Tragedy is one of those things that none of us want to experience, but many of us will. It’s a part of living in a broken world full of broken people, but it’s never something we want to think about, anticipate, or expect. And as a result, when tragedy does come our way it often catches us off guard and leaves us feeling hopeless. We feel as though God has lost control and we have lost our way. So what do we do when the unexpected comes into our lives? How can we possibly react well? This week we look at what the Bible says about responding to tragedy and how amidst the panic and the chaos, we can find peace and strength.
Here’s the deal. Life is going to throw you some curveballs. Unexpected things will happen. Tragedies will occur. Crisis will hit. Change will surprise us. Our stories will have twists in them. So the question we want to wrestle with over the next few weeks is this.
What do we do when the twist comes? When life throws us a huge curveball like this? How will you react then?
Ruth: Book that shows us how God is involved in the day to day joy/ hardships in life
The story follows an Israelite family struggling to survive through a famine. The main character, Ruth, expected her life to play out one way. But then a curveball came – something completely unexpected.
1 In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. 2 The man’s name was (Uh-limb-a-leck) Elimelech and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were (Ef-ruh-tights) Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there. 3 Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. 4 The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named (Oprah – kidding) Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband. (Fun story. 5 verses in – famine and 3 deaths) [Ruth 1:1-5]
It doesn’t say how they died because that’s not the point. The point of the story is how these two women, Ruth & Naomi will respond to a new tragedy that comes into their life. They are both widows at a time when being a widow is particularly scary. Women weren’t educated in that time, so they were completely dependent on their husbands.
6 Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. (she find out that things are thriving in Judah)
God has blessed them to be able to handle this famine well. He’s provided a new open door, which he always does in times like this. That’s why he tells us not to worry. Because even the crisis comes, he’s got a way out. A new door is coming.
She kept moving forward. She didn’t let tragedy paralyze her. She just took the next right step. She didn’t know how she was going to get through, but that didn’t stop her.
So What’s the first thing you do when tragedy hits? Just take the next right step.
8 But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept. [Ruth 1:8-9]
She wanted to help them move on from the sudden loss, the tragedy. The curveball thrown into their life. We’ve all had an abrupt tragedy enter our lives before. A family member dies. You lose your job with no heads up. You hear a diagnosis that changes your life. The virus means you’re out of work for a few weeks and you’re trying to figure how to support your family. How do you respond when that happens?
Fear sees the crisis. Faith sees the opportunity.
Every crisis is an opportunity. Every curveball is a new chance for a new opportunity. So even when something terrible happens, how we respond is critical. And it will determine our path from there. Which perspective will you take? Fear or faith? You have a choice.
Are you approaching it with fear or with faith? Because this is a new opportunity.
Don’t focus so much on the crisis that you miss the opportunity in front of you.
16 “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.17 Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” 18 When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more. 19 So the two of them continued on their journey. [1:16-19]
When crisis comes, I can either retreat or I can be loyal to what I know to be true. For Ruth, she knew that Naomi’s love for her was true so she didn’t want to leave that. I know that God’s love for me is true. So when a curveball comes into my life, I’m not going to retreat from God. Because I know his love is true.
Crisis either moves us towards God or away from him.
When a tragedy comes, do you take it to God or do you retreat on your own?
The thing in your life that you are most worried about right now, how often are you actually praying about it? Because prayer is the remedy to worry. Prayer is the path towards peace. Prayer is the vaccine for anxiety.
Ruth chose to draw near to Naomi and her love because she knew she needed it then.
One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. [Ruth 3:1]
In other words, it’s time that we move on from the loss and the crisis and start focusing on the future. God is a God of the future, not the past. So it’s time we move on and start looking what needs to happen for us to have a preferred future. For Ruth, that meant finding a new husband.
2 Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. 3 Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.” 5 “I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law. [3:2-6]
She trusted God and moved forward. Even though my life has been so hard, I trust your voice. God, even when things are uncertain, I trust you.
I think one of the tricks of Satan is not to believe he doesn’t exist. It’s to blame God for the things that Satan did. That when tragedy comes, you don’t grieve the evil of the world caused by Satan, but instead you blame God. You run from him. You stop trusting him.
Tragedy is a dividing point. It helps us to see where we find our security. Do we run towards God or away from him? Is our security in God’s plan or in our own abilities?
Fear tears down. Faith builds up.
Fear tears you down and wants the curveball to blow everything up. But faith helps you see the opportunity for something new. It helps you trust that God can restore your life.
End of the Story: They get to know each other more and more..
13 So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the Lord enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. 14 Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! [Ruth 4:13-14]
God can restore anything. Tragedy comes. How does Ruth respond? By drawing near to Naomi and trusting that God still has a plan for her. He brings her a new husband and they a child, who by the way, begin the family line for King David. Ruth is King David’s great grandmother. Which was also the family line for Jesus. This becomes her legacy.
Ruth’s greatest moments came after the tragedy. Your greatest moments might come after a crisis. And God is allowing that crisis to bring you to the next big thing in your life. But Ruth only got there because she said – even when the curveball comes, I will trust in the Lord. I am not going to allow my circumstances to shake me.
Whether you realize it or not, God may be using a tragedy to position you for the most important moments in your life ahead. Why? Because…
Fear focuses on the tragedy. Faith focuses on the triumph.
That Jesus triumphed over death. That he defeated death on the cross. The greatest tragedy of all time was that an innocent man named Jesus was murdered for a crime he didn’t commit so that we, the real criminals, the real sinners, could have a second chance. He triumphed over death. He defeated the tragedy. So now, we have to chose.
Will we focus on the death, or the resurrection that came after?
Does tragedy cause you to move towards God or away from him?
Whatever idol you have in your life, God wants to destroy it so that it doesn’t get in the way of your relationship with him. Living by faith means that even the curveball comes, you can keep moving forward. It’s okay that things get uncomfortable for a little while. It’s okay that you’re not in control. God can restore. You just need to take steps towards him and remember his love.