We were visiting at the kitchen table when my mother shared with me a pattern she’d observed from her own grief experiences and those of others. “When we lose someone we love, there is usually a strong support network for about three months,” she said. “People call, stop by, bring food—and after three months, they think things are better, so they resume life as normal. But things are not OK; we’re still hurting, and now we’re hurting alone.” Mom continued, “I’ve learned to wait three months and then step in to offer help when one’s support is beginning to fade.” The candle of care, lit by others, still flickers soft rays of hope.
It is hard to imagine the darkness of the widow’s anger or the depth of her pain. “Don’t call me Naomi [pleasant],” she said. “Call me Mara [bitter],” because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.”1 Heap more hurt on me. Call me “bitter” whenever you look upon me. Remind me what God has done to me and who He has made me to be—bitter. What can one possibly say to heal invisible wounds of unknown dimensions? Whose words are wise enough? Writes Solomon, “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”2
Consider then the heart and wisdom of Ruth, widowed herself and at a young age. To her grieving mother-in-law, she offered not Band-Aids of bromides, but the kindness of commitment—perhaps the only words Naomi could absorb. “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.”3 I am with you. With actions of integrity, then, Ruth provided for the two of them by humble means—“Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”4 “Go ahead, my daughter”—Naomi’s heart, healing.
Blessed are those who refuse to let our bitterness and pain overcome us, who reconcile us to hope when we are wary of hope. Awesome are they who sacrifice their life to save ours with a love that transforms us and a grace that sustains us to a new day of renewed purpose. When the time comes, may we, too, be committed to care, bearing another’s burden with the sacrifice of self.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2).
Father, thank you so much for those who have sustained me through the darkest moments of life. They are a gift. Grace me to be as faithful when I am called to do the same. Amen.
1 Ruth 1:20
2 Proverbs 25:20
3 Ruth 1:16, 17
4 Ruth 2:2
6 replies on “Night Lights”
Great insights Paul! Thanks!
Thank you, Lynn. Glad you enjoyed this post.
I have always loved the story of Ruth and your words here today spoke to this widow’s heart. Thank you, Paul
Thank you, Judy. The book of Ruth is all about Ruth’s redemption, but it is also all about Naomi’s transformation through grief. I’m so glad the post was a blessing to you in some way.
Thanks Paul. This stirred my soul. Especially the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs.
When I lived in Cambodia, many of my friends had roots from provincial villages. Because of my friends, much of my ministry was tied to these outlying areas. I learned a simple truth, that “proximity matters.” Distance degrades impact, no matter how kind your intentions or passionate you visions. Because of this understanding, my family and I moved to the rural province.
Reading this post I realized that the simple truth is simply incomplete. You filled it out wonderfully, “I am with you.” The long-haul is implied. It is not simply proximity, but a commitment to remain. Naomi, in her “Mara” state, acknowledged and accepted this proffered commitment from Ruth by calling her “daughter.” Therein, a sacred pact is sealed.
Isn’t this what we all need and look for? Isn’t it a picture of marriage? And what of the commitment of Christ when He calls us, His bride?
And so my question: who are we to the people in our lives?
Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful response. “Proximity matters,” indeed, as does commitment. Your comments remind me of Paul’s heart for the body of Christ—that even though he was with the churches “in spirit,” still, in his words, “I long to be with you.” It is all part of the unity God desires with and for us, a desire He accomplished through Christ. Thank you again for sharing your experience and insights