Equipping Your Reimagine Journey
In the history section of the Old Testament there is buried a literary gem called the book of Ruth. Long touted as a writing masterpiece, the book of Ruth includes all the makings of a great and timeless love story. You can read through it at lunch, but it can take a lifetime to grasp the depths of its lessons.
Most commonly, when reading the book, our focus is drawn to how God cares for two widows named Naomi and Ruth. We see God’s hand in Ruth’s faithfulness, in the widows returning to Israel, in Ruth’s godly romance, and in her eventual place in the bloodline of the Messiah. But, as you read it, be sure to slow down enough to consider the first character mentioned. His name is Elimelech, he’s first referred to simply as, “a man of Bethlehem.” Elimelech had a real “grass is greener” complex, and he gets credit for starting all the trouble that we see God work through for the rest of the book. His “grass is greener” decision sets the black back-drop on which the vibrant threads of the book are sewn.
The first verse of the book of Ruth starts out, “In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land.” That is a very telling sentence. The days of the judges were very dark spiritual days for Israel. Twice in the book of judges the writer tries to describe the spiritual condition of the nation with these words, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Israel was spiritually drifting aimlessly, further and further away from God. Unfortunately, God had told the nation that if they turned away from Him that he would bring a famine to help turn them back to Him. They had turned away, and God had brought the famine. Bethlehem, whose name means “House of Bread”, was now an empty bread basket, and Elimelech had a decision to make.
Warren Weirsbe says this about trials in our lives, “When trouble comes into our lives, we can do one of three things: endure it, escape it, or enlist it.” Elimelech could have enlisted this trial for his good. He could have recognized his need to turn back to God and done so. God had put Elimelech and his family in Bethlehem. God had a plan and a purpose for them there, and Elimelech could have stayed and allowed God to use this trial for good in his family’s life. Or, at the very least, Elimelech could have just hunkered down and endured the trial. This may not be the best use of a trial, but Elimelech knew he was where God had put him, and so he could have just held on and trusted God to bring him through the difficulty.
Instead, Elimelech chose the escape hatch, the back door, the easy way out. Moab was not too far away, and there was no famine there. He knew the grass was greener there. And he was right, the grass was greener. But does that mean Elimelech should be there? Moab was an enemy of Israel, they had oppressed Israel and drawn them away from God and into idol worship. It was an adversarial environment with no support structure for Elimelech and his family. But, the grass was greener. So, Elimelech pulled up stakes, took his wife and two sons, and headed for greener pastures.
Ruth 1:2-3 says, “. . . They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.” Now, I’m not saying death is the normal consequence for chasing the “grass is greener” syndrome, but I do believe this makes a pretty strong point. And the point isn’t finished being made yet. Ruth 1:5 says, and both [her sons] died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. Okay, now I think the point is made.
Guys, if we are in a place where God has put us, we need to be very careful about running off to where the grass is greener. It may very well be greener, but does that mean you should be there? If you are where God has put you (and that may need some reflection of its own), then you have three options when trials and difficulties come your way; First, you can enlist them. Meaning, you can look for how God wants to bring good out of this difficulty (see Rom 8:28). Next, you can just endure them. But, a word of warning here, just hunkering down and enduring trials tends to make us hard and bitter, so be careful. Or, you have that third option; you can try to escape your trials. You can jump ship, throw in the towel, hit the eject button, head for greener pastures.
But know this, very often, when we choose the escape route, we miss the good that God had planned to bring through that difficulty. We circumvent what God wanted to do for our good. When we do that, I assure you, God’s plan is not derailed, as the book of Ruth attests. God is still at work. His plan will still come to pass. But we miss out on the good that God wanted to bring, right through that trial, for us. So, if we are where God has put us, let’s beware of the “grass is greener” syndrome.
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