October 17, 2021

Disappointment with God

Passage: Ruth 1

In our study of the book of Ruth thus far, we’ve read about the trials and tragedies that Naomi has endured. She’s lost her husband and her two sons. She is now an older widow with virtually no hope for the future. In vs. 13, she claims that “the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” In vs. 20, she asserts that “the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.” She went out full and returned empty. Her name had been Naomi, meaning “pleasant, beautiful,” but now she wants to be known as Mara, “bitter.” And she places the responsibility for this squarely with God. This is God’s doing. The Lord brought about these calamities, and Naomi is bitter about the disasters that she has endured.

This brings up a topic that I think we should address before moving on in the book of Ruth, and that is, disappointment with God. Unless you live a charmed life in which nothing has ever gone wrong, you have experienced disappointments, disasters, tragedies, and trials. If you have not experienced them yet, just wait; you will. We live in a fallen world and in perilous times. Every one of us will experience disappointments if not disasters. Pain, sorrow, and death are universal.

For the secular person or the atheist, luck or chance are the reason for disasters and calamities. Some people are lucky, some are unlucky. It’s all a matter of chance and random circumstances whether disaster strikes or does not. There is no one in control; life is just a throw of the dice. The universe is blind and indifferent to our suffering. There is no meaning or purpose behind any of it on the evolutionary point of view.

But for a Christian, and especially one who has a robust faith in God’s sovereignty, disasters and catastrophes are not the results of blind luck or random chance. We believe that God is in control of all things, even the small details of our lives. So questions naturally arise, such as, “How can a good God allow his people to suffer? Why doesn’t he prevent such painful things from happening? Why do the heathen prosper and the righteous suffer?”

As you might imagine, God’s people have been trying to answer questions like these for thousands of years. Stated more formally is the question, “How do we vindicate God in the face of human suffering?” That is, how do we understand God’s relationship to disasters and calamities? This is the problem of evil—how can God be good and still allow evil and suffering in a world that he controls?

The Bible very clearly teaches that God can do anything he wants to do, including intervening in our lives to prevent disaster or to heal disease. So the fact that God often does not prevent disaster or heal disease is a bit of a problem. When God allows disaster and catastrophe, some people—like Naomi—become disappointed or even bitter.

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