The Girl’s Still Got It: Chapter 4

Bible Study Blog "The Girl's Still Got It"
Chapter Four: “Throw Out the Welcome Mat”
Ruth 1:19–22

Our first month together has certainly flown by! I really appreciate your comments on the blog. If you’ve been following along via my emails but haven’t chimed in online, why not do so this week? Pop on my Bible Study Blog:

In Chapter Four we see Naomi’s bitterness come to a head, before we catch a glimpse of “bright hope for tomorrow,” as the old hymn says. If the barley harvest is beginning, we can be sure redemption is drawing near. And nobody needs redeeming more than Naomi.

1. a. How do the words of Job in Job 10:1 and of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:5 capture the essence of our bitter Naomi’s experience?
Naomi is definitely giving “free reign to her complaint”! On my worst days I’ve done the same, yet never without regret. Even if we have the right to complain—say, if we’ve been unjustly treated—that doesn’t make complaining the right thing to do. Naomi might well say, as Jeremiah did, the Lord “surrounded me with bitterness and hardship.” Yet it seems to me that, however many challenges the Lord puts in our path, our emotional response isn’t on him…it’s on us. Ruth is our example in this. She has plenty of reason to complain, yet never does. Oh, to have such a sweet spirit, such a servant’s heart!

1. b. Is it better to tell people what you’re really thinking and feeling or tell them what they want to hear?
It’s very tempting to answer this one, “It depends!” In personal relationships, I think sharing your emotions is a sign of trust, so it’s not only a good idea, it’s a necessary step toward intimacy. Still, even the people who love us may not want to hear every single thing that’s on our hearts, especially if it’s the same complaint, over and over.

In the case of your boss, telling that person what he/she wants to hear might sometimes be more prudent than spilling out your deepest thoughts and feelings, as long as what you do put into words is the truth. Lying is never the right thing to do, but keeping your opinions to yourself on occasion may have merit. (Feel free to disagree!)

Why do we often please and appease others?
Since I struggle with people-pleasing tendencies, I’ll answer this from my own perspective: the problem is pride. Wanting, even needing to be liked, to be accepted, to be loved. Naomi doesn’t seem to suffer from this problem! But I do. Oddly, I have no problem whining or complaining around the people I love most, maybe because I’m no longer afraid they will reject me. But with casual friends and strangers, I’m on my best behavior, trying to say and do all the right things to have people think well of me.

How ugly is that?! Yet it’s the absolute truth. That’s what studying God’s Word is all about: seeing God’s beauty in contrast with our ugliness, then realizing he loves us anyway and is determined to make us his kind of gorgeous: “He has made everything beautiful in its time” Ecclesiastes 3:11. Lord, you are beyond amazing.

What approach would most honor God, do you think?
God makes it clear in his Word that honesty and humility are what pleases him. As it says in Proverbs 16:13, “Kings take pleasure in honest lips,” and in 1 Peter 5:5, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So, if I can let go of my people-pleasing pride and focus on speaking the truth in love, that might be a step in the right direction. Actually, if I’d just keep my mouth shut, that might be the best solution of all!

1. c. How do you respond to friends when they whine or complain? Is there a verse or passage you might share with them, hoping to improve their attitude? Or is it best simply to listen, and if so, why?
Considering what I shared above, I should be extremely understanding toward my whiny friends! And I hope I am. Listening and nodding seems the better approach than correcting or admonishing.

But after someone goes on and on and on, I think it’s okay to say, “Here’s a passage that helps me deal when things don’t go the way I’d hoped.” Then I might share David’s words from Psalm 142:1-3: “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way.” The first verse shows a friend where to turn. The second verse assures her it’s okay to carry our troubles to the Lord. And the third verse offers comfort that she’s not alone.

This kind of thing is easier via email, when you can chose your words with care, and the recipient can reflect on them privately. If someone is whining in person, I’ve found the best way to help her is simply to give her a hug and say, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this.” It lets her feel heard, which is really what we all want. And it might even help her ease up on her griping and move on.

2. a. Here’s the big question for Naomi, as John Piper saw it: “Can I trust and love the God who has dealt me this painful hand in life?” If you’re going through a difficult time right now, how would you answer that question?
I feel unqualified to respond to this one because any difficulties I’m experiencing in my life right now are almost entirely self-imposed (too much work, too many deadlines, what have you). If God is taking you through a painful time of refinement, might you kindly share how you are learning to trust and love God through this tough stretch?

What do Psalm 13:5 and Psalm 143:8 tell us about the source of trust and love?
In a nutshell, we trust because of God’s loving-kindness. You’ll notice Psalm 13:5, at least in the NIV, starts out with that big word, “But…” In this case, David began the psalm whining to the Lord, “Will you forget me forever?” Apparently David had to get that out of his system first, then he reminded himself (and us) to trust in God’s “unfailing love.”

David covers similar ground in Psalm 143:8. It’s comforting to know the same complaints surface again and again—set to music, no less—and still the prophet Samuel said of David, “the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people” 1 Samuel 13:14.
One of Our Sisters, Deep in Thought
2. b. If you’re currently in a pleasant season, are you willing to embrace hardship if it comes from God’s hand?
In my head and on my lips is the word, “Yes.” But in my heart I whisper, “Please, Lord. Not that kind of hardship.” Not the death of a loved one. Not a health issue that would make it impossible to travel, to speak. “Not…not….not.” My list of please-don’ts is long. Which means I’m not very willing, am I? Lord, help us see that everything from your hand is prompted by your love and is meant for our ultimate good. Everything.

What do Acts 9:16, Philippians 1:29, and 1 Peter 3:14 tell us about suffering for Christ?
When you look at all three of these verses in a row, it’s pretty sobering. Suffering for Christ doesn’t appear to be an option, a take-it-or-leave-it kind of thing—not from where Paul was sitting. He told the followers of Christ to expect it, even embrace it.

How do you reconcile that with the “be good, be blessed, be happy” message we often hear in Christian circles?
While I’m quick to offer encouragement to others and a positive take on life (see 1b above!), I hope I’ve never suggested that if you are good, God will bless you, and if you aren’t good, God won’t. No way. We find too many examples in Scripture of people who were blessed in spite of, not because of, their behavior.

I’m thinking of Jacob, who ripped off his brother, Esau, deceived his father, Isaac, and ran for his life, only to be greeted in a dream by God at the top of a ladder of angels. God said to the wayward Jacob, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” Genesis 28:15. God was honoring his vow to bless Abraham’s descendents, rather than honoring even a speck of goodness in Jacob. Very comforting that!

2. c. God gives life, and he takes it away, and Naomi knows that very well. What does Deuteronomy 32:39 say about that truth?
I love the fact that it’s actually the other way around in this verse: “I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal.” It’s a reminder that God is sovereign over everything, including death itself.

And what would it take for you to embrace the conclusion stated in Job 1:21?
Here we do have giving first and then taking away, yet even so Job manages to say, “May the name of the Lord be praised.” Again, in theory I would love to have that level of faith and that firm a grasp of eternity, where nothing we have on this earth will matter to us. In losing everything Job gained this clear understanding: ‘“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” Job 19:25. Makes we want to do a word study of “eternal” / “eternity” and see what the whole Bible has to say on the subject, with an eye to thinking long term. Really long term.

3. a. Which of the following verses do you think most aptly describes Ruth, and why: Proverbs 19:11; Proverbs 25:15; Ecclesiastes 7:8?
They all suit her, but I’m partial to Ecclesiastes 7:8, since this story begins with sorrow and ends with joy, and because Ruth definitely exhibits patience rather than pride when her mother-in-law seemingly overlooks her when they arrive at Bethlehem’s town gate.

3. b. When you read Naomi’s bitter words, “I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty,” spoken with Ruth by her side, what was your response?
Well, you read my response in the book. (Didn’t you want to shake Naomi, just a little?)

If you’ve ever been snubbed in a similar manner, how did you handle it then? And how might you handle it now, in the light of Ruth’s example?
Over the years I’ve been snubbed many times, as we all have. For being the youngest person in a group, or the oldest. For being the least educated in an academic setting. For being the largest woman in a roomful of petites. For being an American in a foreign country. For being an unknown speaker or writer among a group of famous ones. We’d all have our own list of situations when we’ve been made to feel invisible.

I’m pretty sure I’ll never be as humble and self-sacrificing as Ruth was, but I have learned how to handle people looking over me, around me, or through me. I remind myself how much the Lord loves me and how much my family loves me. Then, filled with that assurance, I focus on loving the person who, for whatever reason, has decided to discount me. My success rate at doing this is maybe 50%. But it’s better than the 10% it was 30 years ago when I first fell into God’s embrace. Which means any success is entirely his!

3. c. As homecomings go, how would you rate this scene on a scale of 1 (miserable) to 10 (marvelous), and why?
Naomi would probably consider it a 1. But I think it’s at least a 7. These two women made the long journey without being harmed or injured. They arrived at the start of the spring harvest season. The women at the town gate recognized Naomi and remembered her name. These two women from Moab were not rejected or refused entrance. Ruth weathered Naomi’s silence without complaint. They apparently had some kind of lodging waiting for them. And their homecoming ends on a note of hope.

What might Naomi have done to improve her homecoming experience?
Had Naomi confessed her wrongdoing in leaving Bethlehem in the first place, the women might have been moved by her humility and offered the women grain from their own stores, so Ruth would not have been forced to glean. Except that was clearly part of God’s plan, yes?

I think we can rest in knowing Naomi was moving according to God’s direction, even if she wasn’t fully aware of it. That’s how life is for most of us as we stumble, step by step, into our glorious future.
I never dreamed when I wrote these Study Guide questions that I would need to answer them someday, and in such a public way! I’m thrilled when you, too, share your responses on our blog, and will look forward to reading what you discovered this week.

The key is that you answer these questions somewhere, whether it’s in the margin of your book, on an iPad, in a journal, wherever you can reflect on your answers and ask the Lord, “What is it you want me to see here? What is it I need to learn?”

Next up is Chapter Five, “Out Standing in Her Field,” one of my favorite scenes in Ruth’s story. See you next Wednesday!

Your sister, Liz

54 Responses to The Girl’s Still Got It: Chapter 4

  1. Dr. Laurel Shaler September 26, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    First of all, I want to share that a women’s group at my church has decided to study this book together based on my recommendation. I know they will love it as much as I do!

    A couple of questions this week really stuck out to me. The first was 1C. As a counselor, I know that sometimes people need to “vent”. BUT. That doesn’t produce change and God wants us to be transformed. I try to be very cautious about who I vent to, and I am working on taking more of my concerns to God rather than other people. At the same time, I believe there are ways we can comfort and encourage without lending our ears to gossip. It is something I am working on.

    Question 2B makes me think of how Paul suffered, but found contentment in all situations. I am working on that too!

    Finally, Question 3B. Really, Naomi IS empty emotionally. She isn’t yet connected to Ruth and doesn’t understand Ruth’s devotion. I mentioned last week or the week before that I have followed my husband out of state for his work, but somewhat begrudgingly. At times, I “vent” (LOL) to my dear husband about my loneliness and it struck me today that I probably made him feel like Ruth. I am NOT empty first and foremost because I have God. Naomi did too. I am NOT empty because I have someone who cares about me, is devoted to me, loves me. So did Naomi.

    I am learning so much. Thank-you, Liz!!!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 27, 2012 at 8:25 am #

      What an eye-opener, Laurel: “Naomi IS empty emotionally.” Yes, she certainly is. Good for you, seeing that deeper level of meaning. I also appreciate your insight (and honesty) about venting. I often remind myself that what comes out of a dryer vent is HOT AIR! ;>)

  2. Bonnie Roof September 27, 2012 at 2:39 am #

    While it is best to always use discretion in the comments we make, I believe there are times when God uses our comments to convict us & change our spirit. I have to admit that there are times when I, too, complain too easily (or am too critical) around those that love me & I have to pray for help in being more positive & patient. It is usually more easily accomplished with my friends than my family.
    I think, like Naomi, a lot of us have had periods in our lives during which we blamed God for our hardships without taking responsibility for the decisions we made. I know that was certainly the case with me years ago – I was too blind (& far away from God) to see that many of my hardships were self-imposed because he allowed me to make my own decisions. He also allowed me to learn from those decisions. Even though God didn’t promise me a life without hardship, serious problems are not easy to “embrace” – but I DO believe that everything works for my “ultimate good”, & that comfort helps me more easily deal with the problems now than then. When we are too consumed with our problems – it is hard to realize our blessings, such was the case with Naomi being unable to acknowledge the blessing she had received in Ruth. And yes – I DID want to shake Naomi!
    While I am not always completely able to ignore being “snubbed”, it has become much easier since allowing God to have control of my life – especially when I consider that at times, a “snub” is just an expression of the other persons’ insecurity & unhappiness.

    I never knew such few verses could yield so many thought-provoking questions about myself & my faults – thank you Liz for being so honest & open with your own answers, it makes it easier for me to be honest & open with mine!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 27, 2012 at 8:36 am #

      Such a good point, Bonnie, that snubs are mostly about the one doing the snubbing! Fear, distrust, anger, envy–so many things can prompt one person to reject another. Happy is the woman who doesn’t take such rejection personally, but smiles and moves on.

  3. Tina W. September 27, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    Liz I appreciate you being so honest with us in your answers! I can identify with your confession in 2a about your difficulties being self imposed! Why do we over commit ourselves? (maybe the answer to that is in another book!)
    In 2b – I find myself praying “Lord, you won’t ask me to go through that or that or that…right?” I don’t feel very willing or strong enough to face some of the difficulties I see some of my brothers and sisters going through. I know that God has my best interests at heart and I pray for the willingness to really let go and let Him work His whole plan for my life!
    Thanks Liz for letting God use you to bless us!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 27, 2012 at 9:34 am #

      Whoever wrote these Study Guide questions (smile), she sure has made us bare our souls! Healthy, I think, though not always easy. I’m joining you in that prayer, Lisa, to be willing to embrace whatever God has for us.

  4. Kelly September 27, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    It’s taken me 45 years to realize that i am not the author of my life and thank goodness I am not. God is truly the Beginning and End. i have to remember that when i am going through a trial.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 27, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      A simple and very profound truth, Kelly. I’ve always loved this verse in particular: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:2 Yes, yes, yes!

  5. Helen Badman September 27, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    The idea of venting versus turning to a trusted friend/advisor for advice is brought to mind here. I have often turned to a dear friend for advice, and afterwards wondered if I was seeking valadation for my own shortcomings. Thankfully, she is strong enough in our friendship to tell me what I need to hear, not always what I want to hear. Naomi comes out in all of us from time to time, but like her, we find God is ever by our side, patiently waiting for us to ‘find ‘ Him… perhaps through the loving words of a trusted friend.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 27, 2012 at 11:59 am #

      An excellent definition of a friend: “one who will tell you what you need to hear, not always what you want to hear.” Well done, Helen!

  6. Beth Allen September 27, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    Re:2b… Are you willing to embrace hardship IF it comes from the Lord’s hand. Wow… that question hit me right between my eyes. Funny thing about that,,,, a few years ago I would have said yes with little reservation. Having gone through some recent hardships that have rocked my world… I think I’m more hesitant to say yes so quickly. I want to…. but to be 100% honest… this is where I’m struggling right now. I know God is good and His purposes are good. So why am I having such a hard time with surrender? I deep down want to fully trust that if God so chooses to bring more hardship, I will sincerely say “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” But…. there IS a hesitation… Lord help me.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

      I really appreciate your “100% honesty,” Beth. I think most of us are right there with you. Wanting to say yes, yet feeling a hesitation. Thanks the Lord he knows this about us and loves us still.

  7. Dalyn September 27, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    These were great questions and its painful to admit that I do not have a sweet spirit like Ruth. I’ve been through a couple of transformations in my life, the biggie being my B.C. ( Before Christ) life and after salvation. However instill have some very negative thought patterns that rise up and a natural “warrior” type soul. I am in constant battle with over commitment (yes, self imposed!) and when infer overwhelmed I have freak outs! I can handle the big things its the little ones that turn me into a lunatic. If I were Ruth I would have handled the snub just fine but had a melt down over the shelter being dirty or damp.
    I have found myself with the sad realization that I have a reputation for being a complainer- the last time I reluctantly took on another special needs baby my very good, honest friend said, “Okay, but no complaining later!”

    Yikes. I know it’s a matter of perspective and I believe God is good and I’m grateful for everything, even the hard things that change me, humble me and soften me, but I have a terrible habit of griping out my negative, fear- based thoughts when I’m exhausted especially. I have asked The Lord for direction over the past few years and ignored His repeated and gracious words of rest. Shame on me! And thank You Lord that there is no condemnation! Rest is around the corner and faith filled thoughts to replace the faithless. Id rather dingood iut of an overflow of God’s love than out of guilt and obligation.
    Ruth is lovely and I’d love to be more Ruth-like.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 27, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

      I also long to be more Ruth-like. And even more Christ-like. Actually, I’d settle for being LESS Liz-like! This SO hit home, Dalyn: “Okay, but no complaining later!” Yikes is right. I don’t want to even COUNT how many times my husband has said those words when I take on a new project…

  8. Mary Ann September 27, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    I don’t think the homecoming was a reflection on Ruth being snubbed, Naomi was probably deeply depressed at the loss of her family, and maybe questioning God. Ruth understood this and was compassionate and a support for Naomi.
    It’s easy for us to see the positive, looking from the outside. Maybe Naomi is contemplating suicide, and that’s why she didn’t want her daughter in laws with her. I can’t imagine anything worse than loosing my husband or even one of my children, let alone all of them. This would be hard to swallow, even for the strongest Christian.
    When reading the bible, sometimes we look at people in it as extra ordinary, and they have the same emotions as we do, and the same weaknesses.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

      I agree, Mary Ann: biblical characters are as ordinary as they come, just as we are. Same strengths, same weaknesses, same emotions, same challenges. Guess that’s why I love to study them: they not only reveal who we are, they also show us who God is. Thanks so much for sharing this week.

  9. Miriam September 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    Liz, {HUGS!} first!
    When I’ve always read the passages from Acts 9; Philippians 1; 1Peter 3, I’ve assumed this passage referred to our brothers and sisters who have been martyred and never thought of it as trials I might face. You have me pondering now. That’s a good thing!
    I agree with you about to be an encourager and try to every day, but I see those “be happy, be good, be blessed” messages as setting us up for a mammoth spiritual fall and puts focus more on ourselves and not on where it should be…the Lord Jesus.
    My heart does go out to Naomi. Here she was in a land that she must have not wanted to be in, but being a dutiful wife following her husband. He dies along with her two sons. Her arms were empty and everything she focused her care on was gone. Grief makes the heart lose focus. Praise God for Ruth who says I will walk with you. Everyone needs a friend like that!
    Snubbed? Yes, too many times. Some of what I shared with you privately. Some days I would not walk forward if God were not holding my hand.
    I would say on the homecoming about a 6 or 7. I’m sure it had to be hard for Naomi to face her old friends and their possible wagging tongues of what happened to her family and here she walks back in town with Ruth, a Moabite. It had to be hard for Ruth now to be the stranger in town where there are different customs and dress attire. Maybe that knowing Naomi was first being the stranger Moab and now here is Ruth the stranger might have weaved a tighter knit between the two as a common thread.
    Thank you Liz! I praise God for you!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 28, 2012 at 12:16 am #

      Such wise thoughts you’ve shared with us, Miriam. I really hadn’t given much thought to their shared experience of being “strangers in a strange land” binding Naomi and Ruth together. Surely it would do just that.

  10. Debi September 27, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    Liz , thank you for your time. This is a first for me and i am really enjoying this study. Question 2.b. hit home with me. “Yes” is what I would like to say would be my answer. However, I have found myself recently in my talks with God letting him know that I really want to be around long enough to see my grandson grow up and to be around for my parents during their Sr years. Then I think about one of my favorite Psalms which is 103: 2-5 and know I need to always praise The Lord and forget not all his benefits!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 28, 2012 at 12:19 am #

      I’ve always blithely said, “Anytime the Lord wants to take me to heaven is fine with me.” But as my children grew, their chagrined expressions told me they were hoping that wouldn’t happen anytime soon! Of course, I couldn’t bear to leave them either, and so it gets harder to say, “YES!” to God, no matter what he asks of us. Help us be found faithful, Lord.

  11. Jan September 27, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    Hi Liz, Something popped out at me today regarding whether or not to tell the truth or please and appease. At the end you said exactly what I decided to do. Listen, hug, life up in prayer. I have a friend who has been a good friend to me, but is very negative about many others and situations. I did not want to join her bandwagon. I prayed and God pretty much guided me into listening without commenting. I am a big talker usually and most always feel like I have to make a comment or answer a question. This time I listened.
    I was sorry for her stress and told her. I prayed for her and the situation. I told her to pray. At times I was brought down by her negativity, so I prayed for a change in my attitude also, because like I said, she has been a good friend to me. Thanks for making these wonderful Biblical people so real for us. See you in Hershey.
    Jan 🙂

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 28, 2012 at 12:24 am #

      Sounds like you handled it perfectly, Jan. After working on this chapter, I sat behind a young woman on an airplane who complained to the very patient young man across the aisle from her for two long hours. (Maybe she thought a nonstop flight meant nonstop talking!) Of course, when I was tempted to think unkindly of her, the Lord gently reminded me of my own ability to yak, yak, yak, with a bottle of WHINE on the side. Listening, Lord. Listening.

  12. Brandi Luiz September 27, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    This study was so good! I ran home from work on Wednesday to see what you were going to say and was so sad when I had to wait til today!!
    I am a “lay it all out there” kind of girl and this lesson is about that (and so much more). My One sentence conclusion to this week was, “sometimes blurting it all out and shocking the masses isn’t always the most rewarding”. Boy howdy, not rewarding at all. I find that I want to pull my words back in and think a little before they come spilling out. The Lord is so good to me, to allow me opportunity to make things right with people I may offend by doing this… ie apologizing or asking for forgiveness. But I see that God is working on and through me and that is a blessing.
    ps. I know that I have mentioned the strained marriage I have and that you (Liz) have been praying, just so you know… this has been a very good week. No alcohol binges, no parties with the guys. It’s a bright spot for me, thank you.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 28, 2012 at 12:26 am #

      First of all, HOORAY for a GOOD week, Brandi. Better still, a GOD week! And many apologies on the delayed blog. I was out of town Tues/Wed and the hotel Internet was not playing nice with my laptop. Lord willing, that won’t happen again this fall. Praising God for all he is doing in your corner of the world!

      • Tina W. September 28, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

        I also wondered why the blog was later than the previous ones had been! Liz, you spoiled us those 1st couple of weeks! Thanks again for doing this….we know you’re super busy (and we want you to keep working on those books) God bless!

      • Brandi Luiz September 30, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

        Thank you for your point of saying GOD week, that is so true!! :~)
        It’s all good about the delay with the blog, just letting you know how much I look forward to it, didn’t mean to sound like a complainer.
        I, too am Praising God for the work HE is doing. Thank you!

  13. Wendy Noble September 27, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    In Naomi’s culture the males were the important people. (This is still the case in many societies today.) When she said she’d come home “empty”, she was referring to the loss of her husband and sons. Ruth would have understood that. I think it’s wonderful that although Naomi’s community would have seen Ruth as unimportant – and a financial burden for Naomi – she was of the greatest importance to the Lord. From her line would come King David and, later on, the Messiah. We are all precious to the Lord, no matter what our family or community tell us, or make us feel about ourselves. We are children of the King. That thought keeps my head held high when I feel like crawling in the dirt. Wendy

    • Liz Curtis Higgs September 28, 2012 at 12:31 am #

      Naomi was empty in so many ways–emotionally, spiritually, financially–yet it definitely was the loss of her family that weighed on her most. Ruth is such an example of compassion, of loving-kindness, of long-suffering, of patience. God was obviously impressed, and because of his goodness, blessed her. I’ve read, researched, taught, and retold this story literally hundreds of times in the last five years, and never tire of it. So glad it speaks to you as well, Wendy!

  14. Kathy Welch September 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Hi Liz,

    I went through a situation awhile back where I complained about the same thing over and over. Most people just tolerated me, except my grown son. One evening I think he had heard enough and told me he hated to see me so miserable and he went on to say in only a few words that I needed to get over it. It hurt my feelings so badly and I cried myself to sleep that night. However, I knew he was right, so I worked at changing my attitude and asked for God’s help. I was embarrassed that my son had to be the one to get my attention, but thankful at the same time that he did. I agree that most people are meant to just be there for us, encourage us and give us hope, but I also believe that there’s usually one person in our situation who will be direct with us. Hopefully it will be with love.

    On a sidebar, Liz, I’m reading “Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible” and the part about Sarah really help bring closure to a situation I went through for four years with my Dad. The Lord really took your thoughts and words and administered them to my heart like a healing salve. Thank you, my sister, and God bless you as you continue to let God use your gifts to bless others.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 3, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      God bless your son, for loving you so much! Our daughter has spoken candidly with me on more than one occasion. Not always easy to hear, but always meant for my good. (Wince!) Honored to know the Lord is using Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible in your life, Kathy.

  15. Bonny Job19:25 September 29, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    I know of a lady who said she used to believe in God until her husband had an accident and got paralyzed. I did not know what to say to her other than when I see things like cancer or other physical problems, it sometimes doesn’t make sense but it is good to see the love that grows usually around this person. Like the greatest love I have ever seen has been with couples where say the wife is dying of cancer or vice versa. Does anyone know of something else I maybe could have said. I love that verse Job 19:25 & glad you fit it in here. There is another one in Job where it says he can’t find
    God, but that God ‘knows the way I take’ I liked that one when sometimes God seems lost to me but I am not lost to Him.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 3, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      Oh, yes, I found that verse in Job 23:9-10: “When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Wonderful, Bonny. It is unquestionably hard when people say they can’t believe in God because of a hardship that has come into their lives. What they need at that moment more than verses or teaching is genuine compassion: a listening ear, a hug where appropriate. I’m guilty of sometimes using verses of Scripture like band-aids, applying then wherever I see a wound, instead of letting the One with healing in his wings minister to them in his perfect timing. Here’s the verse I reach for to remind me how best to respond to others: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

      • BonnyJob19:25 October 29, 2012 at 1:53 am #

        Thanks so much for your reply I worked this past summer in home nursing for this family but felt the leading to stop as falling asleep driving home from night shift too scary After giving two week notice my father had pneumonia & week later heart attack He is going for angiogram tomorrow so would appreciate prayers as machine broke down last Friday. but I can see God’s leading in this in that I can be at hospital with him, my Father. Please pray that all goes to God’s plan My Dad is a weet retired minister but he feels God’s work isnot finished with him yet

    • Steffennie October 29, 2012 at 2:28 am #

      I wanted to share a little bit here because I’ve been in this situation and kind of still am. I was diagnosed with an incurable and very rare nerve disorder 13 years ago. There is very little research and every doctor’s report is bad. Through God’s hand I’m still beating the worst of the reports, but it has drastically changed my life. At first, I wanted to just end my life before this disease basically did it for me. However, knowing the affects of suicide on a family because my grandfather died that way made me stop before I went through with it. After that I wasn’t mad at God I just wanted to be normal. So, while there is occassional frustration I had to learn a new way to deal with it. So, I asked God to show me the good in this and at least part of why this is His plan for me. He did that and when I feel frustrated I have that to lean on. So for the person in the situation, it might help to just ask why and then have God show them the good.
      As for being in the wife’s position, my brother is actually who went there. He is now an athiest and blames part of that on the fact that God was real and loved us then I wouldn’t deal with all the things I deal with on a daily basis. Many times I have taken that burden as my own and felt like I was standing between him and God. Recently, a good friend of mine reminded me that no matter what happens in my life I can’t stop anyone from believing or not believing. There is pain there that is his and using my illness is a way to hide from whatever that is. I have told my brother that it’s my life that changed drastically and if I can accept it then so can he. I told him that I won’t carry that burden or allow him to use that as a reason to run from God anymore.
      You have to be gentle in the way you deal with this situation. Ask the wife if she’s talked to her husband. See if she’s willing to let him show her the good. Maybe they can ask for that together. I know God will answer because He did it for me. Hopefully this makes sense. If you want to talk more please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected].

  16. Pam October 1, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    I just love the book of Ruth. One of the reasons, is that it is more than a book, it is a story…a wonderful love story of loss, loyalty, redemption and so much more. This week’s study reminded me that the Bible truly is our guidebook for life. It has it all. Tucked away in the story of Naomi and Ruth’s journey and arrival in Jerusalem is a life lesson of choices. The author, with God-breathed inspiration, gives us the example of the bitter, sorrowful, empty and defeated life of Naomi. Right next to it, is the loving, compassionate, patient and honorable life of Ruth. No coincidence, huh? It’s hard to miss. Through the lives of these two women, we can glean the better part for our own lives. Praise God for his precious word.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 3, 2012 at 10:25 am #

      Right there with you, Pam. The book of Ruth is indeed a story, with twelve separate scenes and tons of dialogue. I never tire of reading it, studying it, learning from it!

    • Steffennie October 29, 2012 at 2:35 am #

      I have to say WOW!!!! Your response really spoke to me. I journal as I read Bible studies and your response I copied word for word. This way I’m reminded of exactly the lesson in choices that’s there. Thank you.

  17. Leslie Benson October 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    I was out-of-town most of last week so am just getting to Chapter 4 but I’ll be caught up for this week’s blog on Wednesday!

    So glad I related more with Ruth more than Naomi this week! I think maybe Naomi was embarrassed to be returning to her home town beaten, downtrodden, broke and feeling like a failure. Instead of trying to garner admiration from her friends she went for the pity vote. Perhaps she hoped to receive an offer of help or assistance.

    As I was reading everyone’s posts today I considered how willing I am to embrace hardship coming from God’s hand. My tendency is to live my life so safe and sheltered in an attempt to avoid those hardships, that I feel I am failing to live up to God’s full potential for my life. Like the Isrealites, it seems safer to stay in the desert than to cross over those turbulent waters into the promised land! I’m through grumbling in the desert and am ready to cross over and experience abundant life. I pray for the courage to face what comes with that decision – bring it!!!!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 3, 2012 at 10:30 am #

      Wow, Leslie, that’s a huge leap of faith! So proud of you, sis. May we all have the courage to cross the Jordan River and step into the Promised Land!

  18. Naomi October 2, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    I SO love your answer to 1B-My answer to that question in my journal was “I don’t think you should falsely tell people what they want to hear but weigh what you truly think and feel and use wisdom to what you actually speak”……..And my prayer is the Lord help me practice this …Sometimes I’m afraid my filter gets turned off and more comes out what I speak before I prayerfully weigh my words …

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 3, 2012 at 10:32 am #

      Uh-oh. We have a filter?!? Tee-hee. I like your prayer, Naomi, and am joining you in seeking God’s wisdom before I open my mouth. So, so hard for a gabby girl like me.

  19. Betsy C. October 2, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    Whew! I was ready last Wednesday, but the blog wasn’t up, and then I forgot *gulp* until today when I realized tomorrow will be Wednesday again! But coming on late this time gave me a chance to read others’ ideas and feelings and makes it more of a group Bible Study. I too have trouble holding my tongue (actually I’ve been better since Christ has taken hold of it for me!) and would probably have lashed out as Naomi did when they called her Naomi.
    3a — I’m partial to Proverbs 19:11. I really could use that as my motto!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 3, 2012 at 10:34 am #

      Thanks for taking time to read what other sisters have to say, Betsy. I know we’re all super busy, yet there is a RICH store of wisdom to be found here. I’m learning tons! Glad you are too.

  20. kathy October 3, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    Wow! I am learning so much. Reading the comments really gives insight to other lives. My husband and I are going through a very deep cleansing and are learning everyday to put our trust in God. I know our Redeemer lives! I want to be the best listener and practice that when I am with friends that need to vent. It is good medicine and helps me understand what we are going through too. But His mercies are new every morning and I can trust and believe that things are getting better. Blessings all you sweet Ladies – until next week.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 3, 2012 at 10:37 am #

      Glad you jumped on this morning, Kathy! Seeing your journey as a “deep cleansing” is profound. Though it’s often painful to cleanse a wound, that’s what’s necessary before a healing salve can be applied. Clearly your faith is holding firm. What a testimony!

  21. Shelley October 3, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Sorry I was away last week too and wanted to say I too love the comments and they certainly help me to see things in another light.
    As I see and hear the talk about Naomi I was reminded our cultures are different and if you know, or should say what I have perceived of the jewish culture, it is the custom to speak in this way. I think Ruth understood that. I feel the same way as Naomi when I am away from my church family, my studies, etc. We need to remain close to God and when we are away from our “support” groups we do feel alienated, lonely and isolated. Naomi had been away for 10++ years from her culture, family and friends so did not have the support which would also make her a “complainer or whiner”.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 3, 2012 at 10:44 am #

      Such good insights, Shelley. One of the challenges of examining a 3200-year-old story is understanding the culture of the time. I did my best to take us there, yet I’m ever aware of how much we don’t know about acceptable or common practices and behaviors in that day and time. What I’m sure of is that human nature hasn’t changed and our temptations and struggles haven’t changed either. ;>) While we are pulling apart the threads of this story, God is gently opening our hearts to show us what each of us needs to learn from Ruth and Naomi. So glad you are on the journey with us!

      • Shelley October 8, 2012 at 11:36 am #

        Hi Liz and Sorry you are doing a great job in taking us back there ,…i am also doing the Bethel Bible study and I have to keep repeating “think Hebrew!”… don’t mean to in this one! lol

  22. Steffennie October 29, 2012 at 2:55 am #

    I’m actually several chapters behind everyone, but I’m loving it because it allows me to read all the comments from others. I haven’t been in a real Bible study in a long time and this is amazing for me. I love this format and it really does make it easy for you to join in whenever your schedule allows. Thank you for that, Liz!
    Now, I know that I can be a complainer. I really try not to be because that’s simply not who I want to be. Besides in all my complaining, I’ve never found it to fix anything. I do think it’s important to vent at times, otherwise you get what my friend calls the “bottle” effect. You keep everything inside until the lid doesn’t fit anymore and you lose complete control.
    I am dealing with a lot of stress in my house right now. My younger brother moved back in with us and claims to be an atheist. It’s a rule in our house that everyone has to go to church at least once a week. He uses every second to blast anything and everything we believe in. He’s on his phone tweeting or posting on Facebook throughout the entire service and everything is about how stupid we are to believe in this fake being. Then he wants to debate things that for us biblically have no wiggle room because the Bible is very black and white (at least on some things). He’s rude to everyone because he thinks he’s better than everyone. The stress level in the house is so bad. I can sympathsize with Naomi, but even though I get it, the complaining doesn’t help much. But what do you do when it seems like no matter how you pray the situation isn’t getting better and in fact is actually getting worse? That’s an actual question, so PLEASE feel free to chime in.
    I know I want and am striving for a spirit more like Ruth’s daily, but sometimes I just feel stuck and have no idea how to get the Naomi part of me out of the way.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 10, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

      No question it’s hard to have a vocal non-believer in a household of faith. Ask the Lord to let you see your brother through HIS eyes. To see his brokenness and the root of his rebellion. To see past his negative behavior to the wounded heart beneath it all. When I’ve ask the Lord to do that, I’m shocked at how quickly compassion and patience well up inside me. Clearly, it isn’t me…it’s God kindly working in me! We’ll be praying for you, Steffennie.

      • Steffennie December 2, 2012 at 12:12 am #

        Thank you! You have no idea how much your short response means to me. So, thank you again!

  23. Michele Lemiere November 14, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    Although, I’m far behind on your schedule, it seems this Bible study comes in God’s time for me. The Lord is speaking to me through you, Liz. Thank you for doing His work.

    Talking about Naomi, I always wondered why she said what she said and why it was in the Bible. But then you wrote: ‘…that was clearly part of God’s plan..’ It hit me that even if my past has so many sins and wrong moves, which I cannot change, God not only has forgiven my sins, He also used the situation for His plan and used me for His purpose. Sometimes it is the devil that is accussing us to move us from God’s plan..

    Thank you again, I’m really encourraged and look forward to continue this study.

  24. Amy January 24, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    Wow Liz, I knew I fell behind but didn’t realize I was this far gone – the last four months flew right by! But I am really enjoying this study and learning from you. I also read through the comments and enjoy others’ insights. God is so amazing. I have always had people-pleasing tendencies but God has blessed me with a best friend who speaks the truth, yes even the hard truth, and the blessings that have come from knowing her are numerous. We are teaching each other based on our very different personalities and histories and it is God-given. I thank you for speaking and writing as a best friend sent from the Lord Liz. I look forward to continuing with this study no matter how far behind I am!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs January 24, 2013 at 9:02 am #

      Dear Amy, there is no such thing as “far behind” with our timeless God. You are doing this study at your own pace, and according to his plan for your life. Hooray! Thrilled you have a friend who keeps you accountable, and for whom you do the same. We ALL need that. Blessings on your year!