“Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”  Ruth 1:21

In the day of prosperity be joyful but in the day of adversity consider:  Surely God has appointed one as well as the other.”  Ecclesiastes 7:14

Many a wiser more gifted writer than I has attempted to come to grips with the question of pain and suffering and that is not directly my attempt here and now.  No, this is more a thought about the perspective that we have that defines pain and suffering.  In the book of Ruth, Naomi is Ruth’s mother-in-law.  The story starts with an affliction, a famine in the region of Bethlehem.  Naomi, her husband and two sons go to the country of Moab where they have heard there is food.  Naomi’s two sons get married and for awhile all seems blessed, prosperous.  Then Naomi’s husband dies and next her two sons.  We don’t know how.  Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem when she hears that the Lord has lifted the famine.  Naomi tries to have her two daughters-in-law stay in Moab where they will be better cared for.  One stays and one, Ruth, goes to Bethlehem with Naomi.

From Naomi’s perspective and through a certain eye even today we would say that Naomi has had it rough.  First having to move due to a famine then, losing a husband, and subsequently two sons would be hard to see as anything other than tragic.  I would not attempt to say that these things were not excruciatingly painful and would bring about remorse and mourning.  Yet Christ will proclaim, centuries later, blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted.

So I wonder what comfort there might be if looked at from a different perspective and how it might change our insight to pain and affliction; especially coming from the Lord.  I at one time was a runner (some who accompanied me are laughing at this point).  I got to a point where I ran several half marathons or 13.2 miles (21.09 kilometers).  I got quite a sense of accomplishment and exhilaration each time I finished a race.  However, I will tell you, there were many days of soreness that led up to those accomplishments.  Before I started I knew that there might some discomfort in the training, but if I had a very clear idea of the amount of pain and the days and days which I would feel it, would I have started in the first place?  Looking back, I absolutely believe it was worth it.  Now to my female readers, I will apologize for this next example as I can’t begin to understand the true extent of the this process.  I have two grown children.  For my wife and I they have been and continue to be blessings throughout their entire lives.  However, I saw the impact that pregnancy had on my wife, the sickness, the tiredness, the lack of comfort and then the indescribable pain that happened at the time of birth.  Today, my wife would say it was all completely worth it with not the slightest hesitation.  But would there be any hesitation if, going in to process, a person was able to truly communicate in graphic detail to bring about a complete understanding, what the months were going to be like.  Would that make a difference?

So back to Naomi and God’s plan.  She says that she’s been afflicted, that the Lord has testified against her.  I wonder if it would have made any difference if she knew that she was going to be the great-grandmother of the greatest human king of Israel, David.  Would it change the perspective that Ruth, a Moabite, would have to come to Bethlehem (thus something would need to cause the family to go to Moab).  That Ruth would need to marry Boaz (thus to be able to marry, Ruth would have to be a widow.  Her son would need to die).  How might the perspective be different knowing that the eternal King of Kings, Jesus Christ would come from lineage of David, leading back to Ruth).

So for us today, If God were to come to us and say I plan to bless all humanity for all time to come and I plan to use you to accomplish it.  I’d like to think that I/we would exclaim Yes Lord!  Use Me!  We might ask and He might even show us the end state as people are reading about us and shouting Alleluia!  But here is where truly, the devil tries to turn us away, is in the details.  What if that plan requires an illness of ours, a seemingly, human suffering of a loved one.  If even knowing the glorious outcome, would we still exclaim Yes Lord.  If Naomi knew what was going to happen in Moab, might she have tried to convince her husband to just stay in Bethlehem and take their chances?

Faith.  The belief that God is in control and no matter what is happening to us and no matter what conclusions the world is making because of it, we are certain of the Love and Wisdom of God Almighty.  Faith.  The belief that can cause Paul to proclaim in writing, even though he had been imprisoned, beaten, threatened with death, that all things work together for good to those who Love God.

There is a saying and response that we often say in our church:  Statement:  God is Good!  Response: All the time!  Statement: And All the time!  Response:  God is Good!  I can not say that this perspective is easy.  I will absolutely admit that I am no where close to mastering this concept.  I take comfort in the fact that the humanity of Christ drove him into the garden to pray for help, even though as God, He knew the plan and the glorious outcome.  The comfort is that He knows my struggle and will be there for me when I can’t see the glory for the pain.  May the understanding be that we can and should always go to the Father to help us through.

Our most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we proclaim that You have a plan and that plan is a perfect one.  Forgive us when we turn away from You in disdain of your plan.  Give us Your Power to strengthen us when our weakness would have us abandon Your plan.  That it not be that we need to see the outcome, that it is enough that we are able to see You.  This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our savior.  Amen