We all go through hard times, disappointment and pain. But how are you dealing with it? How is it affecting you?
Grab a Bible and do this little exercise in the book of Ruth:
- Read Ruth 1:1-5 | Write out the bad things that happen to Naomi.
- Read Ruth 1:6-18 | Write out the good things that happen to Naomi.
- Read Ruth 1:19-21 | What does Naomi focus on?
- Ask yourself the question, “What do I focus on? Bitterness or blessing?”
Naomi has a lot of bad things happen in her life and because of her firm faith in the sovereignty and providence of God, she assesses that God’s hand has been at work in this bitterness. And she is right; God’s hand of judgment has been on her family and she has suffered personally for it. But what is she missing out on? She doesn’t see God’s hand in bringing good things to her too. She doesn’t see that He provides the food that paves the way for her return to the covenant land of blessing and rest. She doesn’t see the highly unusual loyalty and love from her formerly pagan daughter-in-law, Ruth, who gives up everything to be with her through her pain. She misses out on the blessings and only focuses on the bitterness.
Now, I don’t blame Naomi for this. It’s the human way. I do the same thing. When I have problems my vision becomes very near sighted and those troubles become the defining features of my life. Yet, when I read chapter 1 of Ruth, I discover that I don’t want to be the person that misses God’s good things even when I am suffering from painful things.
I’m not advocating just “positive thinking” or even for you to forget your problems, but rather for us to have eyes open to the greater works of God. It’s not about your glass being half-empty or half-full, it’s about knowing where the water is coming from; it’s about raising your eyes to the Source. This doesn’t mean that you stuff your problems away, stop bringing them before God or keep from sharing with others, but it does mean that you express your faith in God by taking time to look for, thank God for, and share with others the good things in your life as well.
It’s not about your glass being half-empty or half-full, it’s about knowing where the water is coming from; it’s about raising your eyes to the Source.
So, here’s what I’d encourage you to do. If you find yourself regularly bummed out or depressed because of the harder, more bitter things in your life: Make a list of the bitter things (that you will continue to pray for, work on and share with others) and then make a list of the blessings (and try to make that list 3 times as long).
But, how do you do it? How do you find the good things to list out?
- Pray. Begin to ask God to open your eyes to His hand of blessing at work in your life.
- Provision. Think of how God is providing for your normal daily needs.
- People. Think about the people God has brought into your life, specifically other believers that God is working through to show you His love.
- Ask others. Maybe you really are like Naomi and you just can’t see it. Then it’s probably time to meet with a close friend and tell them your chapter 1, and let them help you read between your bitternesses and help you find the sweet that God is already blessing you with… even as you continue to pray for the harder things to be resolved.
- Christ. Ultimately, we have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ. His death in place of ours. Our life filled by His. If we forget this, we will become bitter, because we will encounter very difficult things like cancer, unemployment, death of loved ones and more, and it will be the love of the One who entered our pain beyond what any other friend can ever do, that will help us to still see God’s smiling face.
How did it work out for Naomi? Well, God’s blessings became too much for her to ignore. In chapter 2, verse 20, she begins to admit that God has not stopped in His kindness, like she had first thought. And by the end of the story, the same women she told to call her “Bitter” praised God for providing her with redemption.
We will go through hard times, it’s unavoidable, but even then God has not stopped in His kindness toward us, and in Christ God has provided for our redemption, leading us to glory.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified. – Romans 8:28-30