My learning will never be complete (for which I am grateful...I'm one of those odd ones who loves to study and learn!) and I recently was struck by yet another lesson as our church studied through the book of Ruth.
As I studied Ruth and as I thought about this book as compared with other books in the Bible, I noticed that God seems to work in two very different ways.
God sometimes uses His visible hand of miracle to accomplish His purpose. Think about the parting of the Red Sea and the manna provided from heaven. Think about the healing of Jairus' daughter and the feeding of the 5,000.
God also sometimes uses His invisible hand of Providence to accomplish His purpose. This is what happens in Ruth. Israel is in the period of the judges which means that they are bouncing around between brief periods of stability and long periods of rebellion, being conquered by foreign armies, and experiencing severe famines.
Here are Naomi and Ruth: they are widows, they are childless, they are in a foreign land, they are going home to Israel not knowing what they will find.
Naomi, especially, knew the traditions of her God. Perhaps Ruth had heard the stories. The miracle stories of Noah saved from the flood, of Israel rescued from Egypt. I imagine they may have wished for that visible hand of miracle.
Instead, they got hard work gleaning in a field, an owner of that field who just happened to stop by and act with kindness, the surprise of that very owner being a close relative, a desperate and courageous request from Ruth. The result? A marriage, a baby, perhaps a bit of stability. Several small blessings along the way, but certainly no miraculous raising of the dead.
From that marriage and that child came the greatest king that Israel would ever know, bringing wealth and stability and godliness to the nation.
From that marriage and that child came the greatest King that our world would ever know, bringing rescue and mercy and grace to all the nations.
My honest confession? I want the miracle. I don't want the invisible hand of Providence. When Kristina was fighting for her life, we begged for miraculous healing. That's not what we got.
Even though the miracle is what I wanted, I can still trust in God's unseen hand. I can know that God is still working, even though we, like Naomi and Ruth, may not see the end of the story.
Even though I am now pleading for another miracle, I am so grateful to be assured that while I pray out my sadness, my anger, and my bitterness, God is right now at work healing hurts not even felt yet and creating answers to problems I haven't even yet encountered.
Abba. Thank You.
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art credit: Whither Thou Goest painting used with gracious permission by artist Sandy Freckleton Gagon
special thanks to our Pastor for his thoughts on Ruth