The faithful life of the Christian is often lived on the hard road.
It’s a hard road that some of us have chosen. Some have refused to climb the corporate ladder in order to spend more time teaching the faith to their children. Others have moved their families to foreign countries or difficult neighborhoods for the sake of kingdom work. Others have felt the strain of past relationships.
It is a hard but good road, chosen by faithful people who have put the mission of God before their own ambitions and comforts.
But there is another hard road: the Hard Road Unchosen.
This road sneaks up on us, forcing us to walk it and leaving us powerless to leave.
You know the road. It’s the road of job loss. The late-night phone call of a suddenly taken loved one. Disease that tears at your body. It’s a road you never dreamed you’d have to walk yet, suddenly, there you are.
Others on the Hard Road Unchosen have been there for years, battling mental illness or chronic ailments, surviving beyond the memories of abuse or abandonment, or haunted by sins committed in the past. This is a familiar Hard Road Unchosen.
Whether you chose your hard road or walk the Hard Road Unchosen, be encouraged: faithfulness is possible.
Naomi’s Hard Road Unchosen
We see such faithfulness in the book of Ruth. It’s a story best known for the titular character, a hero’s hero who left her homeland out of love for her mother-in-law Naomi. She left the easy road of life with her Moabite family for the hard road of faithfulness to God in Judah. It’s a profound example of choosing the hard road.
But Ruth isn’t the main character of the story.
The main character is actually Naomi.
Naomi’s misfortune turned tragedy turned resignation turned hope turned joy is the engine that propels the reader from beginning to end. But the difference between Ruth’s study and Naomi’s story is that Ruth chose her hard road.
Naomi didn’t choose anything.
Famine struck Judah and so Naomi’s husband led her into Moab and away from the only life she had known. Then, while in Moab, her husband Elimelech died. Taken with him were Naomi’s provision and security. Then her two sons died childless, leaving her alone.
No husband, no children, no heirs to the family name, no hope.
Naomi was on the Hard Road Unchosen.
Yet even in her anguish Naomi clung to her faith. Famine had forced Naomi’s family into Moab, but years later, when Naomi and her daughters-in-law were alone, food began to grow in her old home of Judah. With eyes of faith, Naomi recognized that this was from the hand of God.
When she tried to convince her daughters-in-law to remain behind in Moab, she sent them away with a blessing in the name of the same God who she blamed for taking her family and home. She may have felt that “the hand of the Lord has gone out against me” (1:13), but she knew that the blessing of God was great and powerful.
Even in her resentment toward God for the suffering she’s endured, Naomi recognized that God was ultimately sovereign over the affairs of women and men. To quote another biblical sufferer, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).
Naomi shows us that faithfulness is possible on the Hard Road Unchosen. But it is not faith in a distant or anonymous God. It is an informed faith that trusts in a personal God who cares about our lives. It is faith in the God who provides for us.
God Provides for Our Present
The narrator of Ruth makes a point of telling us that it was God who gave food to Judah. It was God who provided their needs. The need-providing God is a truth found in the teachings of Jesus (Luke 12:24) and most explicitly in the letter of Paul to the Philippians. “My God will supply every need of yours according to the riches in glory in Christ Jesus,” he said to close out the letter. Every need.
This is true even when we don’t see it. When we don’t know where the next meal will come from or how we’ll fill up our gas tank, faith relies on the truth that God provides our needs. It’s a hard truth to believe in our bleakest hours, but it is true nonetheless. Naomi clung to this truth even in her despair and in Christ it is possible for us to do the same.
God also provides the relationships that we’ll need to make it down the Hard Road Unchosen. In the cases of Naomi and Ruth, the relationships needed are husbands and children, relationships that would have provided the women with safety, security, and survival.
The book of Ruth focuses on marriages and children, but this passage is not a guarantee that God will provide a spouse for everyone, nor does it imply that infertility is a sign of a lack of faith.
Instead, it is a guarantee that the relationships we need for safety, security, and survival in this God-hating world will be found. For most, these relationships are present in the Church. It is here that we are able to share with one another, love one another, encourage one another, and bear one another’s burdens. It is here that young and old can gather together in worship and fellowship. It is here that we are able to find fulfilling relationships that move us forward in our relationship with Christ.
And it is in that relationship with Christ that God provides for our ultimate needs. It is a relationship that is always present even if we are kept from the Church. If sickness, prison, or distance preclude us from the gift of gathering with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, we can rest in the truth that Jesus is always with us in the person of His Spirit. No matter where we go, God is always there (Psalm 139).
God Provides for Our Future
The book of Ruth doesn’t end with the wedding of Ruth and Boaz but with Naomi nursing the grandchild sitting in her lap. Naomi’s future and hope have been restored and in ways unimaginable. That child’s name was Obed and he would become the .grandfather to David, King of all Israel and Judah. Not only did God save Naomi’s family from extinction, but he elevated this small tribe to the reigning family in the nation.
In Christ, our futures have also been secured. He has promised that we will one day live with him in the New Heavens and New Earth. There, all manner of threat and danger will be removed. All sadness and pain and even death itself will be distant memories. And best of all, God himself will dwell in our midst (Revelation 21:1-4).
But not only will we live with God, but we will reign together with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12)! We small, insignificant people from relatively insignificant tribes and families will, like David, be elevated to royalty. We will be dressed in royal robes and provided crowns of glory that reflect the majesty of the true King Jesus Christ.
These promises are sure. Our futures have been secured.
We must cling to these truths while on the Hard Road Unchosen. Because even in times of trial, God remains good. God remains sovereign. And God remains the one who provides.