EMPOWERING LIVES WITH PURPOSE:
Guest writer: Day Marshall, Licensed Mental Health Counselor.
Hope When Circumstances Are Bleak
“I know that God is all-powerful, loving, and good, but I doubt He is like that with me.” This is a refrain I hear often in counseling sessions. This is related to experiences that point to being forgotten by God, or overlooked by Him, or worse, being punished by Him for not being ‘X’ enough.
In the book of Ruth, Naomi’s responses strike me as an ancient echo of that oft-heard refrain.
Following the difficult decision to move from their home in Bethlehem due to famine, Naomi with her husband and 2 sons settle in Moab. Within a short span of time, all of her men die, leaving her with 2 daughters-in-law. After 10 years in a foreign land, Naomi heads home.
We see Naomi’s expressed belief about God’s view of her when she says to her daughters, “My life is much too bitter for you to share because the Lord’s hand has turned against me,” and further when Naomi arrives in Bethlehem, she states, “Call me Mara, for the Almighty, has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty… the Lord has pronounced judgment on me, and the Almighty has afflicted me.” (1:13, 20-21, HCSB)
In her understandable state of grief, Naomi could not have imagined the joy that awaited her in a few short months. Nor could she imagine the beauty and significance of God’s eternal plan; a plan that tied her directly to the Redeemer Himself. We know the happy conclusion to Naomi’s story, within her lifetime, included her redemption through a grandson who renewed her life and sustained her in her old age, along with a daughter-in-law who loved her and was better “than seven sons” (4:15).
When we are feeling unloved, abandoned, forgotten, or in some way punished by a capricious god, we need to hold onto the fact that He is never inclined toward us in this way, even when it feels like it in the moment. Truly, when we have experienced disappointment and pain that seems unrelenting, it can feel difficult to trust that God’s love is not fleeting. This is particularly true in the seasons of waiting; not knowing how long the grieving will last, or for what reason something is happening, or when there is one loss piled on top of so many others. Hope is clinging to the steadiness of God’s love for us while all else feels like shifting sand.