I recently watched a sermon by Holly Furtick from Elevation Church and I cannot get it out of my mind. I’ve revisited it on a number of occasions, listening to it in the car, playing it while I’m washing up and watching the same little section over and over. I’m going to share what stood out for me, but I would encourage you to follow the link and have a look for yourself.
The sermon is based on the book of Ruth and focuses on the decision Ruth made to stay with her mother-in-law Naomi after her husband and two sons had died. Here are the well-known words that Ruth used to show her loyalty to her grieving mother-in-law:
“But Ruth replied, “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.”
Consumed by grief and bitterness, Naomi changed her name to Mara (meaning bitter) and declared that “the Lord’s hand has turned against me” (Ruth 1:13). Naomi must have been a very difficult person to be around. Even though she had legitimate reasons for her outlook, the focus was very much on how she was feeling. Little was mentioned of the fact that Ruth had lost her husband, father-in-law, brother-in-law and her sister-in-law had returned to her own family. In the middle of her own grief, Ruth chooses to stay with Naomi and support her.
“Ruth is staying loyal to someone who is not very easy to love.”
Holly then points out something that I’ve never noticed before in this story. Despite the constant negativity Ruth never tries to change Naomi’s attitude or push to help her. She doesn’t try to brighten her mood, counsel her, make her see the positive side of things or control her. Ruth just carries on being the person God wants her to be and remains consistent throughout the difficult situation.
The part that struck me the most was when Holly talked about the marriage counselling session she attended where the counsellor said,
“Have the funeral for your expectations of this person. Let go of this idea that they’re ever going to change and realise that the only person that I can change is me.”
Holly is not suggesting that we give up hope that God will change the challenging people in our lives, but she asks us to put aside any belief that it is our job to help God do the changing. Since hearing this message I have asked for God’s strength to place all my expectation and hope in Him. When I feel hurt by another person’s actions, I have been choosing to pray and to recognise that their behaviour comes from a place of deep hurt. I’m hoping that in time applying Ruth’s strategy will enable me to be the loyal and caring friend God has called me to be.
So, which Proverbs 31 characteristic does this address…STRONG! It takes strength to step back, trust God to do what needs to be done and to focus on your own weaknesses rather than anyone else’s.