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{2012} Naomi + Ruth: The Case of a Biblical Friendship.

In November, I read the book Lineage of Grace written by Francine Rivers.  The book covers five different stories of women (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary) all from within Jesus's blood lineage who possess qualities of immense strength, faith, and dedication to the word of God.  The book is incredibly inspiring and encouraging for all Christian women yearning to strengthen their own faith in the midst of hardships.  It made me realize that I don't have it all that bad.

Each story touched me, but the story of Ruth and Naomi filled me, radiated throughout my heart and soul, truly touching me to the core.  It is a story of undying friendship and sacrifice to one another detailing what lengths these two women went to to honor each other in the name of God.  

Background: Both Ruth and Naomi never put themselves before one another, always had each other's backs no matter what hardship presented itself.  Ruth was Naomi's widowed daughter in law, and the Jewish culture was that widows were to remain with their in-laws even after their husband's passing.  In Ruth's case, Naomi was the only one surviving in the family.  She had nothing to her name and was heading back to live in her old home town of Bethlehem where she was sure to be rejected since she had left her Jewish family to move to Moab where the city was filled with Pagan worshippers.  She knew even more so that her daughter in law would not be welcomed in Bethlehem since she was not Jewish.  In their culture, Ruth would defile all of them just for being in their presence.  She was a castaway, completely.  It was a near death sentence to go with her mother in law. back to Bethlehem.  Ruth's family was very wealthy and she was still very young.  She could remarry or live with her parents lavishly if she moved back home.  But Ruth chose to never leave Naomi's side, as God had commanded.  And so she stayed: 

"'Look,' said Naomi, 'your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods.  Go back with her.'  But Ruth replied, 'Don't urge me to leave you or to turn my back from you.  Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.  May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me. When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her." -Ruth 1:15-18

What a beautiful love Ruth had for Naomi.  She was willing to go wherever necessary to support and care for her widowed mother in law who had lost everything.  She gave up returning home to her easy life with her parents of wealth and prosperity to go into a town where she would be rejected and despised. The story deepens in richness and love as the women return to Bethlehem and are subjected to much ridicule and suffering.  Throughout, the women remain true to God and each other.  Ruth cared for her mother in law immensely--walking miles and miles, taking rocks thrown to the cheek, to sow fields for money to feed them.  And in turn, Naomi gave up the love her life to bless Ruth.  If you read the story, you will find none other than example upon example of sacrifices for those you love.  The foundation of Naomi and Ruth's amazing love for another was because their foundation was based upon loving the Lord and doing His deeds.  

"If you are wise and understand God's ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth.  And if you don't brag about the good you do, then you will be truly wise!  But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your hearts, don't brag about being wise.  That is the worst kind of lie.  For jealously and selfishness are not God's kind of wisdom.  Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and motivated by the Devil.  For wherever there is jealously and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil.  

But the wisdom that comes from the heaven is first of all pure.  It is also peacemaking, loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others.  It is full of mercy and good deeds.  It shows no partiality and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness."  
-James 3:13-18

Because Ruth and Naomi's friendship was based on the wisdom God, it was full of mercy and good deeds.  They faithfully relied on God for their wisdom and their lives and friendships strengthened, never failing.  Ruth and Naomi knew that they were God's people, on earth to do His work, and they were richly blessed despite their hardships and suffering.  They carried each other's burden, and ultimately, God gave the women rest and peace.

"Then Jesus said, 'Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light." 
-Matthew 11:28-30

Through this scripture, Jesus promises us with rest from our trials IF we are faithful to Him.  As Christian women, it is also our duty to help our friends and loved ones carry their burdens to help them through.  ...to give them a shoulder to lean on for support and encouraging words.  To pray for them in order to celebrate God's glory when His plan is revealed and His work is seen through their trials.  Ruth and Naomi really had me reflecting on how I am viewed as a friend. 

I had just finished this chapter of the book and felt full of understanding true, Christian relationships at a rather difficult time in my life.  Adam was undergoing his last round of tests, and my roller coaster friendship with a very dear friend was back on the decline, and I missed her so much.  My heart felt sad because our problems erupted when I was in the depths of postpartum depression.  I was not who anyone was use to seeing, but I felt so dumped in the midst of my despair.  Although through reading James 3:13-18, I had realized Satan had attacked our friendship, I had always hoped that we could rebuild.  I began wondering if my burdens for this friend were just too heavy to help me carry.  I felt Satan attacking...again.  That night, my heart was so sad realizing that my dying friendship didn't possess the qualities of Naomi and Ruth's like I had once thought.  I woke up and prayed vigorously for confidence within my friendships with others and for healing in my heart. 

About twenty minutes later, I received a text message from a woman that God strategically placed in my life long before reading this book, saying simply, 

"You are my Naomi." 
My heart dropped.  
How. Amazing. Is. God? 
He knew exactly what I needed to hear to regain confidence. 
Wisdom is in Him.

This woman had NO idea that I was reading the story of Naomi and Ruth.  She had no idea that I was feeling heartbroken.  She had no idea how God spoke through her to encourage me.  She has no idea how in so many ways, she has been MY Naomi.  She may not even remember saying this to me, but I will never forget it.  

Through this story of friendship, an amazing love is revealed at a far greater level than just Ruth and Naomi:
God's love for us, his children, is greater than anything this world could possess.  When he died on that cross, he sacrificed what nobody else could ever sacrifice for us.  He saved us of what nothing else in this universe can save us from.

We should be saying everyday to God exactly what Ruth said to Naomi in Ruth 1:16.  God is faithful. He is always with us.  His love never dies.  He always carries our burdens.
He is our best friend.
It's this kind of loyalty that we should all have as disciples of Jesus. 
It's a loyalty that comes with sacrifice paired with hardships, but always ends with rich, steadfast blessings under God's mighty hand.

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?  Is anything worth more than your soul?"
Matthew 16:24-26

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