Do Christians struggle?
I don’t know about you, but one common misconception I hear about Christianity is that becoming a Christian means life is automatically easier. People seem to believe that it’s like a switch that you flip and the troubles turn off. People often believe that you don’t struggle anymore once you become a Christian. This common worldview is held by so many, but is not Biblical and therefore not true. The story of Ruth tackles this beautifully.
Christians still suffer. We still struggle. We still go through uncomfortable and even painful circumstances. Christianity is a way of life. It’s a belief. Its faith in our Maker and Savior. What we experience is not about us. Our lives are about Jesus. We are called to follow, imitate, grow in relationship with, and likeness of Christ.
For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.1 Peter 2:21 CSB
Why do Christians struggle?
Christ suffered, therefore you can count on suffering as well. Suffering and discomfort are not things to avoid, though. Trials can teach us, grow our faith and reliance on Him, and lead us to become more like Christ all the time. Discomfort and even pain should draw us closer to the throne of God and the way He wants us to live and away from sin and selfish ambition.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV
The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while.1 Peter 5:10 CSB
3 And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.Romans 5:3-5 CSB
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.Romans 8:18 CSB
Who is Ruth?
Scripture is filled with examples of people, just like you and me, who were plopped right smack into uncomfortable and even painful situations. Two such people were Naomi and Ruth. Naomi had lost her husband then her sons. She was left to fend for herself which was an incredible challenge and danger.
2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.James 1:2-4 CSB
Naomi instructed Orpah and Ruth, her daughters-in-law, to go back home to their families. Ruth and Orpah would be taken care of if they went home to their families. This would leave Naomi completely on her own. Naomi, knowing this, willingly told these women to leave her behind to deal with the struggles of being a woman alone in Biblical times, thinking the Lord had turned against her.
11 But Naomi replied, “Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters. Go on, for I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me to have a husband tonight and to bear sons, 13 would you be willing to wait for them to grow up? Would you restrain yourselves from remarrying? No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me.” Ruth 1:11-13 CSB
Doesn’t that sound so familiar?
How does Ruth encourage us in times of suffering?
It’s easy to feel like God has turned on us when we’re faced with difficult and painful circumstances. This woman had already lost her husband, and now both of her sons are dead as well, and she thinks God has turned on her and becomes bitter. I can think of plenty of times in my life my mind went down this train of thought during a time of despair. It’s easy to be blinded by grief, pain, and discomfort and fall into bitterness.
The beautiful thing, though, is that no matter how we feel or what we think, God’s promises never change, never fail, and God is always faithful. We can rest in God’s truth. God reminds us that we are never alone and that painful circumstances are opportunities.
How is Ruth an example to us?
Naomi tells Ruth to leave her behind, but Ruth “clung to her” (v. 14). Again, Naomi feels so much like how I would likely respond – she tells her to go again, urging her to go make a better life for herself, but Ruth… Ruth stays. Not only does Ruth stay but she declares something incredible to her mother-in-law.
14 Again they wept loudly, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. Follow your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth replied: Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me. Ruth 1:14-17 CSB
Ruth chooses a life of discomfort. She chooses to declare herself to Naomi, no matter the cost, even until death. Even more incredible, she leaves her people’s religion behind and chooses God, Yahweh, Naomi’s God, our God, the God of Israel. Ruth chose to change her entire life not knowing what may be ahead, but knowing it would be filled with hardship.
Ruth tackles her circumstances head on choosing the more difficult path because she knows it is right. She clearly understands what we miss so often – sometimes the hard thing and the right thing are the same thing. She doesn’t shy away, she heads toward it faithfully, boldly.
What should I do when life hurts?
May we have that kind of faith, that kind of boldness, that kind of dedication to God. May we be so committed to the way of the Lord that we are unafraid, unflinching, and choose to go full steam ahead wherever the Lord is leading. Trust Him to guide, carry, strengthen, provide and grow you through any circumstance. Trust in the Lord to keep His promises and to be with you always.
Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For the Lord your God is the one who will go with you; he will not leave you or abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 CSB
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 CSB
Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 CSB