It is the limits of what we can see that keep us afraid. We fear the unknown, we fear what we cannot see, we fear what we don’t understand. Without proper vision, things will never appear as they should.
The world around us can be a scary place. Our lives are filled with tragedy, pain, and struggle. Depression is at nearly epidemic proportions and prescriptions to help us cope with our lives are more common today than they ever have been. We are a people and a generation who are hurting, confused, and unsure of our future. We live moment by moment, sometimes in fear, sometimes riddled with stress, and sometimes crumbling under the weight of life. When we do have moments of happiness and excitement, they are often short-lived and largely fabricated by external circumstances and we usually cram them in between one thing or another on our busy schedules.
Rarely do we exist in peace.
Rarely do we have a deep and abiding joy that carries us through our darkest times.
The unknown around us, and the shocking results of the unknown, are what set fear firmly in us. The things we don’t see happening and the things we didn’t see coming. The unexpected cancer, the automobile accident, the miscarriage, the divorce, the job lost, the home foreclosed, the sickness, these are the things that seem to destroy our lives.
In the book of Ruth we are given a glimpse into the normal, and tragic, life of a woman who has just lost not only her husband, but her two sons. We watch as the story of Ruth and Naomi plays out; a daughter-in-law, devoted to her dead husband’s mother, leaving her people and her home to stay with this woman and to commit herself to her. We begin with tragedy and end with redemption. We start with pain and end with joy. We know that because we can read it. We can read the narrative and understand what takes place. Yet – with our lives it isn’t so easy. We don’t have the narrative of our lives in front of us where we can skip to the end and see if we make out ok.
Neither did they.
One of the overwhelming themes in this book is the sovereignty of God. God’s providence. The truth that God is in control of all things. We see it proclaimed from the mouths of those we read about in Ruth and we see it take place in the narrative itself.
God’s sovereignty and providence are difficult things for us to wrap our minds around. We struggle to fathom and understand a God who is in control of all things. It makes us afraid, it causes us to fear, it causes some of us to turn from Him.
The question isn’t really: “Is God in control of all things?”
The question is, “Do we trust Him?”
If we believe that God is who the Bible says He is, and if we believe that He has done and will do what the gospel proclaims, then do we trust Him with our lives?
Do we trust Him when our husband and sons pass away? Do we trust Him when our wife confesses her adultery? Do we trust Him when we’re told to find another job? Do we trust Him when He asks us to give up our lives for His sake?
When I was young I was diagnosed with a vision disorder. I had a set of muscles in one of my eyes that was too weak to function correctly. In order to fix it, the doctor recommended I wear a patch over my good eye, so that my weak eye would be forced to strengthen itself and correct my vision. It didn’t work. The only thing it worked at was making me look like a pirate and feel like an outcast. I don’t remember it ever helping.
I do remember though, the feeling of fumbling around for things when I didn’t have my glasses on. I still know that feeling. I also remember how difficult it was having proper depth perception when one of my eyes was covered. Because I couldn’t see properly, things appeared a little different for me; sometimes they were blurry and dark and hazy, sometimes they were closer or farther than they seemed; but at all times, without the proper corrective lenses, they didn’t appear as they should.
When we don’t trust that God is sovereign over our lives and therefore see all of our life through those lenses, then things never appear as they should.
When the truth of who God really is has sunk deeply into our soul, and we drink fully from the truth of scripture, it is then and only then that we can live and exist with a firm and fierce joy that, even in deepest sorrow and confusion, doesn’t leave. It is then and only then that we have eternal perspective through gospel lenses and in our struggle we can cry out, knowing we are still loved, and trusting that in some way this suffering is making much of His name, the name we love and honor above all things.
“…The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” Job 1:21
“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.” Psalm 3:3-4