Formations 08.06.2023: When We Suffer

Ruth 1:6-18

“The hand of the LORD has turned against me.”

Are any words filled with greater agony? Naomi has lost everything: her husband, her sons, her security, her support, and—she is certain—her two daughters-in-law. The only way to explain her overwhelming grief is to conclude that God has caused it. God is behind it. God is the reason for everything that has happened to her.

We do this too, though we may give the idea a more positive spin. Maybe you have said or heard something like this during a time of suffering:

“Everything happens for a reason.”
“God never gives us more than we can handle.”
“God is teaching a lesson.”
“This is the way God made you/them.”

When we suffer, and especially when the suffering goes on and on no matter how much we pray, we want to know why. And when we can’t answer why, we cling to whatever explanation we can devise. Naomi’s grief was so raw and intense that she didn’t bother to sugarcoat it. “The hand of the LORD has turned against me” (v. 13). But it’s possible that we mean the same thing with some of our nice-sounding platitudes.

The truth about this life is that terrible things happen. The nature of having vulnerable human bodies and spirits on earth puts us all at risk of illness, accidents, conflict, loneliness, heartache, and death. Perhaps instead of turning against Naomi, God felt her grief and gave her Ruth, the daughter-in-law who refused to leave her (vv. 16-17).

When we suffer, maybe it is more accurate to God’s character to say this: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for God is with me” (paraphrase of Ps 23:4). God is with us in many ways, and the most powerful way is through people who love us, support us, and walk by our side through life’s toughest trials.

When we suffer, let’s remember that God is with us. When we suffer, let’s find our Ruth. And when others suffer, let’s be Ruth to them—a tangible sign of God’s presence.


• Have you or someone you know ever felt that God had turned against you? What caused that feeling?
• Have you ever said or heard platitudes like the ones listed above? What was the context? How were these words received?
• Can you imagine Naomi’s agony and grief? Have you experienced something like it?
• How have you experienced God’s presence during the most difficult times?
• What are some ways you can be “Ruth” to people who are suffering?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


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