Life is messy and painful.
What an uplifting start, huh? Merry Christmas to all! Life is messy and painful.
But it’s the truth — heartbreak happens. And we have to decide what we choose to do with it. Before I give you my progress report on how I’m doing on The Daniel Plan and the start of my 3rd week on the plan, I want to tell you about one of my favorite Bible warriors: Naomi. She had a heck of a heart-wrenching story.
Naomi didn’t pretend it was fine and paste a churchy smile on. She suffered out loud (like me) and then turned to praise out loud, too.
The story goes like this: During a time of serious famine, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their sons Mahlon and Kilion had to leave Bethlehem to settle in Moab, in the mountains on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. Elimelech died there and the boys married local girls, Orpah and Ruth. Ten years later, Naomi’s sons also died (Their names mean “sickly” and “dying/ending” so that isn’t a huge surprise.) leaving her in a foreign land with two daughters-in-law and no male to provide for and protect them.
So, she picked herself up, and headed back to Judah with the girls. A little way down the road, Naomi blessed her daughters-in-law and told them to go back and find good local boys to settle down with. They argued back and forth but Naomi said “Go, girls. Everybody knows that guys my age don’t marry women my age, and even if they did, I can’t provide sons to be husbands for you again. God has dealt me a hard blow.”
Orpah turned back for home, but Ruth made a solemn vow to stick with Naomi no matter what. When they finally arrived in Bethlehem, the town buzzed with happiness to see Naomi. When she heard them call her name, she said, “Don’t even think about calling me a name that means “pleasant”! God has utterly devastated my life, so from now on I answer to Mara which means “bitter”!”
Later that season, Ruth was gleaning barley (which was sort of like food stamps — farmers didn’t harvest the outside rim of fields leaving the food for the poor to collect and eat) and she met the owner of the field, Boaz, who was a prominent, rich relative. She caught Bo’s eye and he asked around about beautiful, young Ruth, and heard all about how she didn’t leave Naomi when disaster struck, but remained faithful. This impressed him so he instructed his servants to give her the best barley and special treatment.
When Naomi heard about this, she said, “Wow! Maybe God hasn’t quite abandoned us after all!” and told Ruth that Bo was actually what was called a Kinsman Redeemer. That meant that he had the privilege acting in defense of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or who needed to be vindicated. Here comes Bo to save the day!
At the end of the harvest, Naomi helped Ruth pretty-up and told her to go propose to Bo. Long story short, Bo married the beauty. God gave them a baby. And, Naomi was so crazy about this new little man that everyone called baby Obed hers and she devoted her life to grandmothering a boy who would become the grandfather of King David — one of King Jesus’ great-granddads!
Out of His inscrutable love, God saw Naomi determine to press on through pain, suffering, grief, loss, and a bitter mess, and in time He blessed her beyond her wildest dreams!
“God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.” — C. S. Lewis
Right in the middle of the tangles, the betrayals, the losses, the stunning blows, we are called not to keep going, not to muscle our way through, not to trudge on with a fake smile, but we are called to stand, to continue to run the race set before us with endurance, and to REJOICE in our loving, gracious God who sees, protects, defends, and redeems even the worst of tragedies!
Whaaat??? Naomi didn’t do it perfectly, and that’s what I like about her. She was messy. She complained. She didn’t just dabble in hopelessness, she dove into the deep end. She felt abandoned by God and made no bones about telling people about it. BUT, she kept going and seized the moment when she saw God revealing His awesome plan! She trusted Him in the middle of the worst of it!
Here’s a truth about suffering, rejection, hardship, loss, mistreatment, abuse, and every other manner of terribleness: We get to choose what we do with it.
We Can Throw a Fit… Or Get Fit
We can decide to live in the healthiest, most positive, prepared, way possible and let our mess be used to glorify God and serve others or not. We have the honor and privilege of choosing to live submitted to God, repentant, obedient, armed and ready for battle and service, willing to let Him sharpen and shape our lives and guide our steps, or we can resist, and fight, and freak out, and say the wrong things, and do the wrong things, make big messes and bigger excuses blame-shifting every step of the way and become basically unusable to God except as a shiny illustration of How NOT To Do It.
(By the way, don’t follow my example which was basically to hit devastation and to try to control it, force it, beg, cry, manipulate, wig out, get angry, panic, and then lie down and sob, complain, and yell at God. A lot. Ask anybody in the Western United States. They can testify.)
Finally, like my girl Naomi, I quit flipping out and got up off my keister, and began dusting off the ashes of a burned down life and cried out Jesus, Take The Wheel. Then, I started to realize that I couldn’t exactly run the race ready and fit for whatever God asked me to do while lying at the bottom of the shower in grief, being a couch potato discouraged and lazy, eating and drinking junk and feeling lousy. You simply cannot be fit enough to run any race anywhere parked and pouting.
Right in the middle of the mess and the pain of the Christian life, we can choose to throw a fit… or to get fit for the journey ahead.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. — Hebrews 12:1
Lay aside every weight and clingy sin… That means repent. As I mentioned last week, it means wage war against the asphyxiating bondage of Self.
Run with endurance… Get in the Word every day. Walk with Jesus all day. Quit bad habits in His Strength.
Hijacking My Body Back
These goals included hijacking my body back:
Read the rest here on FaithGateway!
Join the Conversation
Don’t leave me hangin’… Have you ever handled a season of suffering badly? What did you determine out of it? Do you relate to Naomi as I do? Have you made changes in your personal fitness plan? What’s your favorite way to get moving? Please leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you! Fellow cuh-ray-zees who are with me on The Daniel Plan during The Christmas season, how are you doing? If you haven’t already, join me! Those of you who are starting after the New Year, let me know! I’d love to cheer you on!
Also, don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, where I’m posting daily pics and updates on my meals and progress! Your encouragement helps and I hope I’m an encouragement to you as well!