Ruth 1:11-13a (NIV)
“Naomi said, ‘Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons—would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them?’”
Naomi was facing the darkest time of her life. Her family had been living in a foreign land, seeking respite and relief from a famine that plagued their own. Though Naomi’s aching belly would be temporarily filled, her heart would soon be broken. Within a decade of living abroad, Naomi’s husband and both of her sons died. The author of Ruth does not provide many details, but we do know this: during an era when a woman’s well-being depended on the men in her family, Naomi’s future looked bleak.
If you read the book of Ruth (it’s short–you can read the whole thing right now!), you’ll notice some traditional Christmas places, words and themes: Bethlehem’s part of the story, and so is a journey there; a miraculous birth takes place, along with a careful cataloging of the line of David. But that’s not why I chose the book of Ruth for this devotional. Instead, I chose it because of what it teaches about waiting.
Naomi knew that what lay ahead would be difficult: she would have to try to survive without the protection and provision that had once been procured by the men in her life. The only solution Naomi could think of was to return to her homeland (Bethlehem). She had heard that the LORD had put an end to the famine there. Perhaps she could find provision in Bethlehem–from a generous relative or from the LORD himself.
Naomi set off on her journey with her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. But somewhere along the way, Naomi urged them to turn around. She thought the two young women would have a better chance of survival if they stayed in their land and sought new husbands there. She was prepared to go about the waiting—waiting to see how God would provide—alone.
It’s at this point in the story that we are provided with today’s lesson on waiting. Though Orpah heeded Naomi’s advice to head back home, Ruth would not leave Naomi’s side. She uttered the oft-quoted lines, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth would not let Naomi face her unknown future alone. They would become companions in the waiting.
If you read the story to its end, you will learn that the provision Naomi waited for ultimately came through Ruth. God provided Ruth a new husband in Bethlehem, and under his care, both Ruth and Naomi would live securely for the rest of their days. That provision was important, but it’s worth noticing that the companionship of Ruth to Naomi was a benefit in itself. God gifted Naomi with a companion in her waiting. Ruth’s presence with Naomi meant that regardless of how difficult the waiting would be, and regardless of what the outcome would be, Naomi had someone to wait with her.
This seems to be God’s intention for his people—to wait with, or to wait together. From the very beginning, God knew that it was not good for humans to “be alone” (see Genesis 2:18). Adam had Eve’s companionship in the garden. Noah had his family present on the ark. The people of Israel wandered in the desert, waiting for their entrance into the Promised Land together, as a people. God gifted Mary and Elizabeth a special companionship as they waited for their special sons. And in the days following Jesus’ death, the disciples waited together, in a locked room, for what would come next.
God knows that waiting can be difficult. As we wait for what God will do next, he gives us companions to wait with. God sent his Holy Spirit to be one of those companions; as we wait for Jesus to come again, his Spirit waits with us. But God also gifts us with human companions, other people with whom we wait. It’s not God’s intention for us to wait alone.
Who are you waiting with?
Who is waiting with you?