One of the greatest love stories in the Bible is the story of a woman named Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. The backdrop of this story is that during a time of famine in the land of Judah, Naomi’s husband Elimelech took his wife and their two sons to the neighboring country of Moab in search of a better life.

As is often the case however, their dreams of greener pastures did not pan out. Instead, Elimelech died there, leaving Naomi a widow with two sons to support. Though her two sons eventually found wives, Ruth and Orpah, tragedy was soon to strike again as her two sons also died in Moab. What had started out as a temporary journey until things got better back home, ended in a decade of tragedy, misery, and heartbreak for Naomi.

Maybe you can relate? We sometimes think we can move away from our problems. Poor job prospects, inadequate housing, failed relationships, all of these and more cause us to pack our bags and head for something better. The truth is however that instead of leaving those things in the rearview mirror, we often bring them with us. No matter where you go, you bring your past with you – so the same problems you hope to leave behind often just follow you to a different place.

In the story of Ruth, Naomi is faced with dim prospects. To be a childless widow in the days of the Old Testament meant certain hardship and one disadvantage after another. There was no one to support you so you had to live on the kindness and generosity of strangers. Naomi was in a desperate situation. As if that alone wasn’t bad enough, now there were three widows! How would they ever survive?

Some of us have traveled this lonely path. We’ve learned that when life brings devastation, it’s not easy to hope again. After all, it’s hard to have hope when you can see no way out of your situation. Yet, when things are the most difficult, that’s also when we need faith and hope the most. In the moments where life feels like it’s crushing you, if we turn to the Lord, He will ignite a tiny flame of faith in your heart. And sometimes, that tiny flame will set off a raging fire of faith!

As we study the events surrounding this family, we begin to understand that even though our desperate situations don’t allow us to see beyond the current pain and anguish, God can give us hope that our story isn’t over – that better days are coming. Such was the case for Naomi and her two daughters-in- law. Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse for this trio of desperate women… God showed up!

Upon hearing that the famine in Judah was over, Naomi decided she had had enough of the miserable existence she had been living and made the decision to go back home. Back to Judah, back to the land given to the children of Israel, back to the Promised Land.

This is where the real beauty of the story of Ruth begins to evolve. For her two daughters-in-law, it’s decision time for them as well. Do they stay in their own country of Moab where their families reside, or risk it all and return to Judah with Naomi? Do they stay with the familiar, or strike out in faith in search of a better life in a country they know nothing of?

In the end, Orpah decided to stay in Moab while Ruth cast her lot with Naomi. The end result couldn’t have been more different for these two daughters-in-law. Outside of ancient Jewish legend, Orpah is never heard from again. Ruth, on the other hand, was welcomed into her new country (Judah) and soon found love in a man named Boaz.

As if this wasn’t enough, Ruth soon gave birth to a new son, a son named Obed. You might remember that name from the genealogy of Jesus, because Obed was the grandfather of king David. All of which leads me to wonder: who but God can do such things as these?

I want to leave you with this thought: just as the life’s story of Ruth was not over because of the terrible losses she incurred, neither is your story over! Despite the setbacks, disappointments, and struggles you may be dealing with, your story is not over. I encourage you to do what Ruth did when Naomi decided to return back to the land of her faith. Pick up where you left off. Start again, knowing that the Lord is with you to make a way where there seems to be no way.

Blessings!

Ron