For the majority of my adult life, I have struggled with depression. I’ve gone to counseling, been on medications, switched medications, and generally sought healing as best as I have known how.
But there are days and weeks when nothing seems to be working. I’ve been stuck in several of those days in a row now. And the truth is, I feel like many things in my life are hopeless. I struggle to see my writing as effective. I’m not interested in setting up our new house. I have short patience with family members. I generally want to shut myself away from the world.
It’s embarrassing to share these feelings. People get uncomfortable. They try to fix me. All I want is to be heard.
I’ve learned that one of the best things to do when I’m depressed is to talk about it. Depression thrives in the darkness, in secret. But when depression is brought to the light, it cannot survive, for “everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” (Eph 5:13)
This is the work of God. Shining light into the dark places of our souls. Bringing about redemption and hope when all seems lost.
This is the work of God in the main character of our story, today.
The title of the book of Ruth is deceiving, because it detracts from the main character of the story: Naomi. We are tempted to focus on Ruth and her relationship with God, because she is inspiring. But we overlook and even look down our noses at her mother-in-law, Naomi. The character this book opens and closes on.
Naomi is the anti-Ruth. She is old. She is a widow. Both of her sons have died. She seems to have lost her faith in God. She is depressed.
God desires to heal her depression.
Having lost everything, Naomi and Ruth set our for Bethlehem. We cheer when Ruth chooses to be loyal to Naomi and to God. But when Naomi greets her friends back home, we shuffle our feet in uncomfortable silence.
“Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. [Mara means bitter] I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? [Naomi means pleasant] The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” (Ruth 1:20-21)
Have you been there? Have you lost everything? Impoverished by death and misfortune. Alone in the world. No means of financial stability. This is the reality Naomi finds herself in. Her life is very bitter, indeed.
Naomi’s judgment is that God is the one who has brought this pain on her. However, the rest of the story is about God’s work to bring her out of suffering and into joy. She begins the story empty, God is determined to give her life to the full once more.
He begins by leading Ruth to the field of Boaz. She “turns out” to be in his field the first day she gleans for food (2:3). Boaz is impressed by this immigrant’s faithfulness to her mother-in-law and blesses her with provision and safety (2:12, 21). When Ruth comes home with a month’s worth of wages (!!!), Naomi begins to see the light of life again. She proclaims:
Through a series of shrewd events, Ruth and Boaz get married. Boaz redeems the land of Naomi’s late husband, thus keeping the land within the family and ensuring Naomi’s provision. Ruth and Boaz’s first son is proclaimed to be the heir not to Boaz’s estate, but to Naomi’s late husband’s. He is Naomi’s child.
The women of Bethlehem rejoice over this son. “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer! … He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age” (2:14, 15)
We met Naomi just as she lost everything. We leave her cradling a baby boy in her arms – once empty, now full.
Once hopeless, now confident that God sees and provides for His people.
God has determined to look out for the lost. Whether they are poor, widowed, or strangers in a foreign land, He commanded His people to look out for them in His law. His provision is what makes this story possible (See Lev 19:9-10; Deut 24:19-21).
In the same way, God sees our suffering and will provide a way out. There are safe people you can talk to about your struggles. People who will not make you feel guilty for feeling depressed and afraid. Keep looking for them. Keep seeking healing.
Last night I reached out to the members of Redbud Writers Guild in fear and tears. I expressed to them my discouragement as a writer. Their comfort and compassion brought me to tears. Because of them, I know I am not alone. I know my words matter. I know God has not given up on me.
My healing has not included life tied up in a bow, like Naomi’s. But because of stories like hers, I know that God is working. Each day I grow stronger, even when I feel like I’m starting over. Each day I learn something new and gain a fresh perspective on life in this fallen world.
God has not stopped showing his kindness.
I have hope.