Ruth 1 & 2: Tried and True

By Jasmine Timm

“I asked myself the question, ‘How can I see God more clearly?’ and then I thought, ‘You already have!’”

My husband shared these words with me early one morning as I staggered from our bedroom into the living room, where he was sitting and reading his Bible. I had been awake for all of 5 minutes, but I already needed to hear these words. I’d seen God’s kindness the previous week, and the week before that, and even the previous day, but I woke up forgetting. If only we were always so quick to correct ourselves.

The Israelites we read of in the Old Testament frequently suffered spiritual amnesia. They forgot all the time. God rescued His people from Egypt with painfully obvious signs and wonders, and they forgot days later. God brought His people into the long-awaited Promised Land, and they forgot His commandments and turned on Him. God knocked down the walls of enemy nations, delivered His people from their enemies, and conquered battles for them, and they forgot within a matter of minutes. God rescued His people and showed His kindness to them over and over again, and they rejected Him as their King.

So goes the story with us. We read these ancient accounts and scratch our heads when we learn of the childlike foolishness of this blessed nation, and yet we rarely scratch our heads over our own forgetful behavior. Like the Israelites, our key problem is not that God doesn’t demonstrate His faithfulness to us, but that we fail to reflect on and remember His faithfulness to us.

When we learn of God’s commandments in Deuteronomy regarding Moab and how Israel was supposed to relate to the nation of Moab, we conclude that Elimelech must have forgotten, or simply disregarded, these laws of protection. God says it clearly: “Never pursue the welfare of Moab” (Deuteronomy 23:6). And yet, in the opening lines of Ruth, we read about this Israelite man who takes his family from the Promised Land into forbidden territory. In the midst of famine, he failed to remember God’s faithfulness.

Seasons of famine, whether small or severe, threaten our confidence in God’s faithfulness. We lack some good thing, so we conclude that God must not care, that He must have forgotten, and that we’d be better off figuring it out on our own. We forget that God has been faithful in the past, and instead we choose to plow ahead on our own, leaving Him behind.

In my counseling work, I get to see a lot of “famine” up close. I work with people who severely lack something, whether it be confidence or stability or relationship. If I have learned one thing through working with these clients (and for that matter, through my own life), it’s that we are rarely able to see change take place while in the midst of our season of famine. As a counselor, I am able to see change in my clients all the time, and yet they often struggle to see for themselves the change that is taking place. As a fallen humanity, we struggle to see God’s faithfulness in the midst of hardship. Our famine places blinders on us, and since we can’t immediately see what God is doing, we decide He must not be doing anything at all.

The good news is the Bible proves us to be woefully wrong. God is always doing something. God never ceases to be faithful, and He never ceases to remember us. God does not forget His people nor His promises, and He is never slow to act. Our problem is not in Him, but in us. He needs not be reminded, but we do. And the even better news is that God is gracious enough to remind us of what we’ve forgotten. When we start to believe that God is distant and silent, His Spirit invites us to look back. He invites us to remember all that God has already done, how He has proven Himself faithful over and over again (John 14:26). God uses our life history as evidence that He is good and gracious and active. A famous hymn says it like this:

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,

How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,

Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!

O for grace to trust Him more

How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er — that is, how my life is evidence of a God who is faithful and trustworthy. God gives us grace to trust Him as we look back and reflect on how He’s already proven Himself trustworthy in our lives! Rather than succumb to forgetfulness, we can wake up and remember what He has already done. We can keep a journal or document of how we have seen Him in our lives. We can ask friends to remind us. We can pour over the Scriptures to remind us. We can pray for the Spirit to remind us. We have so many ways to remember God’s faithfulness to us — even in the midst of famine — that we are among all people the most to be pitied if we fail to see God’s proven faithfulness in our lives. The good news is that He not only invites us to remember but helps us to remember, and He is incredibly gracious in the process as we stumble through unbelief, forgetfulness, cynicism, bitterness, and pride.

Praise the Lord that He does not forget us and that His faithfulness is the anchor which tethers us to Himself! Praise Him that He says to His people: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15). May we pause often to reflect on how we’ve already seen Him and draw encouragement and endurance for the present as we fight to remember His past goodness. He does not forget us — may we not forget Him.