We have this idea, God’s goodness is only seen in a life full of good things.
Not when tsunamis and gunfire and human foibles and storms of our own making shatter our sheltered world, when wars and rumors of wars reach too close to home, when familiar voices turn on those closest to them.
That’s when we wonder, what went wrong? Why doesn’t God stop the madness? How can His love be demonstrated in pain?
Rahab witnessed God’s hand risen in triumph for His people.
Ruth experienced the sharpness of God’s refining touch.
In the bitter twists and turns of Naomi’s life, following the deaths of her husband and sons, somehow her daughter-in-law saw past the heartbreak… and decided the God of Israel was the God who sustains, the God she could trust. Even when goodness seemed remote at best.
From her vantage point the future offered poverty, possible starvation, and caring for an older relative until one or both of them lost the strength or will to live. She had no backup plan for when her husband died, no expectations of barrenness or widowhood.
Common sense compelled her to take the road to Moab. To leave with her sister-in-law. To return to the home she grew up in. To start over again. But common sense didn’t make sense to her. Living among pagan gods may be predictable, but her past life was too empty to tempt a heart responding to its Maker.
Although Naomi’s life appeared deplete of all goodness, with no prospects of rising out of the ashes, Ruth must have found some glimmer of hope in Naomi’s grief. She grabbed on and clung with everything she had.
But Ruth said: Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me. – Ruth 1:16-17
Life among strangers, tragic loss, periods of mourning—Naomi’s life.
But her life wasn’t over. She only thought it was.
The void of goodness in our world does not prove God does not exist. Genesis 1 and 2 tell us about the world God designed, a world filled with the best kind of goodness—a kind of good we can’t even imagine. All of it. Every part of it. Through and through.
But something happened to reverse God’s intentions.
Didn’t the enemy realize God already knew sin would enter from behind, would slip in through the cracks of doubt and disobedience? And already His plan stood in place, waiting to turn the bad into good, to turn Satan’s attempts at defeat into God’s opportunity to show His created ones what goodness really looks like.
Throughout the recordings in Scripture, God begs His people to trust His goodness. Goodness that is always available, accessible, readily at hand, up for grabs.
Why don’t we get it?
It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. – Isaiah 65
God held out His hand to a people not interested. Turning, God reached out to the Gentiles, the non-Israelites, to extend His goodness to every nation. Never one to withhold, His answer always came to the ones calling for Him, to those responding to His nudgings. No matter what they looked like or where they lived.
Rahab. Ruth. Hearts longing to be blessed. Lives seeking more than what had been presented.
God’s judgments are good. His dealings with us are patient, loving, wise. His hand stretches out to save and help and supply all we need. Even when we can’t see past the emptiness.
Rahab heard the rumors of this strange people with their strange God. In faith she drew near to the God drawing her.
And at some moment between years of mourning, Ruth found cause for rejoicing. Having hope enough for two, she pursued where hope led, where God’s plan became clear.
Others on the fringe, received His favor in exchange for belief. Still today His abundant goodness extends to all. Those who look to Him will not be disappointed.