Our Thoughts Influence Our Faith

     I have often hear Joyce Meyer say, “Think about  what you are thinking about.” That statement is more profound than most people realize because whether we know it or not, it is our thoughts that influence our faith and drive our actions. David said in Psalms 8, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers- the moon and the stars you set in place- what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them..” David was the same individual who took down a giant, who had been trained in battle from his youth. While his fellow Israelite brothers, even King Saul himself ran in fear from Goliath, David trusted God. Until that time, David’s past as a shepherd consisted of years of alone time in worship before God. So when life circumstances presented an opportunity where others were thrown off kilter, David was able to stand his ground in complete trust and confidence regarding the God whom he had spent many years thinking about, loving, worshiping and learning to trust in.  When he came face to face with Goliath, it was the thoughts he had learned to think about God, himself, and his situation that ultimately influenced his faith.

     So it was with  Abraham who against all hope believed in hope. He did not consider the decrepitness of his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about 100 years old, or the absolute deadness of Sarah’s womb. The Scripture goes on to say, that Abraham did not stagger drunkenly at the promise of God. Instead, he grew strong in faith because he was convinced that what God had spoken he was truly able to perform. (Romans 4)

     In Hebrews 11, we get a glimpse of Sarah’s thought  process. It says,”Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable”.(King James Version)

     I love the way the KJV puts it. It says Sarah judged God faithful, fully believing that what he had spoken he was able to bring to pass. Her thoughts influenced her faith. Not her thoughts about herself, her situation, or even Abraham. It was her thoughts about God and his ability to work in her life that became a driving force for the faith she placed in God to accomplish what he had promised even though, humanly speaking, it was absolutely impossible.

      It is so easy to get caught up in our day to day circumstances. And it is even easier to allow the happenings in our everyday life to influence our thoughts, about ourselves, our situation, about others, even about God. But Paul exhorts us in the book of Philippians, ” “And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about the things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you have learned from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” Phil. 4:8,9

    Far too often we struggle more than we should. Not because of our situation but as a result of what we are thinking about our situation. Our thoughts influence our faith. I realized something a few years back: I don’t have anything to lose by thinking positive thoughts, good thoughts, excellent thoughts. In the end, whether my situation changes or not, I am better and more healthy emotionally, physically, spiritually and psychologically. You may have a whirlwind going on around you but if you are genuinely at peace, where your thoughts are focused on who God is and his ability to see you through, there is nothing that can shake you.

     May the God of all peace strengthen you, bless you, and fill you with the assurance of his ever-abiding presence.

Recommended Readings for this week:

Romans chapter 4

Hebrews 11

Psalm 8

Philippians 4:8,9

Change: It’s Part of the Process

     Sometimes change is necessary. Yet change can be scary, even terrifying. Most of us remember the account of Jesus and the Gadarene Demoniac found in the gospels of Mark chapter 5 and both Matthew and Luke chapter 8.  The story of this man is telling of the love, mercy, and faithfulness of our heavenly Father. Without a doubt, today, this man would have been kept in a padded room where he would have surely been heavily medicated. That being said, there is no level of brokenness that God cannot heal, no depth of bondage from which he cannot set us free. The Bible is clear. Though many had tried, none could offer any solution to the depth of this man’s torment. Yet when he saw Jesus, he ran and bowed before him. Ultimately, Jesus healed this man and freed him from his suffering.

     Until this time, everyone in the surrounding areas lived day to day in the habit of life as was common them. They were aware of this man. One gospel even says (as it records two men) that they were so fierce that none could pass that way. Yet the peoples of the region went about life as ‘normal.’ They had learned to live with this dysfunction as though it were completely functional, even though they were hindered from one whole area of their region. “They could not pass that way.”

     When Jesus healed one of these men, it threw the whole region into fear and a state of panic. Sometimes, dysfunction can become so commonplace in our lives that when God attempts to bring change, we reject it. In other words, it is more comfortable to live in a state of dysfunction than to endure the discomfort of healthy change that leads to wholeness. More times than not, function as God intended it, challenges our comfort zone because we are not accustomed to it. The people of this area had become completely accustomed to living in fear of this man (or these men as Matthew records it), avoiding the area where he wandered and his violent behavior. Jesus came to restore function to a dysfunctional situation. He came to bring peace to chaos, light amid darkness and freedom from bondage, and it scared them. The bible tells us that when the people of the region heard what had happened and saw this man sitting, fully clothed and in his right mind they became frightened and asked Jesus to leave their region. Yet how many more miracles could have been done in the lives of these individuals had they invited Jesus to stay rather than ask him to leave.

    I wonder how many of us have closed the door to an area of dysfunction in our lives that God is trying to bring into a state of function simply because we are fearful or uncomfortable?  Is God dealing with you on about your health, your finances, certain life habits, outlooks or ungodly worldviews that are creating places of dysfunction in your life? The reality is that change is not easy and by nature, most human beings resist it. But Jesus did not grace this earth with his presence for us to remain living in situations that are not his best for our lives. He came because he wants to set us free to live lives where we are wholly from the inside out. If the Holy Spirit has been dealing with you about an area of your life he wants to change, don’t resist push him away. Instead invite him into that broken area. Only in this way, will you ever experience the ‘fullness’ of life he came reveal to every one of us.

Check out Matthew and Luke chapter 8 and Mark 5.

May God bless you and speak to you continually in the coming week.

Just Because God is Silent Does Not Mean He is Unaware

     Raising of Lazarus

11 A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair.[a]Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.”

But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days.Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”

But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people[b] in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?”

Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. 10 But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” 11 Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.”

12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!”13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died.

14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.”

16 Thomas, nicknamed the Twin,[c] said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.”

17 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. 18 Bethany was only a few miles[d]down the road from Jerusalem, 19 and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. 20 When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[e] Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” 28 Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.”29 So Mary immediately went to him.

30 Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. 31 When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. 32 When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him,[f] and he was deeply troubled.34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them.

They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” (Biblehub.com, New Living Translation)

 

     I cannot begin to tell you how many times in my life I have prayed, and it seemed as if God was completely silent. As Christians, we believe that God hears our prayers. So, praying when God seems silent can be disheartening. But just because God does not respond right away does not mean that he is unaware. He is. This is why Jesus encourages us not to worry. In the book of Matthew, he teaches, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat or what will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.’”

     In the account of Lazarus, the need was quite a bit different. My mom used to say, “If you have a problem that is not a money problem, you have a problem! In the above teaching, Jesus was addressing the peoples’ concerns regarding everyday life. In the account of Lazarus, there was a need that no amount of human resources could meet. They needed something outside of mans’ ability. That is what my mom meant when she made that statement.  Mary and Martha needed a miracle in their situation, so they sent word to Jesus. But Jesus was silent.

     The first point I would like to make in regard to this passage is just because God is silent does not mean he is unaware. God is aware of everything we face in life. He is aware of every need we have whether that need be physical, financial, emotional, mental, or spiritual. God may seem silent, but he is not unaware. In the same way that Jesus received the word sent by Mary and Martha, our heavenly Father hears our prayers and requests.

    Second, God knows the big picture. Because we are human and live in a physical world, natural occurrences often overwhelm us. In the natural, Lazarus was dying. That was a fact. Consequently, Mary and Martha were overcome with worry and grief. They were preoccupied with Lazarus’ sickness and impending death. But Jesus was focused on the resurrection. While Mary and Martha saw only a part, Jesus knew the whole picture. It was his divine purpose to reveal God’s power. While it may not make it easier, we can trust in the fact that God knows the outcome.

   Third, in v. 5 it says, “Jesus loved Mary, Lazarus and Martha. We all face hard times at one point or another in our lives. But neither the intensity of our struggles, nor the silence that we can experience in our prayers are an indicator of the measure of God’s love for us. Even when Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus about the dire state of Lazarus’ condition, his health continued to deteriorate. They were praying in a sense, but their circumstance only appeared to get worse. Yet, amid all they were going through, Jesus was not only aware of what they were facing, he was loving them.

     The final point is, with God all things are possible. What Martha and Mary saw as permanent, God fully intended to change. Some of us have placed a period where God is not done writing our story. In their situation, God had a greater purpose. There is nothing in this physical world, no matter how permanent it may seem, that God cannot change. No circumstance is beyond his ability to alter or influence. There is absolutely nothing God cannot do. God’s power and ability is neither hampered nor hindered by any position in which we find ourselves. And sometimes what seems like the end is really the beginning. Someone once said, “Mans’ impossibility is God’s opportunity.”

     As human beings, we all respond differently to crisis, pain, and sorrow. Both Mary and Martha were disappointed by Jesus’ actions. They did not understand why he failed to come when they sent word, when in their estimation, it could have made a difference. In the same way, oftentimes we do not understand why God, who loves us, would allow certain events to transpire in our lives. But even in this, God is asking to trust and obey. Martha and Mary responded differently, Martha heard (Jesus was coming) and went. Mary was  told Jesus was calling for her, and she responded. Even though both women were in pain and failed to understand God’s greater purpose, each ultimately trusted Jesus and submitted to his word.

    In the end, the power of God not only touched a family but a nation and a region. Those who were present knew for certain, that there is nothing God cannot do. There is not a situation or circumstance in which he cannot intervene. Mary and Martha prayed. Jesus did not respond. Their brother died. Jesus arrived four days later and raised him from the dead. Lazarus was alive and healed. God was glorified. God had a bigger plan in their circumstance, a plan they did not understand. Similarly, there are times in our lives when we may be pressing hard after God, when we find ourselves in great need of a miracle. Whatever you are facing today, whatever you have been seeking God about, remember: just because God is silent does not mean he is unaware.

Recommended reading for this week: John 11:1-42

Have a blessed week.

Tanya

 

With God All Things are Possible

   Romans 4:18 declares of Abraham. “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, ‘So shall thy seed be.'”

    The time is nearly 2 a.m. Yet earlier this evening God again began stiring my heart regarding all that he has placed inside of me. And for some reason, I believe  there is someone out there who needs to be encouraged regarding what God has spoken about her life, her family, or some other situation. The Bible says, “Against all hope, Abraham believed in hope.”Take a minute and think about this statement in a modernized context. It literally means,that which is impossible by natural standards. Another way to think about it is an occurrence that… ‘cannot occur.’  Naturally speaking, there was no hope for Abraham and Sarah to have a biological son. They had an absolute zero probability of becoming parents. She was 90 years old, and he was 100.

   Yet in the face of what was naturally impossible, Abraham placed his trust in the God in whom and by whom all things are possible. I am certain that I am not the only one who needs to hear this word right now. Someone needs to be reminded today that with God all things are possible. Don’t stop believing all that God has placed in your heart and mind, the promises he has made to you regarding your life and family, your children, the ministry to which he has called you, the healing he has promised you. That which he has spoken, he is well able to do.

     The book of Numbers informs us, “God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should repent; Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it good?  (Numbers 23:19) God himself echoes these rhetorical questions concerning his nature, his character, and his infinite power. He proclaims in Jeremiah, “Behold, I am Jehovah, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27)

     I don’t know what your situation is today, what you are facing or feeling. I do know however, that we serve a God who is not confined by earthly limitations and natural circumstances. God loves you and wants to bless you. Romans chapter 8 tells us that if God did not even hold back from us his own son, how will he not with him, give us all other things. Stated plainly, God is faithful. He can be trusted to do all the has declared over your life and mine. Our only response to this truth is to believe.

     As we continue into this new year, I pray the miraculous over your life, that God would open doors no man can shut, that he would create streams in the desert and work in ways that are undeniably him. I pray God would fill you with his love, his joy his peace and his strength. That he would grant you the grace to believe what he has spoken, and the power to act in accordance.

May God our Father richly bless you this coming week. And my his everlasting peace be upon you and in you.

Tanya

 

You are Okay

As we enter the second week of the new year, take time to remember life is a process. In 2017, success or failure will happen not in a moment but one day at a time. This year I have decided not to set a new year’s resolution per se. Instead my focus this year is on allowing God to change my heart, my mind and my attitude. A changed individual is the product of a new heart not a new year. I want to encourage you to take it slow. This year will pass one day at a time, and true success can only come by this route. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Where God is our focus, change and success are inevitable.

stonesfromthebrooks.org

     It is a beautiful winter morning here in West Michigan. I peered out the window to take yet another look at the beautiful ivory snow that now blankets the ground. This morning, I woke up thinking about how many years of my life have been spent wherein the first moments of my day were consumed with thoughts about the things I can do better, what I should be doing, or how far along I should be in a particular aspect of life. And I must admit, they are far too many to count. That contemplation however, lasted only for a moment when all of a sudden, I was overwhelmed with a sense of ‘okay-ness’. Now for you Language Arts and English scholars, I do understand that this is not technically a word, but if you would allow me to, I would like to use it only this once…

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Forgetting What Lies Behind

     Not only is today the first day of a new week, it is the first day of a new year. By God’s grace and mercy, we have stepped over into 2017. And with a new year comes new opportunities. So as I address you on the first day of this new year, I pray I your heart would be filled with  rejoicing and anticipation in what lies ahead and not in the regret of what is past.

     While I was reading the book of Philippians this evening, or should I say this morning ( 4:30 am EST), there are a few thoughts that I want to share. First, release the past to God. If there is anything living in your past that has been allowed to seep the life from your preset, leave it with God, refuse to carry it into your future. Paul said in the book of Philippians in speaking about his faith in Christ, in becoming all that God had created him to be, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things, or that I have reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (3:12-14, New Living Translation)

    While Paul was fully aware of his own inconsistencies and imperfections, he did not allow those issues to become a source of hindrance in his life. His ultimate focus was not on his own strength or ability but on God’s. And because his focus and faith was in God’s power instead of on his own effort, he could freely release his past to God, no matter what had taken place. If we truly desire change in our lives, one of things we must do is change our focus to what God alone has the ability to bring about in our future and not where we have failed in the past. Consider this thought. We will inevitably move in the direction of our focus. We cannot move toward the wonderful future God has in store if we are preoccupied with the happenings of the past. Nor can we walk in the victory of our faith in Christ when we are engrossed in the inadequacies of our own human effort. Because Paul understood this principle, he was able to live free. So think of this new year as a new opportunity to release the past to God.

     Second, remember we can do nothing in our own strength. Philippians 2:12-13 informs us that it is God who gives us the desire to do his will, while at the same time empowering us to carry out the righteous desires he has place in our hearts.

     Last, in Philippians 1:6 Paul reminds us that God, who began the good work in each of us, will be faithful to continue that work so that we are complete when Christ returns. I know from personal experience that it is so easy to get over into human effort, and sometimes I need to remind myself, it never was me in the first place. It has always been him, his strength and his desire working in and through me.

     God wants to make 2017 a year of victory for you and me. That being said, we will have failures. There is no doubt. But even in this, we can be assured that his mercies are new every morning.(Lamentations 3:22-23). With every sunrise comes a brand new opportunity to experience God’s forgiveness and God’s mercy, to see the results of his power at work in our lives. So be encouraged today, God has a bright future in store, but we cannot genuinely experience the wonderful future that lies ahead if we are fixated on the past.

My prayer today is that God would help each of us to remember that just as it is his will and his purpose that he has predestined for each of our lives, it is only by his power that we are enabled to live lives pleasing unto him and experience all he has promised.

May God’s blessing, peace, wisdom, love, joy and prosperity be in you, with you and upon you this coming year.

Tanya

The Chance of a Lifetime

Each day is a new day, and God’s mercies are new every morning. With every sunrise comes the opportunity for a new way of thinking, a new way of seeing and interacting with the world, a new way of being, a new way of doing and a new way of living.

stonesfromthebrooks.org

When you hear someone mention the phrase “The chance of a lifetime”, what kinds of thoughts come to your mind? An actress being offered the role she always dreamed of? A small businessman being presented with an opportunity to sign a million dollar contract? A first generation college student receiving an offer of admission to a top university? An obscure singer  being pursued by a major music company with the offer of a record deal?

    For most of us, when we hear the phrase “the chance of a lifetime” these are the types of scenarios that come to mind.  We think of that one big break, a happenstance of being at the right place at the right time, that if not seized with all one’s strength, might likely never come again. This week however, I want to challenge us to think about this expression in a way that is more…

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Just Do It!

  In church yesterday, the message was entitled, Finding the Will of God.  The Scripture text was out of the book of Acts 16:6-38. The Pastor who spoke yesterday made some points that I want to share with you. First, don’t get frozen into doing nothing. There are times in each of our lives, sometimes seasons that are far too long, where we are ‘waiting on direction from God.’  We don’t move because we have not ‘heard’ God’s voice.  We wait and wait, often becoming bewildered, even frustrated. Yet the reality may be that we are not hearing God’s voice because we have failed to move. In the book of Acts chapter 16 when Paul went on second missionary journey, he knew God was leading him to preach the gospel to the gentiles. That being said, in his knowing, he did not sit around and wait for a map laid out from point A to point B. Instead, he began to move. The Scripture tells us that he and Silas “traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word of in the province of Asia.” (NLT) After they were prevented from carrying out their plan to preach in Asia, the Holy Spirit again stopped them from preaching in Bithynia. The emphasis here was that God’s specific will to Paul and Silas became clear only when they started to move. Paul knew God had a plan, and he knew God would speak. He did not get frozen into doing nothing because he did not have all the details of where he was supposed to go. Thus, the first point is just because you don’t have the big picture does not mean you should not move forward. Don’t get frozen into doing nothing just because you are not aware of all the answers.

         The second point was progress begins with faith. Simply put, because Paul believed, he went. We will never move forward in an area of life where we have no faith to do so. There are individuals who will spend their whole lives in one place, never accomplishing anything that is in their hearts. They will never live up to their full potential because they constantly allow fear and unbelief to dictate the possibilities of what could be. We can only make progress when we chose to believe more in God’s power than the circumstances of our lives.

         Third, Guidance comes when we move. As Paul and Silas stepped out, there were some closed doors. That is natural. Closed doors are a normal part of the journey. Paul and Silas tried to go into two different geographical regions based on what they thought. When they were not allowed to go into those regions, they did not sit around and beat themselves up. Instead, they moved on. The clarity came one night when Paul had a vision. In the vision, a man from Macedonia was crying out for him to come and help them. While neither the journey nor the destination was easy, in the end a young slave girl, a jailer and his family, and many others in that region came to know the Lord. Their lives were never the same. Guidance came as they moved.

        Finally, God will reveal all we need to know as we go, which may be the same thing as the above point, but it sounds nice. It was as Paul and Silas went that God revealed exactly what they needed to know and what they needed to do.  The Bible tells us that God will never leave us or forsake us. It also says, if we put our trust in God and not in our own understanding that he will direct our paths. Some of us have had dreams in our hearts for years, dreams that have be placed inside of us by God. Sadly, as time goes on, we sit and wonder why nothing has happened. We are waiting for that miraculous day when God will finally move. The problem comes when we fail to realize that God is waiting on us to take action in response to our faith.

      Remember, God will reveal all we need to know as we go. Guidance comes as we move. And true progress begins with faith. For some of us it is time to stop talking about it. Stop praying about it, stop sitting around, and thinking about it. Place your faith, your hope, your trust in God, and just do it.

 Have a blessed week,

Tanya

This week’s Bible readings:

Proverbs 3:5-6

Acts 16

Hebrews 13:5

Life in a Different Context

 Today I was thinking about the book of Ruth and the lives of the courageous women for whom it is written. To give a little background in the story, Naomi, the older woman, had moved with her husband and two sons from Bethlehem in Judah to the country of Moab due an outbreak of a famine. While the family resided there, the couple’s two grown sons married women from Moab. The names of these two women were Ruth and Or-pah. At some point during their residency in that place, Elimelech, Naomi’s husband died. Then somewhere around a decade later, both her sons Mahlon and Kilion died also. As a result of this tragic circumstance, Naomi was left alone.

         Some time after that, Naomi heard that the famine had lifted in Judah, so she prepared to leave Moab with her two daughters-in-law, but they could hardly get going before Naomi changed her mind. Now instead of taking these two young ladies with her; she attempted to persuade them to return home to their families, their customs, their traditions and their gods. It took some time, but after a great deal of persuasion, her daughter-in-law Or-pah decided to heed the advice of her mother in-law and reluctantly return home to her family. But not Ruth. Not only would Ruth not budge, the Bible says, “she clung to Naomi.”

         Until that point in her life, Naomi had developed her life-outlook and sense of personal identity based on the immediate context of her life. By that I mean, in the context of marriage and motherhood. And it was life in that context that necessitated the development of the person she had become. After the death of her family however, things were not the same. For Naomi, this new way of life was difficult, uncomfortable and sad. The life in which she had found a sense of belonging,  her feeling of self- worth and usefulness, her value, in fact the very definition of who she was, no longer existed.

          In Ruth 1:11-13, we can see one of the impacts of this major life event in the life of Naomi as she is trying to get her daughters-in-law to see things her way.  She tells them, “Why should you go on with me?” Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters!”

          Something that stood out to me about this passage is the fact that when the context of Naomi’s life changed, when she no longer had all that gave meaning to  who she was, she felt as though she had nothing to offer. In her mind, she had given Ruth and Or-pah all she had to offer when she gave them her sons as husbands. But she had not. While I do not have time for sake of space to go into all the details leading up to both Naomi’s and Ruth’s redemption as a result of their relationship with one another, I will say this: what you and I have been through is not who we are. It is what we have been through. And what we have been through does not determine our self-worth, our value or even what we have to offer this world. God does. Who you are and who I am, our gifting, our talent, our make-up and our respective purpose was established by God. And no external happening in our lives can change that.

        If you were to read the book of Ruth, what you would find is that in the end, Naomi and Ruth did make it back to Bethlehem in Judah. Through Naomi’s wisdom, Ruth found love, peace and joy in the home of another husband, and Naomi became a grandmother. Contrary to her own belief, Naomi did have something to offer. She had wisdom. She found purpose late in her life because of the beautiful relationship she shared with her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Given that day and time, in most circumstances, the lives of these women would have all but ended with the death of their husbands, but that did not happen. Instead of allowing the circumstance they were facing destroy them, they grasped the opportunity those situations presented, they rose to the occasion and met it head on. As individuals, they changed, they grew and they developed.

        As stated earlier, adverse circumstances do not define who we are. What we have been through is simply that, what we have been through. It is not an indicator of who we are.  At the same time however, they can and often do reveal aspects of who we are that we may have never known or considered. God was able to work wonders in the lives of both Naomi and Ruth because these two women trusted God within their new contexts of life. When the dynamics of our lives change, it can be at once both scary and exciting. Yet the beauty of stepping into a new context of life is the opportunity it presents in knowing God and yourself more deeply, in addition to living a richer, fuller life as a different aspect of you is revealed in response to life’s changing dynamics.

Suggested Bible Readings: The book of Ruth, Romans 4:18-20 and Hebrew s 11:11

Blessings and Peace,

Tanya