Do you ever feel down and out? Maybe the circumstances around you are horrible and you just see no way for things to ever improve. Or maybe you are dealing with so much pain and loss, you feel as though your emotional suffering may never end.
I think sometimes life gets so tough, that our ability to see hope is significantly blurred. I see this example in the book of Ruth. Naomi was so focused on her unfortunate circumstances, she failed to realize her blessings from God. In case you aren't familiar with the story of Ruth, I'm going to give you a quick overview. Naomi and her family fled to a foreign land (known for pagan worship) due to a famine. During the 10+ years they had to live there, Naomi's husband AND her two sons died. Her sons left behind their widows, however they were much younger than Naomi. She was left an elderly woman with nothing; back in these days fortune, protection, and shelter came by way of the men in the family. When the famine was over, Naomi planned to return to her homeland but encouraged her sons' wives to go back to their people. She encouraged them to return to a place where they were familiar with customs, traditions and people. One daughter-in-law followed Naomi’s instructions and returned home to familiarity. However, Ruth committed her life to Naomi and went back home with her.
Now here is the important part; Naomi had lost a husband and both sons and was struggling to provide for herself. In her words, she was "empty" and was looking for somewhere to go that she would not have to struggle. The famine was over, so she returned home. But when she got there, she was so focused on HER loss, HER bitterness and HER situation, she failed to recognize or acknowledge that Ruth left her own family to be by her side. Naomi actually said in Ruth 1:21 "I went away full but the Lord has brought me back empty." OUCH! I can't imagine how that statement and Naomi’s overall attitude made Ruth feel. I imagine Naomi’s words cut deep into Ruth’s heart. And to make matters worse, Naomi didn’t know that God was going to use Ruth to bring huge blessings into Naomi's life. Through God's plan, timing and Sovereignty He used Ruth to help bring harvest AND protection AND wealth (aka "land") back to Naomi. But Naomi was too consumed in her circumstances, her losses and her emptiness to even acknowledge Ruth's loyalty and blessing in her life.
I empathize with Naomi because it’s really easy to let circumstances become your focus. I expend an enormous amount of energy resisting the urge to get stuck in my circumstances. I don’t understand why God didn’t bless my husband and I with a healthy child who will follow a “normal” trajectory in life. When I am around other mothers of children who talk, eat, run, and jump, it is really easy to get lost in my circumstances. My son throws up almost every day. And not a cute baby, wet burp (if ever there was such a thing) but a full bottle of Pediasure, projectile vomit all over any and everything in his vicinity. When you are cleaning up vomit and having to change your work clothes before work for the third consecutive day, it is really tempting to just scream and curse life. It is really tempting to get down and allow feelings of hopelessness and emptiness creep into your heart. And there are less important circumstances that try to distract me from my blessings, in addition to my son’s disability and illness. I don’t understand why I had to start my Nurse Executive career during a global pandemic that has wrecked havoc on my profession. I try so hard to be a strong nurse leader but it feels like so many odds are stacked against me. And I don’t understand why so many of the things my husband and I love to do together (like traveling or brewery hopping), we now have to do apart because taking a special needs toddler would not be feasible or responsible, and we have no family anywhere near to give us a date night or a break when life gets too heavy. Circumstances are not always in our favor. In fact, most days it feels like circumstances are against us. But I have come to accept the fact that I don’t have to understand my circumstances, to find joy in the big picture. If I focus too much on all that is not “normal” in my life, I find myself missing out on the many blessings God has given me. And God has blessed me in unimaginable ways. A miracle son who defies just about every expectation anyone has ever set for him. A husband that has learned to be both a great dad and a ‘just in time’ pediatric nurse. Amazing nursing and medical care within our community or just a short drive away. A house that we absolutely LOVE, and oddly we only found because our rental house had a bat infestation (talk about crazy circumstances!). Both my husband and I have amazing jobs, and jobs that were stable through the pandemic. In lieu of our actual family, God has put some amazing people in our path that have become our Mississippi family; and our Mississippi family loves our son in big ways. The blessings are endless. And if I focus too much on the day-to-day circumstances, I miss out on cherishing these blessings.
Don't be a Naomi. Don’t miss out. Don't get so consumed in your circumstances that you miss what God is doing in your life. No matter the loss, no matter the pain, no matter the circumstance, God is using it to bless you somehow, someway. Focus on God and His blessings and give Him a chance to carry out His plan.
Circumstances, blessings and a little vomit,
Photo: Sean MacEntee (Flickr)
Note: The opinions and feelings expressed in this blog are solely that of the author and does not in any way reflect the opinions of or represent any employer, organization or academic affiliation to whom the author may be associated with currently or in the past.
Just a few reflections about everything God is teaching me in this life...a journey deeper into His purpose for my life.