Are your vacations restful? Have you ever returned from a vacation more tired than you left?
Years ago, I was mountain biking with Donna in Friuta, Colorado (on the 18 Road Trails) and found myself zipping down amazing single-track (which should have been fun), but I was thinking in my head, “What does this matter, I’ll just be back at work in next week.” That was a sign of burnout. I was on vacation, but I was stressed out and my heart was a mess. Can you relate?
The story of Ruth takes place “during the days when the Judges rules.” That was a time of anarchy during which Israel never found true rest, they only found temporary relief. There is a difference. The central question in the book of Ruth is; How does one find rest? Not just a good night’s sleep, but peace, a quiet worry-free soul, security and stability. Rest that can even be found during a crisis, like a famine. This kind of rest was rare during the days when the Judges ruled – and it’s rare today as well.
The story of Ruth begins with instability, insecurity and a famine in Bethlehem (“the house of bread”). Elimelech took his family from Bethlehem to the enemy nation of Moab in search of rest, stability and security but instead, he and his sons found death, and his wife Naomi found 10 years of despair. Anytime we leave God out of the picture in our pursuit of rest, we will experience some degree of death, darkness and despair. After 10 years of suffering the consequences of her husband lack of faith and character, Naomi returned to Bethlehem with Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law.
Now back in Bethlehem, the question becomes; how can Naomi, the old widow, find rest, abundance, stability, and security without a husband and offspring? Is it too late? And, is any kind of “rest” available to Ruth “the Moabite?” Isn’t God’s promise of rest and blessing only for the Israelites? It was in Bethlehem during the harvest season that Ruth meets Boaz, a busy land owner who was responsible for his employees, harvesting, protecting and distributing the grain, and yet, he was not too busy to personify God’s kindness to Ruth and Naomi.
Do you know someone that you’d define as “restful?”
I’d bet a fair amount that if you approached 10 people and ask “How are you?” that 9 of their responses would contain some theme of busyness, of being overwhelmed, of not having enough time. No rest.
Corrie Ten Boom once said, “If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy.”
Carl Jung once said, “hurry is not of the devil, hurry is the devil.”
Boaz walked with God, loved and cared for people and followed God’s ways in a time when very few others did. He was a busy man, but he had time to care for and kindly interact with his workers. He seems to have figured out how to have a full schedule, but not at the expense of his character, kindness and love for even the outsider like Ruth “the Moabite.” Hmmm, he sounds a bit like Jesus.
Jesus was not in a hurry. But, don’t make the mistake of thinking he wasn’t busy. He was so busy that at times he didn’t have time to eat (Mark 6:31). Jesus was busy loving people, not running to appointments. Although he may have had a full schedule, his heart was never hurried.
We all have full schedules, but we do not have to have hurried hearts. We can be busy, and also experience rest, even in the middle of a crisis. How? Walking with God through the full days like Boaz, and like Jesus who never left his Father out of the picture.
This is why Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you REST. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find REST for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29).
I won’t even ask if you are busy or if your schedule is full today. But the key question is, do you have a hurried heart? Walking with God in our busy days is the first step in finding rest.