There is nothing like death to break the will and turn the light of life into the darkness of despair. We were never supposed to experience death. God’s intention was for us to live forever in a loving relationship with our Maker, experiencing the softness of the sun’s glow on our faces, while we tended the earth’s fruitful gardens. After the death of her husband and two grown sons, Naomi is without hope. Darkness has covered her soul like a crisp breeze on a chilly day. She is weary and encounters what all who traverse that path suffer, a crisis of faith.
“Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me!” (Ruth 1:12–13, NKJV)
The first time the word “hope” is used in scripture, it is used in a negative context. Although the word is defined as an expectation, and an optimistic outlook, Naomi uses it to show the impossibility of the situation. She is too old to find a husband, but even if she did unearth a man willing to have children with her, and they had sons, should her two daughters-in-law wait around for them to get old enough to marry? The very idea is absurd. To hope in such a situation would be fool-hearty. Therefore, the only hope they would have is to leave Naomi and find new husbands. Orpah left her mother-in-law after some tears and a kiss. But Ruth clung to Naomi. She wouldn’t leave her side. Was there hope of a husband? No. Her hope was in God. Whatever the circumstance, she would make the right choice and God would take care of the rest.
I encourage you to read the story of Ruth. Spoiler alert: Ruth did meet and marry a good, godly man, all in God’s timing, and she was blessed to be in the lineage of Messiah!
Hopelessness is partly inflamed by the quiet; thought runs from thought in an irresistible race between life and darkness. Impossible situations mean that we have not thought of all the possibilities. But God has. His wisdom is beyond our own. We might go through scenario after scenario in our minds, but he has seen the end from the beginning. When we place our hope in the Lord, we are saying that we have confidence in none other, not even ourselves. We do not know the outcome. We may not get what we want, but we do know the God who leads us.
Placing our assurance in God forces us to ask if he is worthy of that trust and if that hope is worth it. God is worthy of trust because God is good. But what is good? We don’t always know. His “good” may lead us somewhere we don’t want to go. Intrinsically we know that we will have to give up something. There will be a cost to God’s good. It means dying to self, and it is the most difficult thing we will ever face. So then, in hope, we live, and in hope, we die. No matter what, and whatever the cost, we will trust in the name of the Lord our God. Our eager expectation is upon the God of hope.