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Mercies In The Shadows

Merciful Justice

Rev. Philip Miller | July 19, 2020

Selected highlights from this sermon

Grief and loss can make us feel helpless and powerless and if we’re not careful, we’ll fall into a victim mentality. Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz are all learning the same life lesson at the same time. Pastor Miller walks us through three powerful realities that will keep us from falling victim to our own worries and fears in the middle of life’s storms.

Good morning Moody Church. Welcome back to “Mercies in the Shadows.” We’re studying the book of Ruth, and really this series is kind of about grief, isn’t it? And one of the things that makes grief and loss so difficult is the sense of helplessness that can come over us. We often feel very powerless or like we’re victims of the harshness of the realities of life. There is nothing we can say or do to change the outcomes of the things we are facing and we can, if we’re not careful, fall into kind of a victim mentality, can’t we? Where we feel helpless and disempowered and grow angry and bitter at our circumstances, and even at God at times. And I don’t know if you’ve ever felt that way, but I have. It’s not a comfortable place to be. And as we saw last week, it’s kind of where Naomi’s at, isn’t it? She returned to her hometown, to Bethlehem, and she said, “Don’t call me Naomi. (Her name means pleasant.) Call me Mara. From now on I want to be known as Bitter.” Those are biting words that come at the end of a long, hard journey.

And who can really blame Naomi, really? I mean she has lost her husband, her two adult sons. She’s bereaved and she is destitute. In her Ancient Near-Eastern context this means there’s no one to work the fields, so there’s no income. There’s no one to protect and defend her legally, to represent her in the courts. There is no one to inherit the family property and so ensure the legacy of the family. There’s no one to carry on the name of Elimelech and her family, her tribe. There’s no security, no future, and no hope. But thank God, she’s not alone.

Last week we saw that Naomi had intended to return to Israel all by herself, but something surprised her. Her daughter-in-law Ruth, who is also dealing with her own grief of having lost her husband, in an amazingly courageous and self-sacrificing choice, pledged herself to serve and care for Naomi all the days of her life, to never abandon her, to be with her. It was a beautiful picture of the hesed love of God. We saw that last week.

And so now the question that lingers over the text as we move through this story is what will become of these two ladies? What will become of them, one older, one younger, both of them devastated by tragedy and loss. We know that Naomi has grown bitter and hard and is really in a tough space. But what will happen with this young woman, Ruth? What will happen to her? How will she fare through these events? Well, let’s find out.

Let’s grab our Bibles this morning. We are going to be in Ruth, chapter 2, and so if you’ll grab your Bibles, we’ll be in Ruth, chapter 2. We’re going to look at verses 1 to 17 this morning, and before we do that, would you bow your heads? Let’s pray together and ask the Lord to be with us.

Father, teach us. Show us yourself. Help us to see ourselves this morning, and help us to walk in obedience because of your Word. Teach us, we pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen. Amen.

Now, you’ll remember the very last verse of chapter 1 said: “And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.” Now, let’s pick it up. Ruth 2:1: “Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.”

Pause just for a second. I want to tell you something here. The worthy man, this phrase, “Boaz is a worthy man.” This is in Hebrew. He is a chayil gibbor, which is a mighty warrior, a wealthy, prosperous man of nobility and righteousness and honor. This is a man’s man. This is a good man. This is a real catch. Okay. That’s what the author is trying to tell us here. I wonder why he brought up this scenario here. We’ll see what happens.

Verse 2: “And Ruth the Moabite (So we don’t forget, she’s not from around here.) said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.’ And she said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened (wink, wink) to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. (Oh, what a surprise!) (laughs) And he said to the reapers, ‘The Lord be with you!’ And they answered, ‘The Lord bless you.’ Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, ‘Whose young woman is this?’ And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, ‘She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.” So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for just a short rest.’

Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.’ Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’ But Boaz answered her, ‘All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!’ Then she said, ‘I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.’

And at mealtime Boaz said to her, ‘Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.’ So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.’

So she gleaned in the field until the evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.”

Thanks be to the Lord for the reading of His Word.

Now, the narrator here is contrasting between how Naomi and Ruth are responding to their circumstances here. Naomi, as we have seen, has slipped into a kind of bitter, helpless, victimhood, which is very understandable, given her grief. We shouldn’t give her a hard time about that. But Ruth here is acting in a very different way, isn’t she? She’s acting in a very empowered way in her circumstances. In fact, I see in this passage three powerful realities that Ruth experienced to help her move through her grief. Even as she’s grieving, she kept moving forward day after day.

Three powerful realities. I think they are things that you and I can use as we face hard things in life as well. So we’re going to see this morning three things, the power of agency, the power of providence, and the power of justice. Okay? The power of agency, providence, and justice. Let’s go here.

First, the power of agency. Naomi and Ruth, of course, have made this long trek from Moab to Bethlehem. They have settled in. It is the beginning of barley harvest, and Ruth almost immediately decides to set out and start gathering grain. And you say, “What’s going on here? You know, they have no one to work their own fields.” That’s true. They have no crops of their own, but in Leviticus 19 and 23 (You can go and look that up later.) God gives commandments to Israel to actually, as they’re harvesting, leave the edges, the margins of their fields unharvested, to leave a portion of the grain on the outside, leave it standing. And the reason for this… It was a kind of welfare system in Israel. If you were poor, if you were impoverished, if you were a sojourner and you didn’t have the means to sustain your life, you could go to anyone’s field, it didn’t matter who, and you could harvest your own grain from those margins that were left behind. Additionally, if the reapers dropped, accidentally dropped, good produce on the ground as they were going, they were not allowed, under God’s law, to pick it up. That was for the poor as well. And so this is the kind of welfare system that was sort of built in to the Old Covenant community, and it’s pretty brilliant. There was food available, but people had to actually harvest it themselves.

So Ruth heads out here hoping to find somebody who will allow her to do this: find a field where there is good grain left over, and where she can pick up these things and move along. Now, this takes a lot of courage for her because she’s unconnected, isn’t she? She’s unprotected. She’s a foreigner. And if you’ve ever been an immigrant in a new community, you don’t have the relationships, you don’t have the social connections, you don’t have all the standing in society to know how to navigate these things. It’s a very vulnerable place—and she’s a woman, and she’s alone, and she’s vulnerable. And so what we have here is Ruth showing tremendous courage and initiative. She’s brave and bold and she’s stepping out and taking charge in this situation.

Now, I want you to notice though, notice who’s not going with her. Naomi! We would expect Ruth to say, “Hey, I’m going to go get some barley,” and Naomi to say, “Great idea! I’ll get my stuff together; I’ll go with you.” But that’s not what she does. She just says, “Okay, fine. You go.” And she stays at home. Now why? We don’t really know for sure, but my suspicion is that her bitterness has sort of settled down into a kind of depression and she just isn’t motivated here to go do anything. She’s back home and wants to stay where it’s comfortable. Work in the field is difficult, and I think she’s almost given up hope at this point. She won’t even step out. But Ruth doesn’t let that stop her, does she? In fact, all the clues in the text here point to Ruth’s initiative and effort here. They’re all over the place.

Number one, she came up with a plan: “Let me go get the barley.” She found a good field to go glean in. She broke the ice and initiated and said: “Hey, can I glean here? Is it okay if I go and gather along?” She worked all day, the texts says. Only a short rest. She’s working all morning. She’s the first one back to work after the lunch break is over. She works all the way until evening and sundown. That’s going to be the hottest part of the day and she’s out there. She doesn’t, you know, shirk or do the half-day thing. No, she’s all in. At the end she beats out her own barley. She doesn’t ask for help, doesn’t bring it home for Naomi to finish it up. No, she does it all herself. And in the end, she has a ephah, which is not a measurement we’re used to, but that’s about 22 liters of grain. And so this is roughly two to three weeks’ worth of food for one person. It’s about a half a month’s wages, and she gets all of that in one single day.

I mean this is… Now, remember Ruth is grieving. Ruth has just lost her husband, and yet she’s proactive. She’s taking initiative. She’s hard-working, diligent, resourceful, risk-taking, courageous. She’s a go-getter. And so she’s reminding us, as we see her example, we are reminded of this truth, that we are responsible agents, not helpless victims. We are responsible agents, not helpless victims.

It’s normal, when we are grieving, to feel like a helpless victim, as if there’s nothing we can do to change or make an impact. In the pain of our grief it pulls us inward and it can immobilize us, can’t it? But that’s not really who we are. We are image-bearers of God. We’re not helpless victims. We are responsible agents. There are choices to be made. There are initiatives to take. There are efforts to exert. And so here’s the take-away for us, friends. In the midst of all of our grief, we need to do the next right thing. Do the next right thing.In grief we can’t wait until inspiration strikes, until motivation swells, until all of our ducks are in order. We’ll never get there. What we really must do is the next right thing, one step at a time.

“Now, you may recognize that phrase from “Frozen 2” as Anna sang those very words in her song, or maybe you know it from Emily Freeman’s book by that same title, but this concept came to me many, many years ago from Elizabeth Elliot. You may remember that story. Jim Elliot, along with four missionary partners and friends, were martyred in Ecuador in 1956, and left Elizabeth behind to pick up the pieces of ministry as a young mom with a 10-month old daughter. And she was overwhelmed at many times, grieving, debilitated, and the ladies who were left behind didn’t know what to do. And they gathered together and they said, “What do we do? How do we do this?” And Elizabeth said, and she wrote this in some of her books, and she said, “We do the next thing. We just do the next thing. Brush your teeth, make your bed, pick up the phone and make the call you don’t want to make. One step at a time. Do the next thing. That’s what Ruth does here. It’s powerful to just do the next thing. It’s the power of agency that we can change, and we can make steps in the right direction.

The second power here is the power of providence. The power of providence. Did you notice how the narrator seems to enjoy highlighting all the coincidences in this passage, how everything is just starting to unfold? It just so “happens” that Ruth ends up in one of Boaz’s fields. Boaz just “happens” to show up at that particular moment, in that particular field to check on how things are going. He just “happens” to notice her. He “happens” to inquire after her. He “happens” to offer protection to her. He “happens” to invite her to lunch. He “happens” to welcome her into his community here. He just “happens” to be a close relative of Elimelech, which will be more important as the story unfolds because he might actually be someone who can act redemptively on behalf of this family. He just “happens” to be a chayil gibbor, a real catch. He “happens” to be single! Whoa! What are the odds? All of these coincidences. Have Ruth’s lucky stars aligned, or what?

What are the odds? But, of course, that’s the point, isn’t it? That’s the point. This is not coincidental at all. It’s something more than happenstances at work here. Somebody is writing a redemptive plotline. Someone is working in all of these things for Ruth and Naomi and Boaz’s good and for His glory. Who could that be? Ruth has taken herself now under the shelter of the wings of God, this beautiful image of a mother bird sheltering the young, that Ruth has come under the protection of God, and He’s already on the move.

And the narrator wants us to see all of these coincidences, and he’s winking at us, reminding us that we are never ever alone, that we live in the care of our Father, not the chaos of chance. That we live in the care of our Father and not the chaos of chance! Friends, the Bible tells us that our times are held not in the capricious whims of chance, nor in the bondage of deterministic fate, but in the loving care of our heavenly Father who watches over our days.

God has given each and every one of us responsibility for our self, direction for the choices we make in life, and yet in all things God is sovereignly presiding, working always for our good and for His glory. And so here what we have is the hand of God behind the scenes, presiding over all of these events, working in the shadows, if you will. And so it is in our lives. The takeaway for each and every one of us is that we need to learn to trust the unseen hand of God, to trust the unseen hand of God.

I’m reminded of Genesis 50:20. It’s a famous line from Joseph, whose life fell apart in many ways, and then had this great reversal. And he got elevated and God used him in powerful ways. And at one point he was speaking to his brothers who had really done him wrong in life, actually sold him into slavery. And he looked at his brothers, and he said, “You meant this for evil, but God meant it for good.” What you did was hurtful. It was wrong. It wasn’t pleasant, but through it, God was working a greater purpose, a greater plan. The New Testament has the equivalent verse in Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” which it goes on to explain is “to conform us to the very image of Christ.”

And so, friends, at every moment in time, God is doing thousands of things that we cannot even see. And so we learn, Ruth is learning, and we learn to trust the unseen hand of God who is always providentially working in our lives. This is what Ruth is experiencing. It is a powerful truth in reality. It’s the power of providence.

Finally, the third power we see here is the power of justice. One of the most striking features of this narrative is how Boaz treats Ruth. She’s a foreigner, remember. She has very limited rights, very limited legal protection. She’s alone. She’s vulnerable. She’s at risk, and she’s kind of in the way. I mean she’s in there. They’re trying to get the harvest in quickly. Time is of the essence. You don’t know what weather will move in and wreck everything, and so she’s kind of in the way. She’s darting in and out, trying to gather stuff while they’re trying to do their work. And we can imagine a very different kind of interaction here, can’t we? You can imagine Boaz, maybe if he’s a very different kind of man, saying, “Who is that [insert racial slur here], what is she doing in my field?” You know? “This is a man’s place. She should go home. Get her out of here. She’s eating up all the profit margins.”

We can even imagine some uncouth locker room talk amongst the workers, or someone mistreating or taking advantage of Ruth. All of those would be things that probably would happen in other places and other moments, but not here, not now, not with Boaz. He is a chayil gibbor. He is a man of honor, nobility, righteousness. And not only does Boaz do what the law requires here, and leave the edges of the fields unharvested, leaving the stuff that falls on the ground, and treating Ruth as an image bearer of God even though she’s not an Israelite (She’s from Moab.), he shows particular concern.

He takes it further. He shows particular concern for Ruth, doesn’t he? This would be like, you know, some very rich person, say Bill Gates, just sidling up to a homeless person and seeing how they’re feeling.  I mean it would almost never happen. Right? It’s totally unexpected, and he comes and he says, “My daughter,” which is a protective term, a family term. What he’s doing is he is bringing her into his sphere of protection as a father would. And he would have said this loudly enough that his other workers would have heard the term, and said, “Okay, we’re not messing with her. She’s under the protection of Boaz.” He looks out for her. “Stay here in my field. I don’t know how you’ll be treated other places, but I know you’ll be safe here. Keep close with my young women. There’s community there. You’ll be protected in numbers. Don’t stray off on your own. I told my young men not to touch you. If they mess with you, they mess with me. Right? And when you’re thirsty, they’ll get the water for you. You don’t have to go to the well and haul it up. They will take care of that for you.”

And then he blesses her, and he asks that the Lord would show her kindness, just as she has shown kindness to Naomi, that God now would repay her with kindness. This is that concept of hesed again. And then he invites her to lunch. Don’t you love this? Remember high school, your first day of high school, and how awkward it was? You walked into the lunch room and you didn’t know where to sit, and it’s like “Aah!” Right? And then the captain of the football team, Boaz, says, “Hey, we’ve got an empty seat. Come, sit with us.” Right?

“Come sit with us.” He invites her into community. He gives her a place at the table, warm roasted grain to satisfy her stomach! She even has leftovers. She gets a doggy bag out of it, right? And then Boaz goes even further. He says to his young men, “Let Ruth come into the rest of the field and gather among you, with the rest of you.” This is his crop. That’s not the margin he’s required to give. He’s inviting her to take from his portion of the field now. “And don’t let her, you know, wait for the leftovers. Let her cut the stalks herself. And guys, even when the bundles are all put together, drop some extra stuff on purpose. Just take some out and throw it on the ground.”

Do you see what he’s doing? He is sharing his wealth with her. It’s his rightful property. This is his rightful income. And remember they’ve had famine for years, so he’s got debts to pay. He’s got, you know, this is his first good crop in years, and yet he is lavishly sharing his wealth with Ruth at personal cost to himself. And friends, this is what biblical justice looks like. This is what righteousness, honor, nobility, this is what chayil gibbor looks like. This is biblical justice.

There are actually three elements, if you study the Old Testament, three elements that make up the biblical concept of justice. The first one is this, that there is equal treatment under the law. The Bible is very clear. You are not to have one law for yourselves and a different law for the foreigners. Right? Equal treatment under the law!

Secondly, there is a special concern for the vulnerable, so you’ll find throughout all of the Old Testament that God’s heart beats for the poor, the widows, the orphans, the sojourners, the foreigners, those who are disadvantaged and don’t have people to advocate for them in life. Those are the people who God’s heart reaches out for. And God’s people were always called to act with justice and mercy toward those who were vulnerable.

The third thing you’ll see is that biblical justice is a willingness to disadvantage yourself for the sake of others, a willingness to disadvantage yourself for the sake of others. It’s what Boaz is doing right here. He is sharing his own wealth, disadvantaging his economic position in order to raise up Ruth and Naomi. Right? That’s what he’s doing.

Bruce Waltke in his Commentary on Proverbs says this (I think it’s so insightful.), that the righteous are willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community. That’s what righteousness is in Proverbs. The wicked, in contrast, are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves. So righteousness means, “I’m willing to take a loss if the community gets the gain.” And wickedness is, “I’m going to let the community take the loss so I can get ahead.” And you see this play out all through the book of Proverbs.

And so Boaz here is modeling for us a righteous man, a chayil gibbor. He is a man of merciful justice. He sees Ruth who is vulnerable in that risk, and he uses his position of influence and privilege to protect and provide for her safety. He shares his resources with her in order to raise her up so that she doesn’t fall through the fabric that’s fraying in society. He is lifting her out of poverty in his actions by sharing his wealth. He gives up what is rightfully his in order to give her a hand up.

How did he do that? Boaz realized that everything he had in life was because of the mercy of God. Right? Because God is a God of love and covenant and mercy and grace, that the crops that he had were not his own. They were a gift. It was mercy, and it wasn’t his to keep and hold on to, but it was his. God gave it to him to share.

And so here’s the truth that all of us need to know. We are conduits of mercy, not merely consumers. We are conduits of mercy, not merely consumers. Friends, God never gives us His mercy so we can keep it to ourselves. He always gives us His blessing, His mercy, His grace in order that we might extend and share it with others. We are blessed in order to be a blessing. We are forgiven that we might extend forgiveness. We have been loved that we might learn to love.

We are graced that we might extend grace. And so, don’t you see? God blesses Boaz with a harvest. Boaz shares the harvest with Ruth, and Ruth isn’t going to keep it for herself either. She’s going to go share it with Naomi. And so you have this cycle of cascading mercy and grace that is coming down. Mercy and justice are now flowing like a river through these people who are yielded to the way of God.

And so, friends, here’s our takeaway. We’ve got to let mercies flow freely. Let mercies flow freely. In grief and pain it is easy to slip into a scarcity mentality. “There’s not enough resources to go around, not enough love to go around, not enough safety to go around, so I’ve got to look after myself.” And we become self-reliant (I’ve got what I need, and I’ll take care of myself.) and self-sustaining (I’ve got to keep my resources because I’ve got to watch out for myself). And so what happens in grief naturally is we pull inward, and it becomes hard both to receive mercy because “I’ve got it, thank you very much,” and it gets hard to extend mercy because I’ve got to take care of myself first. And so what happens so often is we close off on both ends. We close off toward the mercy that we might receive, and we actually constrict and close off the mercy we might extend to others. We become stingy with it.

But what’s true is our lives are kind of like a pipe. We are a conduit. We have an opening on both ends of our lives. We need to open wide to receive the mercy that God wants to pour into our life. That takes humility. It means opening up, letting people help you. It means receiving care. It’s hard, isn’t it? Especially in grief. And it also means opening wide on the other end of the pipe and pouring out mercy and care for other people. And friends, I’m telling you one of the best things you can do, one of the best things I can do when we are grieving and enduring loss, is to start caring for other people, and extend mercy and grace and share lavishly with them because this is actually a system. These are connected. Our ability to receive mercy and grace is directly proportionate with our ability to extend it. And so as we give (As Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”), we learn to receive it as well, and we become a conduit. And the flow of mercy and grace starts to operate in our souls. That’s exactly what Boaz is experiencing, what Ruth is experiencing. Naomi’s not there yet. She’ll get there, but right now they’re operating in the world of mercy and justice. Isn’t that beautiful?

Now, here’s what’s amazing to me. Each of the three main characters in this story are learning the same life lesson at the same time. Let me show you. God is shepherding Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi toward the same life posture here. It’s a place of proactive dependence on God. You need both parts of that. Proactive: You’re going to do your part. Dependence: God is going to take care of you at the same time. Proactive dependence. This is what God is shepherding them toward.

First, Boaz is learning to trust God. He doesn’t know if he’s going to have another good year next year. He doesn’t know if he’ll be able to pay all of his bills, but he recognizes “I’ve got to do justice. I’ve got to do mercy. It’s what God would want me to do toward this Moabite woman who needs my care, toward Naomi who is destitute and falling through the cracks. I am obligated under the covenant of God to care for these women.” He’s not obligated because of the law. He’s obligated because of the hesed love of God, the covenant-keeping love that God has. He realizes it. And so he is learning to live in a proactive dependence where he does the right thing and trusts God to take care of him.

And the same thing is happening with Ruth. Don’t you see that she’s stepping out in faith? She’s taking initiative. She’s working hard, and she’s also receiving abundant mercy, so she takes ownership of her situation. She’s going to do the right thing. She’s proactive, and yet she’s learning dependency on God, under whose wings she’s taken shelter.

And then through Ruth now, God is shepherding Naomi through Ruth because he is showing Naomi as Ruth comes back with this bag of grain, and this story of the provision and kindness of God, he’s showing Naomi, “I’m there for you. I’m not quitting on you. And I am working now in a million little ways that you cannot see. There is hope. You can hope again, Naomi.” And He is calling her to be proactively dependent on God once more.

And friends, this is what God is doing in our lives. When we go through pain and suffering, when we endure loss and hardship, God is shepherding us into a life of proactive dependence. Proactive dependence. God is always doing this. See, here’s the reality. When it comes to grief and loss, there are four ways we can respond, and we all do a variety of these things. Maybe you do several of them yourself at the same time.

The first way we can cope with stress, with loss, with grief is through self-direction. This is where we say, “Okay, I’m just going to muscle through it. I’m going to be strong, and I can get through this. I’m a strong person.” And all the research would tell us that that ends poorly. It ends in exhaustion and burnout because you’re never going to be strong enough on your own.

The second way we can respond is through deferring, and to say, “Well, I guess God will take care of me. There’s nothing I can do.” And so you just kind of sit there and sulk and wait for God to do something passively. And what happens, all the research would tell us, is that we end up bitter and angry. Because God doesn’t expect us to just sit there, and He magically waves a wand and fixes it; He expects us to do something in the midst of our grief.

The third way we can respond is through collaboration. This is where we say, “Okay, this problem, the thing I’m facing in life, I need to do my part. God needs to do His part, so I’m going to be proactive, and yet recognize that He’s going to do some of the work too. Right? And so we’re going to work together, God and me, and we will face this situation.” And people who try this more collaborative approach end up thriving in much better ways, but there’s a problem with it, and that is that we’re not equal partners with God, are we? This is not like He and I were co-partnering and we’re going to figure this out together. No, no, no, no! God is God and I am not! Right?

So the fourth way, and I think the biblical way, what we’re calling here proactive dependence, is the model of surrender. This recognizes that I have my part to do, I need to be proactive, but God ultimately is my provider, protector, defender. He’s the One who is going to come through for me, so I live in dependence, surrendered to Him. And sometimes God may do things I don’t want Him to do. And my job is to pray like Jesus prayed, “Not my will but yours be done.” So it’s collaborative, but it’s a surrendered posture. It’s proactive dependency. Proactive dependency.

And so, friends, here’s my prayer for all of us, that in the midst of our grief, in the midst of all of our pain and loss that life inevitably throws at us, that we wouldn’t waste those tears and that pain, but we would learn with Boaz and Ruth and Naomi, and so many others who have gone before us, that God is indeed working in the midst of all these hard things, drawing us to Himself so that we might live in proactive dependence upon Him because, friends, at the end of the day, there is no more powerful posture in all the universe than proactive dependency on God.

So let’s learn this together. Would you pray with me? Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, teach us to get this right, to be proactive, not to go out on our own as if you’re not there, but to be proactive, taking ownership of our lives, and yet at the same time, recognizing that you are the one who is providentially in all of these things, that you Have purposes beyond what we can see. Help us to surrender to you, to trust you, and to move forward through these dark valleys under the shadow of your wings, for you are good, and your mercies are new every morning because you are a God who is just and kind. And we love you, and we surrender to you, in Jesus’ name, Amen. Amen.

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