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The Delicate Mother-In-Law Relationship - Part 1

Guest: Annie Chapman

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January 19, 2017

Forged in a Furnace

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” 

Proverbs 17:7 

Imagine losing your husband. It is during a time of famine in the land and you are also filled with personal emptiness, hunger, and sorrow. You are alone. Discouraged. Grieving. Then, your mother-in-law decides to move back to her homeland. A mother-in-law who had loved you. Accepted you. One who came alongside you as a godly influence in your life. What would you do? In today’s story, Ruth chooses to leave her people, her country, and everything familiar to her…and cling to her relationship with Naomi.

In the Word

• Read Ruth 1 today and pay special attention to verses 16-17:

But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."

Naomi had experienced tragic heartaches. Her beloved husband Elimelech had died. Then, a few years later, both of her sons died, too, leaving behind two foreign wives, Orpah and Ruth. To make matters even worse, a famine gripped the land. As she prepared to journey back to her homeland of Judah, Naomi realized she had nothing to offer these two daughters-in-law. She urged them to go back to their homeland of Moab and make a life there.

Orpah decided to return home, but Ruth made a different choice. Even in the face of Naomi’s grieving demeanor and insistence that she leave, Ruth declared her loyalty to her despondent mother-in-law, and the two women traveled to Bethlehem. It was now Ruth’s turn to come alongside of Naomi in an act of selfless compassion.

In one of the most beautiful stories in the Scriptures, God honored Ruth as she honored Naomi. A distant relative, Boaz, recognized that she had special qualities of strength of character and devotion, and he married her. We need to realize, however, that Ruth demonstrated love and loyalty for Naomi when there was no hint of any payback. Her motives were as pure as snow. In the end, God rewarded this foreigner’s love by putting her in the lineage of David, and eventually, Jesus.

Make it Real

I believe that genuine love and loyalty are forged in the furnace of heartache and suffering. These awful moments bring us to decisions: to take the easy way out or to remain steadfast in our commitment to another person even if we see little hope of relief. Through the eyes of love, the relationship itself is the reward.

I’ve known many families who came face to face with sudden tragedy (such as a child’s death or financial collapse) or chronic dysfunction (such as mental illness, disease, or a prodigal child). Sometimes, people said, “That’s too much for me. I’m out of here.”

But a few intrepid, courageous souls responded like Ruth: “No matter what, I’m committed to you. Together, we’ll work this out.” The weeks, months, and maybe even years in the furnace of testing in a relationship may be the most difficult in our lives—and for a variety of reasons (mostly our own stubborn selfishness), it doesn’t always work out. But those who come out on the other side have a purified, strengthened love for each other.

What are some “furnaces” you’ve experienced in relationships? How did you respond in each case? Did any of them produce something new and beautiful?

Reread Ruth 1. Be honest. If you had been one of the daughters-in-law, would you have been more like Orpah, who left, or Ruth, who stayed with Naomi? Explain your answer.

Ruth was a loyal daughter-in-law and friend. What are some of the rewards of loyalty? What are some limits of loyalty?

Take a moment to read each one of these verses and think about how they apply to your life. Wherever you can do it, insert your name in the verses. Pray these passages over your heart.

• “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

• “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

Heart to Heart

Relationships are hard work! Early on in our marriage, there was a time when I just wanted to run away. Understanding and loving Tim was just too hard, and I felt like the only solution was to get out. I left him, but he pursued me. The next few months were excruciatingly difficult, but in the heat of those conversations and the pain of facing disagreements and misunderstandings, God created something new and beautiful between us.

I wish I could say that all difficulties in relationships are easily resolved, but that’s far from true. Sooner or later, we all find ourselves in the heat of strained or broken connections. When that happens, don’t bail out too quickly. Stay in the heat for a while and let God forge something new, something strong, and something you can enjoy the rest of your life.

Lord, thank you for the gift of loyal, committed people in my life. Bring true, godly friends into my life, and give me the courage to be the same kind of person in others’ lives. Make me a woman like Ruth.

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