Suffering and pain are part of the human experience, but our faith is revealed in our reaction to what life brings us. The story of Naomi and Ruth paints such a wonderful picture of how suffering teaches us to lean on God.
Naomi lost her husband and both of her married sons while living in a foreign land. She was keenly aware of the struggles lying ahead of her, as well as her grief.
She said to them, “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. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
— Ruth 1:20–21
Naomi is clearly not dealing with her pain well. Instead, she’s bitterly questioning God. Thankfully, God gave Naomi a devoted daugther-in-law, Ruth.
Knowing that she couldn’t stay in Moab, Naomi decided to journey back to Judah. Before leaving, she released her daughters-in-law to return to their fathers’ homes. Instead Ruth pledged to stay with Naomi.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
— Ruth 1:16–17
Ruth follows Naomi into poverty and hunger, despite the protection that likely awaited her if she had returned to her father’s house.
Once in Bethlehem at the time of harvest, Ruth gleans the fields in order to provide food for herself and Naomi. While Ruth faithfully gleaned, she caught the attention of the owner of the fields, Boaz. Boaz heard of Ruth’s loyalty and service to Naomi and allowed her to continue gleaning, but he told his people to leave more for Ruth to gather and allowed her to get water. God continued to provide for Ruth and Naomi through Boaz, which eventually led to the marriage of Boaz and Ruth.
Naomi lost all of the providers in her life and, in her bitterness, forgot that her heavenly Father provides for his children. God provided for Naomi through Ruth’s faithfulness again and again. God did not make Naomi’s path from suffering to providence straight or easy, yet he did redeem her.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.
— Ephesians 1:7–8
Like Naomi, he has also redeemed us. Although we experience pain and suffering here, we can be sure that he is always with us. Leaning on him in faith as we endure hardship builds steadfastness because we belong to God. He is our redeemer!