Overcome: Part 3
Questioned raced through my mind. My eyes widened. Sleep wouldn’t come. It was one of those nights I stayed up playing the “What –if?” game. What if I would have told him how much I loved him? Would he have listened? What if I would have talked a little bit longer on the phone that night? Maybe then he wouldn’t have pulled the trigger. Maybe things would be different? If only I could have… What if I would have…?
But “what- if?” can never change the past.
My grandfather died.
Pain came. Tears flowed. And things changed.
When tragedy intercepted my life, I needed to know where to turn. I needed to know there was someone bigger than me in control of my situation. I needed to know that even in the midst of terrible pain, I would be ok.
In the midst of my own tragedy, I found a woman with a story that greatly encouraged me. Here is a little bit of what happened to her.
This woman—like me– was married and had two sons. She lived a normal life, until one day a very hard circumstance caused her family to have to move. With her husband and two boys, she found herself in a new town with many new faces.
Have you ever moved? If you have, you know what a life change this was for her.
She was barely adjusted to her new life, when one day she came home to that news no wife would ever want to hear. The news she received echoed in her mind until she could begin to comprehend the words. And when she began to grasp reality, she was left with the hollow ache that only tragedy brings.
Her husband had died.
I’d love to tell you that she had a fairy tale ending and somehow remained unharmed by the pain death brings, but that would be a lie.
After leaving her home and losing her husband she had a few joyful moments. She watched as one of her baby boys grew up and found a sweet young bride. His brother wasn’t too far behind him and soon found himself a wife as well. These were happy occasions, yet with her husband gone something always felt like it was missing. Isn’t it funny how happy and sad experiences always hold hands though out life?
I’ll get to the point. This new widow lived ten years without her husband. She relied on her sons and their wives for help and support. And then one day more news awaited her. Sadly this poor woman had only turned the first page in her book of painful experiences. This mother was told…
Your son… Your sons… Didn’t make it.
She lost them both.
As I heard her story, I pictured Elias and then Owen– my sons. I can’t describe to you the grief this woman felt. Only a mother who has lost a child can comprehend the depth of her loss. The emptiness. The ache. The longing. The missing. The tears and sadness. Only a mother who has rocked a precious son, and had to let go too soon can express the grief this woman felt.
She was no longer a wife. And now no longer a mother.
I can only imagine how alone Naomi felt.
Thankfully this woman of God was at the beginning of her journey with Jesus. She had hope because she was known by God. While there was hope for her, the enemy of Naomi’s soul longed to use depression and bitterness to rob her of her joy in Jesus. A war was waged over her life and emotions, just like in our lives today.
God isn’t the only one with a plan for us. Satan has a plan and a purpose for painful experiences too. And his plan is to steal, kill, and destroy. And while his plan is real, and his attacks may be strong, there is one who is stronger. There is one who is sovereign.
Here are a few things I learned from Naomi’s story…
In times of pain, God is sovereign. Naomi knew that everything that touched her life passed through the hand of God. I know this because she said things like, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty (Rut 1:20-21). Naomi never doubted the sovereignty of God. She knew He was in control at all times. She rested with the assurance that God was sovereign, and that His will for her was good. Like Naomi, we can have peace in that.
We –like Naomi– can rest on God’s sovereignty because He gave life to all things—including you and me. He made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. He is perfect. He is the blessed one. He is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. He alone has immortality. He dwells in unapproachable light. He is the one with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. He has eternal dominion. He is holy and true. He is just. And He will avenge the blood of those who dwell on the earth. (1Timothy 6:13-16; Acts 4:24; Jam 1:17; Revelation 6:10).
He is good.
God’s sovereign plan for you and I is that we, count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds, for we know that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. God wants to let steadfastness have its full effect in our lives, so that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (Jam 1:2-4). God wants to finish the good work that He started in you. He wants to bring it to completion (Phil 1:6). Rest in His sovereignty.
In times of pain, it is ok to feel the pain. Although Naomi knew she was safely placed in the sovereign will of God, we find her weeping several times. Ruth 1:9 says, “And they lifted up their voices and wept.” And the beginning of Ruth 1:14 says; “Then they lifted up their voices and wept again.” The pain was real. And the tears needed to fall.
Feeling pain is ok, but we don’t need to wallow hopelessly. We should weep forward. Weep toward Jesus. We should be like Moses and Elijah with our tears, depression, and suicidal moods- take if before the Lord in prayer. We must cry out– and yes, I mean with a loud voice and tears– to Jesus, for He is our healer.
My prayer for those struggling is 2 Th. 2:16-17, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”
In times of pain, we need the people of God. We must know God is sovereign and that it is ok to feel pain and take that before the Lord, but I love what Naomi does in Ruth chapter one. She packs her bags and hits the road. This move wasn’t just a change of location, it was a significant act of placing herself back in the safety net of God’s people. She was positioning herself to receive from the people of God. My pastor Nathan Tarr said, “God often times meets the needs of His people through His people.” And Naomi was about to encounter that first hand. God was going to use some of His people– Boaz, Ruth, and their son Obed– to redeem this destitute woman.
God used real people to meet her real needs. And while she needed these people, we too need God’s people in our times of pain. We can’t do this alone. As Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts us, “Consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
In times of pain, know Jesus as a restoring God. In times of pain we must know that God is sovereign, that is ok to feel the pain, that we should cry out to the Lord in prayer, and go to the people of God, but we must also know that God is a restorer. Look at the end of Naomi’s story. She wasn’t left alone on a dusty road to nowhere.
Ruth 4:14-15 shows us that Naomi’s arms were full. The women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him…” The Lord was glorified through Naomi’s painful experience and restoration. Her arms were full. In the same way, God will be glorified through our painful circumstances and restoration. His name will be renowned. He is the restorer of life and our nourisher. He is the one who will help us overcome our painful circumstances. What an amazing God we serve!