An inmate approached me after a prison chapel service one evening and asked me to pray with him. After chatting about what I had preached on that evening, he said something that, although other inmates have said similar things in the past, still struck me as profound. And true.
You know…I’m convinced God had to take everything away from me before I’d ever listen to Him. I mean, I never would’ve read the Bible if I hadn’t been put in jail.
Question of the day: How would you respond if someone said that to you?
Often, I find myself just nodding in agreement. Undoubtedly that young man lost everything he called his own, including many of the people he cared about most. After numerous weeks of being locked in a crowded cellblock—mulling over the results of poor choices—that young man concluded that God had orchestrated all the events in order to bring him to the point where he was convinced it was the only way he would ever think about God.
He didn’t blame God one bit for his new mailing address, for he knew he was in jail due to nothing less his own sin. Yet he also wouldn’t be dissuaded that God’s hand was in all of it. And I certainly wasn’t going to try to convince him otherwise.
In the book of Ruth, Naomi also came to a point when she, likewise, had to admit that God was intimately involved in the tragedies of daily life. After her husband, Elimelech, moved their family into the land of Moab during a time of severe famine, untold events eventually led to the death of her husband and two sons. As Naomi arrived back in her hometown of Bethlehem, the local women came together, saying, “Is this Naomi?”
In response to their utter disbelief, she replied,
Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me? (Ruth 1:20-21; underline mine).
Do you believe that God controls all things, both in this life and in eternity to come? Even the painful things in this life? God has the power to alter any circumstance, any trial, any temptation, any loss. But occasionally God chooses for us to go through such trials so that the substance of our faith will be tested, refined, and put on display for all the world to see.
Question: Do you ever find yourself feeling like Naomi did, because of the difficult times you’re going through? Do you ever feel like the Almighty has afflicted you?
I think that is normal. Almost expected, really. We can’t see the forest of God’s plan in the midst of life’s trees. Yet God is still seated on the throne. Trust me, three seconds after you enter eternity, you’ll have forgotten all about the woes you endured here in this life.
Job had a great perspective on enduring the trials of life. He said,
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).
A short while later he said to his wife,
Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity? (Job 2:10)
But God is a rewarded of the just, as well. He may not reward like we would prefer, and it might not even be in this lifetime, either. But don’t ever question the integrity of the Lord.
Later in the book of Job, we read,
The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold…After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his grandsons, four generations. And Job died, an old man and full of days (Job 42: 10, 16-17).
Whether in this life or the next, we’ll have our barley harvest. Two months after crossing Bethlehem’s borders , having gone out full and returning empty-handed, the Lord’s plan came to fruition for Naomi and Ruth. They had to wait, but not very long.
We read at the end of the story, in Ruth 4:14-15,
Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.
You see, God’s ways are not our ways. All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Remember that!
If you trust in Jesus Christ as you Lord and Savior, then you’re His kid. His child. You can call Him daddy. He’ll wipe away every one of your tears. You’ll no longer have any sorrow and your joy will last an eternity. And you’ll live in His house forevermore.
Remember that. Don’t ever forget that!
* Image credit: Tonya Christner (Creation Swap)