If you find yourself single again, Ruth ought to be one of your best friends. She got married because she was in love and believed she would build a satisfying life with her husband. That dream came to an abrupt end, forcing her to ask questions she never intended to entertain. “What do I do now? How do I build a new life while I deal with the deep disappointment?”
While there are no easy formulas for discovering a new start, Ruth displays three steps that can help us get in motion toward the new life we must now live.
1. She Found Worthwhile Work To Do
Ruth did something worthwhile. She said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” (Ruth 2:2) Gleaning barley was not her new career dream, but it was something she could do. Ruth knew that her personal pain had the potential to paralyze her, so she decided to do something of value to keep her moving in a healthy direction.
2. She Stayed Strong In Her Faith
Ruth looked for God’s hand of favor in the midst of her pain (Ruth 2:10-14). Ruth’s life had been turned upside down. She lost her husband, was living away from her parents and was dwelling in a foreign land. It would have been easy to feel abandoned and alienated. She held on to the hope that God still saw her and would provide personally for her. Even though much of her life was disappointing, she believed God’s favor would show itself.
3. She Put Effort Into New Ventures
She worked hard in the area of God’s favor. Once she found the place of favor, she put intense effort into it. She didn’t expect others to do her work. She didn’t manipulate others into providing for her. When God opened a door of opportunity, she “gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered.” (Ruth 2:17) The long day of accomplishment reminded her that she was talented, effective and valuable, a message she desperately needed to hear.
Ruth didn’t like the fact that she had to find a new start in life. She would rather that her “old” life had worked out. Sitting around asking hard questions, however, had finally lost its appeal. She reluctantly realized she was not going to find satisfying answers to questions such as, “Why me? What could I have done differently? Does life really have to be this hard?” Simply telling herself not to think about these questions, however, wasn’t very effective. She had to get busy doing something purposeful to give her mind and heart a break from the heartbreaking questions of her life.
New beginnings are fun to talk about but stressful to participate in. Life began with the traumatic miracle of birth. Starting a new career is filled with anticipation and self-evaluation. Moving to a new community exposes our hopes and insecurities. In time, these new starts make us better people, but they require a courageous investment on our part. When the next opportunity to do something worthwhile presents itself, work hard at it and keep your eyes open to see God’s hand of favor.
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This is helpful and smart advice, and something I did eventually after experiencing a divorce. However, I think it needs to be acknowledged that it can be extremely difficult to take these steps when one is feeling grief. Some people will find it far more difficult to do so, and there will be different timelines depending on the person.
Well said James. Grief runs its own cycle in each person’s life so we can never make a formula out of it. In my opinion, it is better to give people permission to grieve then help them grow when they are ready.