Day 5: Death (Ruth 1:3-5)
Today’s Passage: Ruth 1:3-5
If you are reading along with me, you might be thinking, “This is painstakingly slow!” Hang in there, the pace will increase. Yet sometimes “setting the table” or “making sure the details are in view” make all the difference.
My prayer is that you will find the Book of Ruth to be stunning—and part of a stunning meal, is the setting of the table. To which, again, you might be thinking, “Then you need better titles. “Death” is a downer title.”
I want you to know that as I write, I am thinking about both those that I had the privilege of presiding at their funeral, and also their families. So many members of families displayed faith, courage, and love—their presence is humbling and inspiring.
I am trying to tread lightly, perhaps the topic for you is just too fresh.
However, if we are going to seriously ask, “Can I trust God?”, or if we are going to wrestle with this idea that God is sovereign and providential, then we must wrestle through the hard moments of life, not just the easy ones—and the loss of a husband and two sons surpasses the criteria for hard moments.
I pray you are not in such a moment; it is easier to “wrestle” when it is hypothetical.
Consider, here sits Ruth surrounded by death. She must be talking to God. We all are surrounded by death. We talk to God about it.
When you are surrounded by something, you need to have a sound way to understand it. Our view about death, and specifically, life after death, is therefore huge.
In fact, I want to strongly recommend you get deeply planted into your soul a healthy view of life on this earth, and life after. Get a healthy view BEFORE those days when a loved one passes through the doorway we call death—before that day when your emotions will be overwhelming.
What is our individual attitude about death, the one we have when we can stand at some distance from it? What is our attitude death when it happens to people who are not supposed to die (the young)? What is our attitude when it engulfs us?
Will we trust God in the middle of our grief, and even our anger?
Before we consider this difficult topic, it is interesting to reflect on the structure of the Book of Ruth. If you wanted to convince someone that God was walking with them would you “right out of the starting blocks”- in the first 5 verses, have them move because of a famine. Then, lose their family status, face the death of their husband, and after seemingly “getting their feet under them”, would you write about how they lost their sons and were left unsupported in a foreign land– would you? Would you dare to claim God’s Providence? Perhaps that is the point.
Death is natural. It happens to everyone. And while natural, in another way it seems the most unnatural of events.
In our lives we have hopes and aspirations—dreams. Death means the end of these in many ways.
First, God understands. He knows death inescapably reminds humankind of our frailty and limits. Do you think Jesus was not torn, leaving his disciples? Did not Jesus weep at the death of Lazarus?
Second, the Bible teaches that this natural event is held in God’s hands and not ours.
Naomi, while unaware of the transformation in the meaning of death which the New Testament brings, knows that Yahweh is the Lord of life. He alone has the power to create life and take it away (1 Sam. 2:6; Job 10:12; Ps. 139:13-16).
Third, death is not the end of life. Even in the Old Testament there was this sense, that at death, you were “gathered to your people” (Genesis 25:8.).
Today we know that “our people” are “the people of God”—and we will be with God, where there will be no weeping (Rev. 21:4). God’s Word, Jesus, points us to our destination.
Going back to the point of our hopes and dreams; where do ours end? Do they end with our death in this world, or have we cast them beyond to our eternal destination?
And there is a path through, and to, this destination. It is the path of Jesus. On that path we ask less the question “Why?” and more the question “How?” If you lost your husband, would knowing “Why?” make it hurt any less? That answer is not helpful. However, saying “Lord show me how to live today, in my pain” will be helpful.
And to pray to God for this answer—even if you are doing so full of emotion and anger—is to be a person of faith.