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.
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