Here we go, sisters: our first week together! I’m delighted you’ve joined me and pray this study will be both fun and meaningful for you. If you’ve already done your reading and answered the Study Guide questions in the back of the book, you definitely get a gold star. If you haven’t, grab your book and your Bible and hang out with us anyway. This place is all about grace.
Introduction: “Before We Dive In”
Chapter One: “Off to a Rocky Start”
Back in 2007 when I started researching the book of Ruth for this study, my working title was Beneath His Wings, inspired by Boaz’s blessing in Ruth 2:12, “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” Lovely imagery, and a wonderful promise…but a tad sedate for this Former Bad Girl!
Then The Girl’s Still Got It popped into my head, and the opening lines came right along with it: “Ruth’s definitely got it. Yes, that Ruth. The one in the Bible.” Which brings us to our first Study Guide question:
1. a. What words would you use to describe “it” in this context?
I think of “it” as a generosity of spirit. The kind of woman who pours into others without fear of becoming thirsty, because she knows the Source of Living Water will never run dry. Many women in the Bible fit that description. I think Ruth takes the prize.
1. b. Name an older woman you know who’s still got it. What has she taught you by example?
My dear friend Glenna Salsbury has definitely still got it. At 75 she’s traveling the world, teaching God’s Word, and looking gooood while doing it. Talk about a role model! She spends hours upon hours every week studying God’s Word, and it shows on her face. Radiant.
1. c. Now think of a younger woman who’s already got it. What can you learn from her?
Many of my Women of Faith sisters are younger than me—Lisa Harper, Angie Smith, Kelly Minter, Christine Caine, Ann Voskamp, Jennie Allen. They’ve definitely got something to give: their absolute passion for the Word and for our hurting world. They long to make a difference, and they are.
1. d. What vital, meaningful truth might another woman learn from you?
Okay, now this is embarrassing. I’d rather hear your answers! My goal is simply to honor God and love people. 1 John 4:11 says it best: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Whew! Made it through the first question. Ready for the next?
2. a. Does trusting God come easily for you, or is it a struggle? Why might that be the case?
Nope, it doesn’t come easily to me. I like to pretend I’m in control of my little world (which is ridiculous because I’m so not in control of anything). I’ve learned over the years that fear is the real enemy. Fear of failure, fear of disappointing others, fear of being invisible. (Ouch. Whose idea was it to do this Bible study?!)
2. b. What would trusting God look like to you in a difficult real-life situation?
Honestly? It looks scary. And, at the same time, freeing. Our daughter moved to Australia for a year, hoping to settle there. Trusting God with her future was a huge test of faith for me. I prayed for her dream to come true, even if it meant (gulp) she would live on the other side of the world. She’s back in the U.S. now, for which I’m grateful. But I learned so much in that year. And so, of course, did she. Which brings us to our next question…
2. c. How might the following verses encourage you to trust the Lord even in hard times?
They’re all powerful assurances, but Psalm 9:10 is my favorite: “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” It’s the absolute truth. God is so faithful.
Getting a little more personal now…
3. a. Can you trust God with your past?
Oh my, oh my. Yes. It’s taken me years to realize that my Bad Girl past is the very heart of my ministry. It’s what compels me to help women who are stuck. I get it. I truly do.
3. b. Can you trust God with your present?
For me, this is the easiest of the three. I’m always going around singing Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I know, I know. But I really mean it!
3. c. Can you trust God to provide for your future?
This one is the hardest for me, until I remember who holds our future in his loving hands. As I often say, with God our future isn’t a question mark; it’s an exclamation point!
Wonder if Naomi felt that way when her life fell apart in Moab? Let’s find out as we press on to Chapter 1.
1. a. What’s the most traumatic event you’ve weathered during the last six months, and what made that experience especially difficult for you?
Two weeks ago I stood up and suddenly felt like someone had plunged a sharp knife into my knee. Couldn’t move, couldn’t put weight on it. This wasn’t my arthritis acting up; this was take-me-to-the-ER time. For the next five hours I was in severe pain, trembling all over, imagining my autumn speaking schedule disintegrating before my eyes.
1. b. Where did you turn for support, compassion, and a listening ear? How were your needs met?
My dear husband provided all of the above, but ultimately I put my faith in God to either heal me or help me cope. All I could say was, “I trust you, Lord.” When the ER sent me home in the wee hours of the morning, still in major pain, I fell into bed, not sure what would happen when the alarm went off two hours later and I had to pack for a speaking trip in Des Moines. But God whispered the same words back to me: “Trust me.”
1. c. What hope do the following verses offer those who suffer?
Of the ones listed, Job 36:15 was the one I clung to: “But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.” I definitely needed a word from God that night.
What happened next? Keep reading…
2. a. Looking at Romans 5:3–4: “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Is hope a sufficient goal for you?
I think hope is the only goal worth reaching for, and the one thing people need most. Alas, we can’t skip the hard stuff in the middle to get there. We talk about taking a leap of faith, but I think it’s more like a walk (and some days, a crawl). As long as we’re moving toward hope, we’re moving in the right direction. Still, it’s okay to say, “This is hard.”
2. b. Read Ecclesiastes 7:14 and Romans 8:28. How do you reconcile these two truths: that God oversees our bad times, yet “works for the good”?
It gives me great comfort to know God is in charge “when times are good” and “when times are bad.” Whenever God brings some challenge into my life, I have to believe that there’s a reason for it and that good will come of it…eventually. That’s our Romans 8:28 assurance: “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” It’s the waiting part that kills me!
2. c. What good have you seen come from the recent difficulty in your life?
So, the alarm went off at 4:00am. I got out of bed, forgetting about that knife in my knee, and walked across the room. Slowly, yes, and still wincing a little, but walking. You better believe I praised God! Didn’t jump up and down, though. That came later, when I texted my friends and family from the arena: “I’m backstage dancing! Claiming a miracle!” My husband texted back, “Gloria Dei!” Exactly so: Glory to God!
2. d. How has God revealed himself to you during this challenging time?
God asked me to trust him, and to my great surprise, I did. Rather than risk taking a whammy of a pain pill, I went to bed and slept. I knew if he wanted me in Des Moines to speak, he would make a way. And if he didn’t want me there, he would provide a replacement and take care of me at home. Forgive me if this sounds simplistic, beloved, but I think it all comes down to faith, as defined in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I couldn’t see how this might end well. But God could.
Finally, our last question. (Fear not, this will be much shorter next week because we’ll have just one chapter to cover!)
3. a. According to the oft-quoted John 3:16, God loved and God gave. What one thing must we do to have eternal life?
In the words of Jesus in John 6:29, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” We gotta believe. Have faith. Trust. Different words, same basic meaning. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried out to God, “Help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 There’s no shame in asking for a greater measure of faith. Like grace, it’s a gift that God delights in giving.
3. b. What might happen if you shared this truth (found in John 5:24, 6:40, and 10:28) with a friend or family member who has yet to cross over “from death to life”?
Thrilling things have happened in the past, which means they might happen again. It’s the best news we can offer anyone. Please, Lord, give us the courage to speak boldly and love unconditionally.
3. c. For Elimelech and his sons, death had the final word. According to 2 Corinthians 5:1, what does our future hold?
Our future holds “a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” All Naomi sees at this point in the story is an empty house, empty arms, empty wombs. She can’t imagine the restoration and redemption God has planned for her. Like the prodigal son, she needs to return. She needs to go home. She needs to believe in a God who forgives.
Now it’s your turn, sis. Respond to one or two of the above, if you wish. I’d especially love to know your response to this final question: What’s the most memorable truth you’ve learned from Ruth 1:1–5 in Chapter 1?
I’ll be checking in periodically this week and encourage you to do the same. It’s an honor to teach you the biblical story through my book, then apply those lessons through the Study Guide here. I hope it’s been helpful. Let me know how I can serve you best!