We are excited to explore the Lenten season this year as a church. It is a season that postures our hearts for Easter through practices of fasting, prayer, and generosity. Join us as we ruminate in this season together and share reflections every week.
I’ve been experiencing this season of Lent with prayer and fasting against a backdrop of pain, suffering, and grief within our congregation. I’ve spoken to many who are dealing with sickness, depression, loneliness, doubt, discontent, financial instability, violence, marital woes, and loss.
When we deal with pain, usually there are two reactions: withdraw or ignore. We withdraw from God, community, friends, church, and people that love us; we turn inward and think we are the only ones going through these difficult times. Or we pretend that everything is okay and ignore the real issues that we are facing. How many times have we told ourselves that everything is in God’s plan and everything is going to be okay? Or how many times have we heard Romans 8:28, that “God works all things together for good,” abused?
As we’ve been studying in our community groups, Naomi was a woman who understood grief. At the start of the story we learn her husband and two sons died. She is left with nothing and ends the first chapter, saying, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
As the story continues, we see her make a complete change when Ruth, her daughter-in-law, meets Boaz and their family is saved through Boaz’s kindness. Here Naomi says to her daughter-in-law, “May he [Boaz] be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!”
I won’t spoil chapters 3 and 4 (attend a CG if you aren’t already!) but we can learn a lot from these brief interactions. Naomi did not isolate herself or shy away from her grief; she did not pretend that everything was okay. She leaned into her suffering and was real with how she was feeling. Naomi cried out to God in her anger and despair and God responded on his own time, gently reminding Naomi through Ruth and Boaz that she has not been abandoned.
I don’t know where you are right now but I hope to encourage you to dwell in the difficult times you are going through. God is present even in the darkness. Cry out to God. Be angry. Weep. Engage with God and be honest with where you are. Honestly I can’t say that everything will be okay and we’re all going to get fairy tale endings. BUT, I do know that Easter is coming which is a reminder — more than that, an assurance — that one day Jesus is coming again to redeem the world. Just like Boaz was Naomi’s kinsman redeemer, we have Jesus as our eternal redeemer. Our current plight is just like our Lenten fasting, and denying ourselves makes Easter and the coming of Jesus all the more sweet as we anticipate the greater glory to come.
Prayer, Psalm 13
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.