When I wrote this blog, Valentines day was just around the corner. I was thinking about one of the greatest love stories found in the bible. No greater book of the bible expresses romance than the book of Ruth.
She has some great marriage advice for today.
Notice the following winning attitude: I will cope with change without getting bitter.
When we first meet Ruth, she is facing some tragic circumstances. She is from Moab and married into a family from Bethlehem that had moved to the area because of a drought. But tragically her husband had died. Ruth was a young widow. Her tender hopes and dreams were crushed, but she refused to get bitter about it.
Now what is interesting about this story is that Naomi, who was Ruth’s mother in law, wasn’t doing nearly so well. She too had suffered great losses including the loss of her husband. When they all return to Bethlehem, Naomi was an angry bitter person. She was furious with the changes that had occurred.
Ruth 1:20-21 “When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
You read about Naomi being bitter…the changes in life were too much for her. But no where do you read of Ruth being bitter, upset. Her husband was gone…snatched away after just a short period of time.
To make matters even more challenging Ruth had to completely learn a new culture. She was a Moabitess in Israel. She was a stranger in a foreign land. Yet she handled all the changes in life with grace and beauty. Almost the day they arrive-it’s the Barley harvest. Ye there is Ruth out there in the Barley harvest gleaning the fields. She isn’t sitting around the house depressed. She would have never even met Boaz had she stayed home bitter.
I have married a long time. I have discovered something. The minute you get married everything starts to change. Change continues down through life, every season seems to bring something different.
When Jureen (my wife) and I are counseling couples planning to be married, I stress the “for better or worse” part of the wedding ceremony. Most love struck couples haven’t thought about the fact that life with this person will change as time moves along. Instead, they often express the idea that they are getting married because they want to “capture the moment.” They like the way things are going in their relationship and they want to make it permanent.
This is impossible. Time stands still for no one; the relationship will change. Writer Ogden Nash once cracked a joke he said: Every marriage needs a little incompatibility-as long as the husband has the “income”and the wife remains “pat-able.” All will go well. Of course, the truth is sometimes your income fluctuates and “pat-ability” starts to diminish.
A strong marriage is one where both are ready to cope with the changes that come their way.
In the movies, Snow White and the Handsome Prince live happily ever after-and the incredible thing is they never age! They are eternally young. The audiences that watch them today see the same youth as those of two generations ago. But the fact is that the handsome prince will one day lose his hair and his teeth, and Snow White will become wrinkled and gray. That may not be the marriage advice you want to hear. But it is true.
Why do I mention these seemingly “negative” issues? Because, in order for a marriage to be strong, you must be ready to cope with change.
I am trying to teach you a biblical attitude that you need. If you want to be married the rest of your life, ask yourself: “What is my attitude toward change?” Because change is coming! How will you cope with parenthood, or the loss of a job, a wife working outside the home, relocation, the empty nest, responsibilities to aging parents, sickness and maybe even-God forbid-disability?
I recently talked to a couple here in the church told me that they “wanted to grow old together.” They’ve got the right idea. With that attitude, their marriage stands a great chance of lasting for life. Change is going to happen…and you have to be like Ruth and roll with the punches.
One of the great destroyers of marriage is…when people get bitter and angry at God. Naomi was…bitter at life, bitter at God. She was accusing God of dealing unjustly with her. Listen to her words, I went away full, the Lord brought me back empty.
She interpreted the circumstances of her life without seeing the final picture. Even negative changes can bring about good if you have faith. The book of Ruth ends with Ruth married to a wealthy man and Naomi sitting with her grandson in her hands and the women around her saying:
Ruth 4:14-15 “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
In other words her life turned out okay…did she have hard changes? Yes. But the end picture was one of restoration and beauty and joy.
Ruth was a great catch and became a great marriage partner because she chose to believe that the final words about her life have not yet been written. And neither have the final words of your life.
Yes, there have been some changes in your life. Some of them you don’t like. Yes, things didn’t always turn out like you planned. Here is some great marriage advice: don’t get bitter…get better. Turn to God, grieve the losses and move on. And always remember, God has the final say about the outcome.
Your final chapter has not yet been written. All things aren’t good… but God is right now working them for good. He can take what was meant for evil and turn it for good. Besides that you have all the promises of God to trust in and believe in. To stay bitter about life is to insult God.
Jureen and I have decided we aren’t getting bitter about life. The greatest marriage advice we can give is just learn to cope with the changes life brings. We have faced many things that could have caused us to stay angry at God. My son faced a serious infection of the intestines when we were missionaries. We have at times been betrayed by people we thought friends. We had financial setbacks. My wife has had numerous eye surgery and faces pain in her eye on a daily basis. But we decided to cope with change rather than become bitter.
If you want your marriage to last, you have to have this attitude that Ruth had.