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Archive for the ‘Bible Women’s Personality Traits’ Category

The pain we have not grieved over will always stand between us and life.
Dr. Rachel Naomi Reman

 

At first glance, the Book of Ruth is a beautiful story of love and loyalty. But when I began to dig further, I found a rich source of life lessons for dealing with emotional hurts.

As Dr. Reman’s quote suggests, unresolved grief can lead to other problems including depression.  Perhaps it was the sheer volume of Naomi’s grief – moving away from friends and family, then losing her husband and two sons in a foreign land – that caused her to lapse into such a deep depression. We know she was depressed because she tells her friends to call her “bitter” (Mara) when she finally returns to Bethlehem.

Because Naomi felt responsible for her two daughters-in-law, she may not have allowed herself to fully grieve the lthCAJAZKZFoss of her  sons. Her depression may have escalated into anxiety and desperation causing her to push the girls  back to their own families – to ensure that they would have a future and to relieve herself of the burden of responsibility.

When Ruth refused to go back, the weight of responsibility for the young woman’s welfare must have hung even more heavily around  Naomi’s shoulders. She truly loved Ruth and wanted only the best for her, but in her depressed state of mind, Naomi couldn’t even imagine a solution. She became anxious and  desperate grasping at any small hope for a future for Ruth.

The Lord was orchestrating events for the two women in response to Ruth’s faith. He pointed her to the fields of Boaz, a perfect candidate to become the kinsman redeemer, a provision of Jewish law which ensured the care of widows and allowed the deceased family to retain their inheritance. But in Naomi’s depression she was unable to trust the Lord. When she realized Boaz could be a potential savior for herself and Ruth, she saw a glimmer of hope. But as time dragged on and Boaz didn’t follow through, Naomi became desperate and took matters into her own hands. She prostituted her daughter-in-law, hoping nature would take its course which would  force Boaz to “do what was right” by the women.

Because Ruth’s marriage to Boaz was part of God’s plan, there was no need for Naomi’s anxious and desperate measures. It would have worked out in God’s time with or without Naomi’s help.

God is in control of our lives as his daughters. Can you think of any times where you felt so desperate for something that you took matters into your own hands? What lessons have you learned about peace, rest and trust from these experiences?

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tears-depressionAll of us will experience grief in our lives – through losses like homes or jobs or in other ways. We will all experience the pain of losing someone dear to us. Death is a fact of life.  For some, if left untreated, their grief will morph into serious depression. That’s where we find Naomi in  Ruth 1:19-22.

Naomi had lost everything. She lost contact with her extended family and support system when she travelled to Moab with her beloved husband Elimelech during the severe famine in Bethlehem. She lost her permanent home, replacing it with a nomad’s tent.  But, she grieved her losses and carried on with her life. She was able to cope because she still had her husband and sons.

While in Moab, her husband died. Once again, Naomi grieved her loss. She felt the loneliness of losing a spouse, partner and best friend. She wept and probably wailed as was the custom of her people. But Naomi was able to cope because she still had her two sons and hope for a future generation to carry on their family name. Her family still could be part of the promised Messianic line to come and her sons could once again possess the lands of their father when the famine was over.

But when both of her sons died without fathering sons, Naomi lost her ability to cope. Life became too dismal, too hopeless as she slipped from grief into the black pit of depression. She would have to sell her family’s holdings in Bethlehem because there were no sons to manage them. There was no one to take care of her in her old age.

As she traveled back to her extended family and support system in Bethlehem, she was too numb to feel the support everyone offered her. She admitted her depression, instructing her friends to call her “bitter” rather than “pleasant” as her name implied. With what little emotional energy she had left, she blamed God for her circumstances and curled up into a ball, waiting to die. No doubt she wondered often what she had done to make God so angry with her that he would take away everything that mattered to her.

Naomi’s story has a happy ending though. She got through her depression. Through the Bible narration, we see the Lord  at work in the background of Naomi’s story the whole time, orchestrating the events of her life to help her grieve while providing and caring for her. God made a way for Ruth to gather food for her mother-in-law. Ruth’s faith, love and prayers supported Naomi, especially when she couldn’t pray for herself.

As the story unfolds, Ruth marries Boaz and later through the marriage of Ruth and Boaz, a son is born.This child is a significant part of Naomi’s healing because at last she felt like God cared for her again. She let go of her anger at God and was able to trust him – understanding that he wasn’t angry with her.

Her story helps us to understand that we’re not totally alone as we go through our grieving process. No matter how deep our pain or extensive our loss, the Lord is always there working in the background  circumstances and events of our lives to help us grow into stronger, mature believers. Even when we cannot see him, he’s helping us, gently guiding us along the path to healing. In the end, Naomi’s hope is restored as God’s plan comes together.

We have the additional advantage of seeing into Naomi’s future – the Bible tells us that her grandson was indeed part of the Messianic line, an ancestor to Jesus. Wow! What a wonderful message to boost our hope as we go through difficult grief and depression.

Have you ever experienced loss like Naomi and given up hope? How did you cope? How did the Lord and others help you to heal?

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“Until the pain of change hurts less than the pain of staying the same, people prefer to stay the same.” Psychologist Richard Dobbins

In the real world, this is so true. 99% of people who come to know the Lord as their personal Savior, do so because of inner pain that hurts so much they cannot stay the same. Most people make health-related lifestyle changes for the same reasonthMBEN5S1D.

In the world of stories, this is true too – our characters and our plots are motivated by conflict. Both inner  struggles and struggles with the world around them move our characters to action, growth and change.

Consider the Bible account of Ruth and Naomi in Ruth, chapter 1. After losing her husband and two sons in Moab, the pain of remaining there was too great for Naomi. Even though her future looked bleak in Bethlehem, it looked even bleaker in Moab, so she packed up what she could and sold the rest of her belongings.

Naomi offered the same choice to her daughters-in law, although her description of life in Bethlehem was undoubtedly colored by her depressed state of mind. She painted it as bleak as possible, perhaps in an attempt to drive Ruth and Orpah from her. For Orpah, the move was too hard. She opted to stay in Moab. But for Ruth, the pain of remaining in Moab outweighed the pain of a bleak, uncertain future. She chose to return with Naomi.

Ruth’s choice piqued my curiosity – Why was it more painful to stay in Moab? Based on her family history,  it could have been an abusive past. Perhaps she had never known the love of a mother like Naomi. Most likely, it was a combination of factors. Whatever her reasons, the fact remains that it was too painful to stay in Moab.

In fact, the “pain of staying the same” was so great for Ruth, that she made a powerful, vehement vow to remain with Naomi until she died – a promise that was taken very seriously by the culture of that day and age. Understanding the depth of her determination to go with Naomi, leads me to believe the pain of life in Moab may have been life-threatening.

Naomi faced the pain of change with a grim determination that transitioned into deep depression the closer she got to Bethlehem. She told her relatives on her return to call her “Mara” which means “bitter.” Yet Ruth faced her pain of change  with determination and hope in spite of the bleakness of her choice. She was willing to do whatever it took to survive from the arduous work of gleaning to prostituting herself if necessary to ensure a future for herself and Naomi.

But it was Ruth’s attitude as she faced the pain of change that made all the difference. Because of her hopefulness, her dedication and desire to remain with Naomi, she became respected by Boaz as well as everyone in Bethlehem. Her ultimate wedding to Boaz was a joyful community affair.

Think about a time when crisis forced you to face a painful change in your life:

Did you choose to stay the same? Or did you choose to make a change?

If you decided to make a change, what kind of attitude did you display through the painful change – one of anger, depression and bitterness or hopeful acceptance?

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Has God ever challenged you with a simple question?
Fifteen years ago, I began researching the lives of women in the scripture to find any who may have experienced emotionally damaging events in their lives. I needed to find those who had experienced hardships and come through victoriously to bolster my courage during a difficult time of emotional healing.
I was about ready to gloss over Ruth’s …story because I thought there was nothing mentioned about shame and abuse. Then the Lord asked me a series of questions:salt_pillar
God: Have you considered Ruth’s life?
Me: No – it’s a story about love and loyalty, not shame and abuse.
God:  Where did Ruth come from?
Me: Duh! Lord, everyone knows she was a Moabite!
God: Well, where did the Moabites come from?
Me: (humbled that He kept after me) Okay, God, I’ll find out.
What I found blew me away! I found the answer in Genesis chapter 19.   Moab was the child of Lot and his elder daughter – a product of incest, a sin that was taboo in most cultures. I was perhaps made more palatable because of the prevailing attitude of sex among the inhabitants of Sodom and Gommorah where Lot’s two daughters were raised. In desperation and fear of the future when they fled from the destruction of their life-long home, the girls turned to what they knew, passing a destructive legacy to all the female descendants of  Lot who followed them.
It raised a question in my mind – what if Ruth had also been a victim of incest, given their culture’s views that such relationships were permitted or at least overlooked when certain situations called for it?
Learning about Ruth’s family heritage cast her  in a whole new light and helped me to look at her story through new eyes which led to the writing of my first novel, Daughter of Lot.
What questions has God used to challenge you?

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The Bible Study Journal

Like its sister, the devotional journal, a Bible Study journal helps to get me into God’s Word. This journal often generates ideas for future devotional articles or messages for me as a writer and speaker. It also provides a place to organize and categorize my Bible research. But you don’t have to be a writer to benefit from keeping a study journal.

Here are some hints to begin your own Bible study journal:

1. Study by topic

This is a great way to get an overview of all the Bible says on a particular topic or key word.  At one point of my life, I dealt with issues of forgiveness for a wrong someone had done to me. By studying all the verses I could find about the topic, I was able to gain a better understanding of what it meant to forgive and how to work through those issues.

2. Study by Bible characters

I enjoy studying about the women of the Bible and have found them to be wonderful mentors and friends. I like to know what happened to her and find out as much as I can about her personality through her words and actions. Though the bible doesn’t generally show her emotions, I try to put myself in her place to see what she may have been feeling. It helps me to work through my own feelings when I find myself in similar situations. These in depth studies have led to the writing of two Bible novels and many short stories which have blessed my soul and helped me to grow spiritually.

3. Study by passage or chapter

Many Bibles will divide up the chapters into segments with sub headings. This natural division offers a byte size portion of scripture to study. Verses in these portions are grouped together around a common story thread or theme.

This type of study might include the parables, the Beatitudes or the Psalms among many. They are short enough to read and study one portion in a day and meaty enough to speak volumes to our hearts.

4. Study a specific time period.

There are great insights and personal lessons found within each historical time period in the Scriptures. During a time of recovery from some childhood traumas in my life, I studied the stories of the wilderness wanderings found in the books of Exodus through Joshua. Watching how God delivered the Israelites from their slave mentality and helped them grow during that time proved especially beneficial for my own spiritual growth and recovery from the damaged emotions.

5. Study word-byword

This is perhaps the most extensive way to study the scriptures for serious Bible students – taking a verse or chapter and breaking it apart word by word. Studying each word’s meaning from the ancient languages along with its placement in the sentence structure, the context and meanings of words around it can be rewarding, but is time consuming and exhaustive. This was the method most used by Bible scholars and translators and thus bears mentioning here.

No matter what method you choose to use for your daily Bible studies, Always keep  these questions in mind:

– To whom was it written?

– What was going at the time on when the author wrote it? You might need to check a Bible handbook for this info or read the verses surrounding it to get the context of the verse.

– What message was he sending to the readers of his time?

Always make your studies personal for yourself:

– What does this verse say to me about this topic? 

– Also note any questions it raises for future study.

As with the devotional journal, you might want to include a written prayer for the Lord to help you apply the lessons learned from this passage.

The Bible is a living, breathing book! Even in the dustiest, mustiest passages of the law or the endless genealogies, there are spiritual lessons and treasures waiting for those who dare to delve into its depths. Treasure hunting anyone?

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Who were the worst parents in the Bible?

This question posed on Facebook by a good friend of mine sparked a lot of discussion on her page as well as here at my house. Put your thinking caps on and get ready to share your thoughts with  me here!

One gal mentioned Adam and Eve as her first choice because they left their children (and the rest of their descendants) with a legacy of sin.

Dan mentioned Isaac and Rebekah who had a set of twins – Jacob and Esau. Their saga begins in Genesis 25:19.  The jealousy and favoritism shown by the parents caused all kinds of heartache and trouble for the boys during their childhood and still affects the descendants  of those two sons today.

My first thought was of Aaron, the brother of Moses who was appointed as the first high priest of Israel. Aaron and two of his sons Nadab and Abihu, were allowed to accompany Moses part way up the mountain when God gave the ten commandments, witnessing the glory of God.

Returning down the mountain some time before Moses, Aaron yielded to the people and helped them build the golden calf idol. I have to wonder if their father’s example influenced Nadab and Abihu to  disrespect God to the point where they deliberately offered “unholy fire” on the altar of incense later during their priestly work in the temple?  Their actions upset God resulting in their deaths at His hand.

Generations later, another high priest had trouble with his sons and was reprimanded by God for their behavior. Read the story of Eli and his sons in  1 Samuel 2:12-36.

The high priests weren’t the only ones whose children were influenced by their parents’ examples. Consider King David – the man beloved by God and his people. Yet, his family was one of the most dysfunctional in all of scripture. His firstborn son Absalom was extremely greedy, stopping at nothing to inherit his father’s throne. Another son, Amnon raped his sister, then cast her aside to suffer shame. Even Solomon, who started out so well and  received the gift of wisdom from God, eventually succumbed to the pressures of the royal life, turning away from God.

We only have to read the books Kings and Chronicles to see more examples of royal parents impacting their children’s lives in negative ways.

Needless to say, these negative examples tell us a lot about how not to parent our kids. Tomorrow we’ll check out some positive Bible examples of parenthood.

Perhaps you have someone else in mind? I’d love to hear your vote for the  “Worst Bible Parent of the Year” Award.

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