naomi’s widowed daughter-in-law) through her remarriage with Boaz, becomes part of the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:5)
This is not the end.
Even when we cannot see it God is working all things to our good. He is the author of a story greater than we can imagine.
Can we trust in Him even when things go awry, when the suspense is killing us, when there seems to be the end? Can we trust that He knows what He is doing even when it doesn’t make sense to us?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Have you faced times in your life when it seemed that your story was all but at an end? How did God show himself faithful and work good through those tougher than tough moments?
Are you facing the insurmountable today? How can we pray for and walk along with you in this difficult time? Just as Naomi wasn’t alone, neither are you. God wasn’t done with her story and He isn’t done with yours. I’m praying for you!
If you are looking for resources/answers when facing the age-old question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” maybe this resource will be a good place to start: a message from Lee Strobel following deadly theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado.