In preparing a sermon, not everything makes the final cut. Occasionally there is something that is left out (for various reasons*), but still is worth sharing. As I'm preaching through Ruth, I'm finding much rich material and help and am delighted to be able to preach it to Grace Baptist Church! But here's a little tidbit that I plan just to mention in passing this Sunday, but will briefly expand on here.
In chapter 2, Ruth goes out to glean, but Naomi does not. Why does Naomi stay home? There are various possibilities (some more likely than others) - she had Ruth to do it for her; she's too old; she's too proud to be seen gleaning. But given the difficulty of her situation, it’s not too hard to imagine a depressed Naomi is it? Have you ever gotten down, discouraged in your suffering and felt no motivation to industry, to work, to make an effort? It’s all you can do to get out of bed some days. Iain Duguid in his commentary on Ruth calls it “despairing inactivity” (157). Ever been there? We don’t know this is the case with Naomi, but it’s a real possibility. I could say more, but I'll just quote Duguid, and if you are struggling with depression and the lethargy and inactivity it breeds, take heed and take heart!
Whether or not despair is what drives Naomi's inaction, it is certainly a problem in our own experience. When we stop believing in God's goodness and give ourselves over to doubt and worry, we easily sink into a despairing inactivity. This can lead to a downward spiral in which our inactivity makes our situation worse and deepens our despair, which in turn makes us feel less inclined than ever to step out into what we believe to be a hostile world. The key to breaking that cycle is grasping hold of God's covenant commitment to do us good. If we can once look to the cross and grasp the height and depth of the love of God for us in Jesus, then how can we doubt his desire to give us everything necessary for life and godliness? If we feel the smile of the Father's favor toward us in Christ, in spite of our history of sin and failure, then we will be encouraged to step out again in faith. We will still not know what the future holds, yet if we know that the one who holds the future cares for us, that first step upward on the long road back to obedience becomes possible again. (157-158).
In our despair, may God help us to remember the fundamental reality of his love and commitment to us in Christ!
*For those interested in the machinations of a pastor's mind that lead to including some things and excluding others from the sermon, here are 3 reasons this particular element didn't make it.
1. The sermon was already long enough without it!
2. It involves a lengthy quote, which doesn't usually play very well in a spoken message.
3. Since we don't know for certain that Naomi was suffering from this kind of malaise or depression, combined with 1&2, I decided to leave it out. The point being made re:"desparing inactivity" is certainly valid and we might deduce that this is Naomi's problem, but we don't know for certain.
We sang this little gem last night as we closed our evening service. It is a delightful prayer, appropriate as you are just heading off to bed. Notice it closes with the doxology, which also provides a familiar tune to which to sing it. Words are by Thomas Ken, ~1674. This version is taken from the Trinity Hymnal.* You'll find praise for the blessings of this day; seeking forgiveness for the sins of this day; a prayer for sweet rest and sweet thoughts and protection whether we can sleep or not; anticipation of eternity; and of course the doxology. Enjoy, and make it your prayer! (And by the way, supernal can mean heavenly or celestial.)
All praise to thee, my God, this night,
*I got the text for this from a helpful online resource for the Trinity Hymnal.
Jesus should be enough, but no. I need Jesus + a lot of other things. I need Jesus AND children who always obey the first time and with a happy heart. If they would just get along all of the time, that would bring me contentment. What I really need is for them to never interrupt me, never distract me, never be in my way, never be a bother.
God's grace is nice, but it's not enough. I need God's grace AND a wife who is always on the same page as me, wants the same things I want, and can read my mind. I need financial stability and certainty. I can't be happy without comfort in my life - physical, emotional, occupational. Stressful words and situations make me unhappy. I need people who like me, affirm me, and approve of me.
I need health, strength, and energy. I need everything in church to go without difficulty, conflict, or controversy. I need peace (and quiet). I need a comfortable house and a nice car. I need good weather (which is to say I need it to be warmer when it's cold and I need it to be cooler when it's hot). I need a government that doesn't serve it's own interests, but mine. I need easy access to health insurance and health care. Without these things (and others), my life simply isn't complete.
Sounds pretty bad to put it in those terms doesn't it? Of course we never would say such things, but every time I snap at my children in anger; every time I mutter a response to my wife; every time covetousness rises in my heart; every time I feel mopey about my day and how it's not going quite perfectly; every time I wish I had some part of someone else's life instead of mine; every time I think mean thoughts about someone even if I don't articulate them; every time I feel like I can't handle the situation and am going to lose it; every time I do lose it; every time I give into any sinful desire; every time I worry about what is uncertain, that's what I'm saying. In that moment, Jesus isn't enough. It's sad and ugly.
But you know what?
God's grace shown to me through Jesus is enough even for the times when by my actions I tell him he isn't enough. Not only is there all we need in Christ to be content and faithful in every circumstance and situation; there is enough in Christ to forgive us for our lack of contentment and faithfulness in those circumstances. Praise God, Jesus is enough! (Even when my actions say otherwise.)
When I quote Scripture In this blog, unless otherwise indicated, the quotations are usually from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission.
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