The book of Ruth begins with a string of tragedies – Elimelech dies, Mahlon and Chilion die, and three women are left to figure out life on their own in a culture that made that hard. To be sure, there is lots of grief on lots of levels: the loss of family, the likely loss of a home, the loss of an expected future that included children and grandchildren, and the emotional turmoil of floating in a never, never land, in between certainties and without clear direction on how to move forward.
Our first reactions to grief are ones that preclude us from facing it head on. It could be complete denial that anything has changed or a manic attempt to fix it, to make it go away. I hear this from Ruth and Orpah if I read between the lines in chapter 1: “We can still live with Naomi. Nothing has really changed. Or, maybe Naomi could have more sons for us to marry!” Naomi did well by her daughters-in-law to correct their thinking: “Turn back, my daughters; Why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying?”
The point is, we all know grief. By definition, it is a part of any transition we make because transitions mean something is gained but something is also lost. Our transition could be devastating, like the death of a loved one, or minor, like getting reading glasses. It could be something that happens to us, like an accident, or something we choose, like buying a new house. They are all transitions; they all require letting go; they all cause grief. The trick is to manage our grief in helpful ways. Here I go back to Naomi as she says, “… the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.” You know what I hear there? 1) acceptance and 2) an acknowledgment that God is in it. We all eventually get to #1 – acceptance. #2 can be more challenging, but by faith we can trust that God is in every transition – the ones we choose and the ones we don’t choose – because He promises in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always.”
You know what I don’t hear in Naomi’s words? “I have this all figured out.” Isn’t that a burden we put on ourselves in the midst of change, “How can I make this work?” We add stress to stress. But if God is in all our transitions, we can let Him drive, and we can just “be.” We don’t have to figure it all out; we just need to take the next step, remembering what Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “[God’s] grace is sufficient for you, for [His} power is made perfect in weakness.” So, in the transitions before you right now, let go and let God. He is faithful; He is good; He is victorious.
Other verses to consider: Psalm 139:7-12; Isaiah 30:20-21; Jeremiah 29:11; Ephesians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 2:9
- Think of a personal grief experience. How did your psyche initially respond? Do you see that pattern in other transitions in your life?
- Do you fall more into “Let go and let God” or “God helps those who help themselves” mindset and how does that impact your approach to transitions?
- What do you think is the best middle ground between those two perspectives and why?
- What is your response to passages like Psalm 139:7-12 and Matthew 28:20?
- In your current situation, what is one way in which you can acknowledge that God is in it and allow Him to work?