Epic Friendships: Ruth and Naomi
The woman who lost everything, and the friend who stuck by her
The beginning of the book of Ruth tells the story of a woman who had lost everything.
Naomi and her family had left Israel because of famine and had tried to make a life in Moab. But things did not run smoothly. First, her two boys grew up and married women who were not Israelites. Next Naomi’s husband died. The final horror came with the death of both her sons - and both of them had failed to have any children.
Naomi returned to Israel with nothing – and more than likely depressed.
But she did have something. She had a friend in her daughter-in-law Ruth who came back to Israel with her.
Ruth was very good for her older friend. The fact that she was there meant Naomi was not alone in the shame of returning home in failure. And when Naomi couldn’t do anything, Ruth was the one who went out to work and provided for them both.
Ruth was different from Naomi – in language, age, culture and understanding. She was probably not the ideal friend that Naomi would have envisaged for herself. Yet Ruth loved both God and Naomi and she had chosen to be there. That was enough for the relationship to go ahead on.
As Ruth looked after Naomi and supported her, Naomi started to feel a little better. Better enough anyway, to start to have Ruth’s own interests at heart. You know you’re really depressed when all you can think about are your own problems. You know you’re starting to come out of it when you can take a real interest in other people’s issues.
Naomi saw that Ruth, who had been so good to her, really could do with a bit of a life. She saw an opportunity to provide for her and she took steps and solved one of their biggest problems by getting Boaz to marry Ruth.
It’s almost as if Naomi went from saying “I’m completely empty and God is completely against me” to being able to recognize the things God had given her in Ruth and the opportunities God was providing in Boaz.
By the end of the story, Naomi was no longer empty, bitter and tragic. She was a different woman, and it was because of what God gave her in her friend Ruth.
God gives us people who are good for us, even if they aren’t the people we would choose. He often shows his love for us and his blessings through the love of other people, and he can turn around tragic situations through the friendship and support of our friends.
Have you ever had a friend like Ruth who has stuck by you in difficult circumstances? What are the qualities of friendship that Ruth showed?
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