This past Sunday morning I was asked to fill in for our preacher and give the sermon. Since it was Mother’s Day I wanted to try my best to talk about the blessings that mothers give to the their families and to so many others. But I also knew there would be some in our assembly that morning who find Mother’s Day to be a particularly painful day. I wanted to do my best to reach out to them and provide some comfort. Overall I was pleased with my effort and you can listen to it here. However, due to time constraints there was one point I had to leave out, so I’m going to blog about it today…
The lesson was built around the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Often this quote is attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt, but many times it is thought to have been said by author Dwight Edwards. In trying to determine the origin of the quote I came across blog after blog of women writing about this quote. Most were mothers who were talking about the challenge of seeing friends on Facebook and other places who seemed to have it all together while they were struggling just to survive the day. I think we all have our moments where we can be a bit hard on ourselves, but women especially seem to struggle with comparison and allow that to rob them of the joy found in their unique place in life.
Mother’s day is a great joy for many, but for others it is heart wrenching. There are those who miss their mothers because they are no longer there to hold. There are others who long to be mothers and mothers who have tragically lost children. Others might have contentious relationships with their mothers and many women have experienced the grief of a miscarriage. It can be difficult to see others enjoying the day when there is such pain in our hearts.
In the lesson I looked at the Bible account of the life of Ruth and Naomi to help us think about the challenges associated with loss and sadness. You probably remember that Naomi moved to a foreign land with her husband and sons. In the course of a decade Naomi lost her husband and both her sons. She was left as a broken woman to return home to Bethlehem. Her persistent daughter-in-law Ruth would not leave her side and returned with Naomi to Bethlehem. Naomi returned as a different woman, even renaming herself Mara which means bitter.
Following are the thoughts I wish there would have been time to explore on Sunday morning…
Many times we get caught up in comparing ourselves to others, but sometimes we compare our current situation to the way things used to be. Naomi felt that God had dealt with her bitterly, taking her husband and sons from her. This was especially challenging in a society where widows like Naomi would have a tough time surviving. There is nothing wrong with reflecting fondly on times past, but life is full of changes and when we live in the past we rob ourselves of our present purpose. Comparing our current circumstances to our past can leave us without a future.
We all have a purpose to fulfill in life. It is through fulfilling our purpose that we can find hope, happiness and joy in life. As we read in chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Ruth, Naomi discovered her purpose. She became a mother to Ruth. She guided and counseled her daughter-in-law in the way that a mother would guide her own child. The relationship between Ruth and Naomi grew and in just the four chapters of Ruth you can see the bitterness in Naomi’s heart fade away.
Chapter four of Ruth offers hope and encouragement to anyone facing tremendous loss. Ruth marries Boaz and gives birth to a son, Obed. The people of Bethlehem, perhaps the same people who greeted the women when they arrived, noted the blessing in Naomi’s life. In Ruth 4:14-15 we read – The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
There are any number of people looking for purpose and fulfillment in life. There are mothers who have no one to mother and children and adults who long to have a mother. There are young mothers struggling to cope with the challenges of raising young children who could use an extra grandmother to come and provide the love and patience that only comes through life experience. By reaching out to lend a helping hand, new relationships are built and a new purpose in life is found. These new relationships may not be the same as the ones we once enjoyed, but they bring with them a unique set of blessings and opportunities. When we reach out to others we often receive more of a blessing than what we give.
One of the best things we can do for our children is teach them that the Bible is composed of real events that happened to real people. Many times in our children’s Bible classes we tone down the real events of the Bible to protect young hearts and minds…and rightfully so. But sometimes teenagers and adults never outgrow the children’s version of the Bible and don’t see the realities of the great pain and joy that people experienced in this great text. Today I am launching a short series about Ruth & Naomi where you can explore the life of these two wonderful women. Check it out today >>> Week 20 – Ruth & Naomi – Part 1