When I was first diagnosed with a chronic illness, it felt like my life had been shattered. All my hopes, plans, and dreams for my future were ruined. The reality of what I was facing overwhelmed my heart. And it felt like my whole world was falling apart.
Have you ever been there?
In a place where you realize life is never going to be the same? A place where you’ve cried out to God over and over again in prayer … and yet your prayers seem to be met with nothing but silence? A place where you feel lost and all alone in the struggles you’re facing?
Have you ever looked around in confusion at what God is allowing to happen in your life, and then wondered, “Lord, what exactly am I supposed to do now?”
I’m sure this is exactly how Naomi and Ruth felt.
Naomi and Ruth’s story is told in the Old Testament book of Ruth.
Now, you may be fairly familiar with this story. But as we look at it today, let’s ask God to open our hearts and minds so He can give us some fresh insights that can in turn help us in our daily lives.
A Summary of the Book of Ruth
Naomi and Ruth’s story has a beautiful ending. But there was a lot of tragedy and heartbreak in the beginning.
Naomi’s husband Elimelech had moved them from Israel to Moab due to a famine. While they were in Moab their two sons Mahlon and Chilion married two Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah.
Then Elimelech passed away. And shortly afterwards Naomi’s two sons also passed away. Leaving the three women as widows.
Then Naomi tried to send her daughter-in-laws back to their father’s houses because she knew that there they would have a chance to have families again.
Orpah went back to her family. But Ruth stayed with Naomi.
So, Ruth and Naomi went back to Israel together. Once there, Ruth gleaned in the fields to provide food for them. In the fields, she just so happened to catch the attention of an eligible bachelor named Boaz.
He eventually took her as his wife, they had a baby named Obed, and both Ruth and Naomi finally found the family they had dreamed of.
10 Life-Changing Lessons from Ruth and Naomi
Now, that was just a quick summary of their story. But if we dig a little deeper, we will discover there are many spiritual lessons we can learn from this little 4-chapter book of the Bible.
Lessons that can help us get through the hard times. And lessons that can change our lives . . . if we let them.
1) Lessons from the Book of Ruth: Life is not going to go the way we planned.
When her husband and two sons passed away, Naomi felt like she had lost everything.
All her hopes, plans, and dreams for her future had been completely destroyed. Her life looked nothing like she had thought it would. Her situation seemed hopeless.
She felt overwhelmed, depressed, and quite frankly she was quite angry with God.
We see this when she tells everyone to stop calling her Naomi (which means “pleasant”) and to start calling her Mara (which means “bitter”.)
“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”-Ruth 1:20-21 NIV
I can relate to Naomi.
Because I felt the same way she did when I was first diagnosed with a chronic illness. While I may not have lost a loved one, in my season of suffering, I was grieving a loss nonetheless . . . the loss of my health.
And any kind of loss can lead to suffering, doubt, and a questioning of our faith.
But as we dig into Ruth and Naomi’s story a little further, we will also see there is hope, joy, and purpose when we choose to trust the God who loves us . . . even when life doesn’t go the way we had planned.
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”-Proverbs 16:9 NLT
2) Lessons from the Book of Ruth: Our enemy will use our suffering to isolate us.
Naomi had lost everything. And in her bitterness and sorrow, she tried to push everyone away. She decided she would go off on her own and accept her fate.
She would leave Moab, go back to Israel, and figure it out herself.
She might have to suffer. But no one else needed to suffer with her. Life may have knocked her down and all her plans may have been ruined. But she knew there was still hope for her two daughters-in-law.
They were still young enough that they could go back to their old homes, find refuge with their families, and then eventually get remarried and have their own families again.
So, Naomi tried to send them away.
“Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.’ Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud.”-Ruth 1:8-9 NIV
But Ruth refused. Because she knew it wasn’t good for Naomi to be alone.
And it’s not good for us either.
But it is exactly where our enemy wants us.
Think about this.
Imagine you are holding 10 pencils in your hand. If you were to try to break them all in half at the same time, it would be nearly impossible to do.
However, if you were to set them down and take out just one pencil . . . well, then breaking it in half is quite easy.
And one by one, you could break them all.
In the same way, our enemy wants to keep us separated and isolated because he knows that is the easiest way for him to break us.
So, when you are in a season of suffering, he will tempt you to isolate yourself and push everyone away. Because he knows if you have others by your side during hard times, then you’re not as easy to break.
Because the people around you can be there for you, comfort you, remind you of God’s truths, and support and encourage you.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”-Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NLT
3) Lessons from the Book of Ruth: We are stronger together.
Ruth refused to leave her mother-in-law because she knew all about the hard things a widow would face in that culture.
Widows were often very poor and destitute. They didn’t have anyone to provide or protect them. So, they were left to do everything on their own.
They were also often left with debt by their husbands they were expected to pay and yet they weren’t allowed to inherit anything from their deceased spouses. So, when a woman lost her husband, she lost everything.
This left her extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Many women would end up selling themselves to men who were willing to provide food and a roof over their heads in exchange for their work and perhaps even some sexual favors.
Being a widow was a social, economic, emotional, and cultural tragedy. And Ruth wasn’t about to let her mother-in-law go through that alone.
Ruth knew all alone Naomi would most likely be taken advantage of. But between the two of them, they may just have a chance.
Trying to do life on their own would have meant a lot of struggles, heartbreak, and suffering. And in that culture, with no man to provide for them, they were in a vulnerable position. Easy to use and abuse.
But together they were able to protect each other and provide for each other.
By sticking together, Ruth and Naomi were able to help each other grieve for their husbands, adjust to a new life in a new country, and survive in a culture that didn’t make it easy on widows.
It wasn’t good for them to be alone. And it isn’t good for us either.
They were stronger together.
And so are we.
I’ve heard it said that women working alone have power. But women working together have IMPACT.
And isn’t that what we all want to have? An impact on the world around us for Jesus?
The truth is we all have something to bring to the table. Your strengths can complement my weaknesses. And my strengths can complement your weaknesses.
When we all work together and contribute to the task at hand, amazing things happen. Because we are stronger together and can accomplish so much more than we could ever do alone.
4) Lessons from the Book of Ruth: Admitting you need help is NOT a sign of weakness.
When Naomi accepted Ruth’s help, they were both able to find food, shelter and eventually a home together with Boaz, the kinsmen-redeemer who married Ruth and provided for both of the women.
By allowing Ruth to come with her, Naomi took the first step in accepting help. And by doing so, in the end she found everything she needed.
Healing. Hope. And a brand, new future full of possibilities.
And the same is true for us when we learn to admit we need help.
Too often I think we feel that admitting we need help means we are weak. But it actually takes great strength to admit you need help. Especially in our culture of independence and self-sufficiency.
It’s not an easy thing to do . . . which is why it is a sign of great strength and courage when you realize that you need help and reach out.
And in turn this will help you find healing. Hope. And a brand, new future full of possibilities.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”-Galatians 6:2 ESV
5) Lessons from the Book of Ruth: True friends stick around. (Even when we aren’t so pleasant to be around.)
What can we learn from Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi? Probably the most important thing we can learn is that true friends stick around. Even when that means they may suffer, too.
The truth is while it sounds noble to help those who are suffering . . it can also be inconvenient.
It takes time. Effort. Planning. And sometimes, because they’re hurting . . . our friends can end up hurting us while we’re trying to help them.
This is why we all need a good friend like Ruth in our lives. Especially when going through hard times.
Because when Naomi tried to push Ruth away and get her to go back to her family in Moab, Ruth said, “NO.”
Ruth and Naomi had grown close over the years. And they had both suffered the loss of their loved ones. The bonds that formed during that season of shared grief, formed a deep friendship between them.
Which is why despite the fact that Naomi tried to send Ruth away, Ruth was determined to do what she could to protect and provide for Naomi. Even though she knew that by doing so, she was putting herself in a position where she might suffer, too.
In Moab, back with her family, life would have been easy. But Ruth chose to walk the hard road of suffering with Naomi.
Ruth wasn’t just a daughter-in-law to Naomi. She was also a really good friend. A friend who stuck by Naomi’s side even when things didn’t look so good. Even when Naomi was suffering and truthfully, she wasn’t quite so pleasant to be with. (Remember, she changed her name to mean bitter and bitter people aren’t fun to be around – Ruth 1:20-21.)
Ruth wasn’t just concerned with her own well-being. She also deeply cared for Naomi. So, she stuck by her side, knowing full well that this season of suffering was just that . . . a season.
And someday things would get better.
6) Lessons from the Book of Ruth: Helping is a blessing. (For both the receiver and the giver.)
What was the lesson learned when Ruth followed Naomi? That it really is better to give than to receive.
Ruth went to Israel with Naomi. And because she was younger, it was easier for her to glean in the fields to find food for them. She was able to do this because of an Old Testament law that stated:
“’When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.’”-Leviticus 23:22 NIV
Gleaning in the fields led to Ruth eventually catching the attention of Boaz. A good man who was also a kinsmen redeemer, which meant he could act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need.
And when Boaz ended up marrying Ruth, he in turn brought Naomi into his home to provide and care for her as well.
Ruth was an incredible blessing to Naomi in her time of need. But helping Naomi was also an incredible blessing for Ruth.
The lesson to learn here is to let other people help you. Because being a blessing leads to blessings. There is truth to the saying it is better to give than to receive.
So, the next time you are tempted to turn down someone’s help, ask yourself, “Why would you want to rob someone of the blessing of helping you?”
“You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”-Acts 20:35b NLT
7) Lessons from the Book of Ruth: God can use our suffering for good.
The loss of their husbands was a very tragic event. It caused a lot of heartbreak for Ruth and Naomi. And then they had to leave the country they had known for so long. They left behind friends and everything they had known. And Ruth even left behind her family.
And yet, God used their seasons of suffering for good. To move those women to a place where they could grow in their faith. And where He could use them in amazing ways.
Because He had a plan to use their story for His glory.
While there was a lot of heartbreak in these women’s stories . . . God used it for good.
He used it to bring them out of Moab (a place of idolatry) and back to the land of Israel (a place of God’s Presence). He used it to bring about a marriage between Ruth and Boaz which would result in the birth of Obed. Who fathered Jesse. Who fathered David.
Yep, that David.
One of the greatest Kings in Israel’s history. The shepherd boy who defeated a giant. And the man who wrote a majority of the Psalms we still cherish today.
When we choose to trust in God’s plan even when we don’t understand, God can do amazing things in our lives.
It’s not always easy . . . but it helps to know that God is working even when we can’t see what He is doing. And that He can bring good out of even the most tragic events in our lives.
8) Lessons from the Book of Ruth: God is working in ways you may not see.
If you read the book of Ruth, you will see that God is missing. There is no mention of Him at all. But even though He isn’t mentioned. It is obvious that His hand was at work in everything.
In the same way, we can remember that God is working . . . even when we can’t see what He is doing. And we can trust Him in the waiting.
9) Lessons from the Book of Ruth: God has a greater plan for your life than you could ever understand.
In the end, because Naomi let Ruth come with her to help her . . . Ruth ended up with everything she had ever wanted. She found a husband in Boaz. She found love and salvation in the God her mother-in-law followed. She found a new home. And she even had a son.
And from that son, would eventually come Jesus.
The Messiah that would save the world.
Because Ruth was willing to help Naomi, and because Naomi accepted Ruth’s help, Naomi and Ruth became a part of the greatest story ever told.
At the time, I am sure it was hard to understand how their season of suffering could possibly be a part of God’s plan. I’m sure they wondered if He knew what He was doing. I’m sure they felt anguished over their unanswered prayers.
But in the end, God’s plan was greater than anything they could have ever dreamed up.
He really does know best. He is sovereign over everything. Which means He knows so much more than we do about what we are going through.
So, we can choose to trust Him. Even when His plans don’t make sense.
10) Lessons from the Book of Ruth: We need to make friendships a priority.
The book of Ruth shows us the value of friendship and loyalty. And how when we’re going through hard times, we all need someone like Ruth in our lives. Because we are stronger together.
But friends like Ruth don’t just appear.
- We have to work for them.
- We have to make time for them.
- We have to make them a priority.
The main problem is that in America we often treat friendship as a luxury when the truth is . . . it is a necessity.
We were made for community.
God created us to desire relationships with others. And so, if we don’t have friends in our lives, we often suffer needlessly.
Good friends can comfort us. Provide for us. Guide us. Encourage us. Help us. And keep pointing us to Jesus.
Why is the story of Ruth and Naomi so significant?
The story of Ruth and Naomi is so significant because of how God used these two women to make a way for His Son to come down to earth someday to save us.
In fact, their story is so significant that Ruth is one of the few women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus. (Matthew 1:5)
Ruth and Naomi’s story reminds us of the power of friendship. That we are stronger together. That God is at work even when we can’t see what He is doing.
And that when we move towards God in our greatest pain, He can take it and use it for something great.
Something so significant that people may just still be talking about it thousands of years later.
If you found this encouraging, then please share so it can encourage others.
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