For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to Ruth from the Bible. I’ve been thinking about what qualities I admire so much about her. And I think it is that despite the hard, unexpected circumstances that happened in her life, she determined to put one foot in front of the other and honor God and her family, no matter what it took.
Ruth honored her family and God despite her grief
When Ruth’s husband died, she could have been consumed by grief, wallowed in self-pity, thought the world and God owed her more than she had gotten. And while she did grieve, she also decided to remain faithful to God and to the family she married into. She decided to follow her mother-in-law, even if it meant leaving behind her biological family, her culture, her friends, the religion she had grown up with and everything that was familiar to her.
And so they journeyed together. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy journey, two women alone without an air-conditioned vehicle to drive and a GPS. But they put one foot in front of the other, and traveled onward. And when they finally got to their destination, the place where Ruth and Naomi felt sure things would get better, Naomi was reminded of all that she had lost. She became depressed. She asked to be renamed Mara, which means “bitter.”
Our childrens’ diagnoses and challenges bring grief, anger, bitterness, and/or sadness into our lives. Grief is natural, healthy, and necessary. Even Jesus wept. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3, there are different seasons we go through: seasons to grieve and seasons to find joy. We can get angry and cry and grieve, but at some point, we have to wipe our tears and move forward in faith with the life we have been given. We are not made to get stuck in a place of grief and bitterness. We can choose to be bitter like Naomi, or to step forward in faith and perseverance like Ruth. We step into a new land full of appointments and accommodations, and learn a new language with medical terms and acronyms, so we can best support our children.
Ruth persevered and trusted God
Ruth woke up every morning to provide for herself and Naomi. She worked harder than the other workers, gleaning wheat. She persevered and maintained a positive attitude, and people noticed her character.
Boaz in particular noticed. And that’s where the story takes a beautiful turn. Boaz eventually takes Ruth to be his wife, and they have a child together. And I’m sure Ruth kept on keeping on, doing what she did best, working hard to provide a clean and happy home for her husband, mother-in-law, and son. That was her spirit, her character, her heart.
Our journey isn’t easy either. It’s full of anxiety, appointments, accommodations, and advocating for our children. There will be cycles of grief and anger and discouragement, and also hope and joy. No matter how we are feeling, we care for the needs of our family and the extra needs of our children. We selflessly put our childrens’ needs before our own. We keep putting one step in front of the other and keep doing the things that help our family, because we are created to love and serve them. We honor God and our families by simply doing the best we can and trusting God through the process. It’s easier said than done, but God is honored by our actions to keep persevering, keep loving our family, and keep trusting Him.
Ruth didn’t see the whole picture
Ruth got to see how God provided her with a new husband who would be her kinsman-redeemer, and she got to experience the joy of motherhood. But Ruth didn’t get to see that her lineage included the man after God’s own heart, King David, and then much later, the Messiah.
To be honest, I sometimes find that a little discouraging. I want to know exactly how my children having special needs brings God glory. I see glimpses from time to time, but I want to see the whole picture.
What I find encouraging about the fact that Ruth didn’t see the whole picture is that all we have to do is keep persevering like Ruth did. We keep taking care of our families and our children to the best of our abilities. We keep on loving God and being obedient to Him. And God will use us and our children to do things we may not even see in our lifetimes, but it will impact other people for His kingdom.
His Word tells us that “in this life you will have troubles” (John 16:33). But it also tells us that “He works all things together for good for those who love Him” (Romans 8:28). I’ve seen Him do it time and again in the Bible. He did it for Ruth. He’ll do it for me, and He’ll do it for you. That’s who He is.
Jenn Soehnlin is the mother of two young sons who are precious blessings and who both have special needs. She is the author of Embracing This Special Life: Learning to Flourish as a Mother of a Child with Special Needs. Jenn enjoys blogging about faith, praying scripture, and special needs parenting at www.embracing.life.