Did you know only two books in the Bible are named after women?
They come from the Old Testament, and though their stories are very different, they both tell of great courage, determination, faith, and yes — positive attitudes!
The first is Ruth, the second is Esther, and for March’s “attitude study” I want to focus on Ruth.
As I was reading Ruth the other night I was newly surprised by the power packed in this little book. It’s actually a short read, and I encourage you to take a few minutes to refresh your memory of the story or read it for the first time.
As a brief summary, the story opens with Elimelech and his wife Naomi and their 2 sons journeying to Moab to escape the famine in their native Bethlehem. They settle in Moab and both sons marry Moabite wives.
Sometime later, Elimelech and both of his two sons die, leaving behind Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth. Both women are reluctant to leave Naomi alone to return to Bethlehem, but ultimately Orpah leaves and Ruth insists on staying.
And this is where the story really gets powerful. Ruth promises to stay by Naomi’s side until death, even though this basically squelches her future prospects for marriage and security. Instead of finding a new husband in her native home she is basically binding herself to caring for this older woman for life. She also vows allegiance to the God of Israel, renouncing the gods of her homeland.
I’m certain the Lord was at work in Ruth’s heart through all of this, first helping her to overcome the grief of her husband’s death. Then He was there giving her the resolve to stay with and care for Naomi instead of taking the easier road and staying in her native Moab.
But sometimes it’s hard to listen to God, even if He is speaking to your heart. It’s easier to make choices that gratify us RIGHT NOW, instead of realizing that The Lord may have a far greater blessing for us in the long term if we trust Him.
So once these women arrive back in Bethlehem, people are amazed by Ruth’s loyalty. And eventually, while she is gathering the leftover grain in a field so she and Naomi can eat, the wealthy landowner takes notice of Ruth’s dedication too.
This landowner, named Boaz, is a distant relation of Naomi’s. Eventually he is able to “redeem” Ruth. He marries her and will care for and provide for her and Naomi.
It also happens that God gives Boaz and Ruth a son, and through this family Ruth becomes the great grandmother of King David.
I think the end of this story is harder for us to appreciate today unless we think outside our own modern paradigm.
Nowadays, women have their own careers, and they are able to take care of themselves and define their own success — married or not. Marriage today in our society is about love and commitment (and a desire to get married) rather than family obligation and security.
As a woman in Ruth’s time though, it seems that getting married was the only choice for a successful future. And if your husband died then another of his family members would marry you. If there was no one, then you may end up struggling, begging, or destitute. Having a husband and family to take care of you was just a necessity of society.
Ruth’s devastation at her husband’s death and the significance of her choosing to stay with her mother-in-law instead of looking after her own prospects is even more remarkable when you look at the context.
Her attitude of generosity and loyalty in the face of adversity remains such a powerful example.
No matter what I’m facing — be it stress from work, never-ending snow storms, disagreements, or just plain exhaustion — the story of Ruth reminds me that having a caring attitude in spite of challenges is always the best decision. May God continue to help all of us do just that.
Blessings to all of you this week!