Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Decisions in Crisis

Devotion: Ruth 1:11-14

My wife has often remarked that I do not behave well in crisis. My usually sharp decision-making matrix breaks down and I start doing things that are not only rash, but out-of-character. I think it is the part of me that wants to make everything right and fix what is wrong that takes over and I stop doing proper analysis of the situation and counting the costs. While these are my personal hang-ups in crises, I do not think I am alone. I think that for many decision-making in a time of crisis or turmoil is difficult to do well and often leads to questionable results.
As we zoom in our devotional passage this week, it is worth remembering that we find three women (Naomi, Orpah and Ruth) who all now widowed in a culture where widowhood means becoming destitute. The situation is dire, the choices are desperate, and the decision-making is more emotional than rational.
"But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.” Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. " -Ruth 1:11-14 ESV
Naomi has been so devastated by the present crisis that she has no ability to imagine redemption. It is as if she faces the present circumstance and says, "The Lord has cursed me and there is no hope." The only way forward for her daughter-in-laws, so far as she knows, is to bear sons and let them grow up and then marry the two. Naomi knows this a pipe dream and so dismisses the option as quickly as she suggests it. At this point, she succumbs completely to bitterness and let's all hope run out.
Bitterness kills the redemption imagination and the reliance upon faith that God will bring good out of even the most devastating of circumstances. In her grief, Naomi cannot see beyond the current crisis and this, for her, is actually sin. She loses faith in the Lord and even goes so far as to assert that the Lord has acted specifically against her through the death of her husband and her two sons. Far from trusting the Lord to provide redemption and renewal, Naomi lays her crisis at the Lord's feet and asserts her wretchedness as the direct action of the Lord. This is wrong, as the rest of the story will make clear, but at the same time, it is understandable in the moment of crisis to wonder about such things. In light of fires, earthquake and hurricanes in our news recently, we may even be tempted to assert that the Lord has brought judgment in these acts, yet such a view does not come from wisdom. Wisdom would lead us to conclude that crisis and disaster befall us no matter our standing before the Lord, so our part is to be sure we are ready to meet our God should the circumstance lead to our death--and the only way to be ready is to put faith in Christ Jesus, the one who defeated sin, death and Satan, the one who makes all things new, and the one who redeems his own.
Crisis decision-making is never easy. When the decision-making is handed over by Naomi to Ruth and Orpah they will choose different paths. We will look at Ruth's path throughout the rest of this series, but at this point it is Orpah we need to put in view. Orpah chooses to return to her mother's house and, God-willing, take a new husband. While we can contrast Orpah's decision to leave Naomi with Ruth's decision to stay with Naomi and, therefore, pass judgment on Orpah for making the wrong decision, the Scripture makes no such claim or conclusion. Orpah chooses to return home and this is her response to the crisis. She is not necessarily wrong in making that choice anymore than Ruth is not necessarily wrong for NOT making that choice. She responds as best she can with the available information to the crisis at hand. I am uncomfortable with saying that she showed a lack of faith in the Lord, but certainly Ruth's more famous response seems to invite that thought.
Instead, gentle reader, let us take a sympathetic view of Orpah. She has just been told by her beloved mother-in-law to go home to her mother's house. She has been assured that staying will only produce more misery and condemn her to a lifetime of widowhood and the destitution that brings. Faced with the available information, she decides it best to do as Naomi says. This is not sin for Orpah, but rather a woman trying to do the best she can in a very tough spot. No, if there is sin in the passage it is in Naomi's bitterness and her lack of faith that the Lord will make a way where there seems to be no way. We never go wrong when we fall on the mercy of the Lord in faith, even, and perhaps especially, when in crisis.

News for You:

Fair Outreach Report:
We gave out over 800 bottles of water, talked with dozens of people in our community and enjoyed making our Savior's presence known. Thanks to all who helped. Our next big outreach event will be our annual Trunk-or-Treat. Start planning now for serving our community by providing a fun, festive and safe experience for parents and kids on October 31.
Adam's Road Ministry Event, September 14, 7 p.m.
The musical group Adam's Road  will be at CPC soon. This group will be sharing the gospel in both testimony and music and should not be missed. Again, come out and bring some friends. The event is free (though a love offering will be taken) and everyone attending gets a free CD. 
Small Groups to Launch the week of September 24
Our Fall Small Groups will be concentrating on, "Your Church Experiencing God Together," the follow-up to last Fall's "Experiencing God." Sign ups will begin shortly, do not miss out!

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