Fighting for Rest
The word “rest” is used, if not thought about by weary parents, too many times in one day for any human to attempt to count. From the moment of the child’s arrival, the parent is constantly thinking about not just the child’s need for rest, but their own.
As parents, we quickly learn the signs that our child is tired, regardless of their age. And at the same time, no parent needs a memo or word of encouragement that they themselves need rest.
But what is good rest, especially in the season of motherhood when nights of uninterrupted sleep are sometimes only viewed as a gift that you’re waiting to receive and unsure of its arrival. Is it a nap? Is it sleeping in with no alarm clock? And why does it feel that even if we get that wonderful night of uninterrupted sleep, there’s something deep in our soul and in our body that is not satisfied with that rest that doesn’t seem to last?
Should we be thinking about what rest is differently?
Rest in the Bible
A common theme throughout the Bible is rest. We usually think about the common theme of redemption woven through the books of the Bible, and we should. But did you know that rest is also talked about from Genesis and through to Revelation?
The book of Ruth has rest as one of its major themes. Usually when you think about the book of Ruth, one thinks about God’s providence in all things. Or, one thinks about Boaz being the kinsman-redeemer for Ruth and that act of redeeming Ruth turns our eyes to Jesus Christ as our Redeemer. Lastly, we often think about the lineage of Jesus as we watch the family of Boaz and Ruth give birth to Obed, who is the father of Jesse, who is the father of king David, which on down the line is then King Jesus. We often don’t realize that rest, and the search for rest in our lives, is addressed in the book of Ruth.
The Quest for Rest
Naomi wanted “rest” for her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. After losing her husband and her two sons, Naomi stood facing the only family she had left in the foreign land of Moab, bid them farewell as she was returning home to Bethlehem and said to them, “The LORD grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” (Ruth 1:9) Was Naomi wanting them to remarry and have a good night’s rest? No. That would be far easier to accomplish than what Naomi was really wanting for Orpah and Ruth. Naomi wanted them to have security, a safe place to live and to have children which would bring future security. In the depths of grief, Naomi wanted for them what she had lost, and what she at the time believed she would never have again.
It’s difficult for us to imagine the heartbreak and trauma this family experienced. Together, Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons left the Promised Land to live in Moab, a place Moses had instructed the Israelites not to go and a people they were not to befriend because the Moabites did not aid the Israelites while on their exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 23:3-6). In fact, the king of Moab hired a diviner to put a curse on them to get them out of the land of Moab (Numbers 22-24).
The future must have looked too grim and too bleak for the head of the family, Elimelech, to stay in the Promised Land the Lord had given them, which for this family was Bethlehem. With a famine in the land, Elimelech moved his family to a foreign land, Moab, in hopes of a better life. While there, his two sons married Moab women, but after ten years of life in Moab, there were no children born to his sons. Ten years! Ten years of infertility in a time when children were quite literally everything – security to carry on the family name, land and inheritance.
After ten years, Naomi was the only one left from this family unit. And it was time to return home to Bethlehem, to return to the Promised Land, broken, empty and with no hope in having security in her life again. Naomi is in such depths of despair that upon arriving home, she insists to be called Mara instead of Naomi because “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20).
Grief is many things.
The one thing it is not: it is not restful.
Grief takes everything out of you and leaves you feeling emotionally depleted and exhausted in ways you never thought possible. Even after nights of sleep and what the body would consider rest, a soul filled with grief wakes up with heaviness that leaves the body and mind filled with weariness as though sleep never came. Grief is not just emotional, it affects every aspect of your being.
In the depths of grief, it’s not hard to question if happy days will ever come again and for the whole world to feel covered in sadness. Grief opens up depths of the soul that you didn’t know were there, and feelings of loneliness and deep sadness can be experienced even when surrounded by people who love you most.
So Naomi, in the depths of her grief and in her loss, bids farewell to her two daughters-in-law and wishes for them what she wants most in the world for herself, rest.
Where do you run for rest? Tomorrow we will talk about Naomi’s search and where she went looking for rest. What do you do when grief is just too much to bear? Who do you run to?
The Search for Rest
Naomi does not return home to Bethlehem alone. Ruth, one of her daughters-in-law, vows her life to Naomi and leaves behind her family in Moab and all the possibilities of what life would have been like to stay home, and she gives her life to her mother-in-law (Ruth 1:16-17).
And now Ruth is the foreigner living in a foreign land, grieving all that she has lost and caring for her grief-stricken mother-in-law.
Instead of physically resting, Ruth goes to work to provide food for herself and for Naomi. Word about this Moabite living among the Israelites quickly gets around town. And in God’s providence, Ruth works in a field that is owned and operated by a relative of her father-in-law. This man is known to be a worthy, godly man (Ruth 2:1) and the moment he learns who Ruth is, he quickly asks her to stay in his field to gather wheat. He instructs his workers to look after and care for her with water and protection, and he prays a blessing over Ruth for “the Lord to repay her for what she has done” (Ruth 2:12). This man is Boaz. And throughout the entire barley and wheat harvest, he looks after her physical needs and showers kindness over not only Ruth, but Naomi as well.
But Naomi still wants “rest” for Ruth (Ruth 3:1).
Grief stricken Naomi becomes scheme ridden Naomi
Naomi comes up with a plan for Ruth to propose marriage to Boaz. A plan that is so scandalous that even in today’s culture if a mother-in-law instructed her daughter-in-law to do anything similar, everyone would easily be convinced that the mother-in-law had simply lost her mind.
Ruth 3 is filled with scandal, but Naomi instructs Ruth to wash, to anoint herself and to put on her cloak to go down to the threshing floor where Boaz was working and to wait until he has had nice meal after a long day of work and then goes to bed guarding the wheat grains from his field. Then, Ruth is to lie down next to him. In the dark of the night and wait for his instruction.
In the process of getting ready, Ruth does all that her mother-in-law instructs. She washes. She anoints. She dresses. These three steps are the same thing king David did after his first born son with Bathsheba died after being sick for six days (2 Samuel 12:20). Ruth washes, anoints and puts on new clothes readying for a new season of life. And Ruth does all that her mother-in-law instructs.
At this point of the story, it seems that “rest” comes in the form of a husband. But is that what Naomi is really after?
The Results of the Scandal
When Ruth goes in the night to lie next to Boaz and ask him to be the kinsman redeemer, to marry her, she is asking Boaz to continue Elimelech’s family name through her and to buy the land that belongs to Naomi in hopes to carry on this family inheritance and name. The REST Ruth is in search of goes beyond wanting a husband. Ruth is asking for security not just for her, but also for Naomi.
More is to come! Join me next week for part 2 of “Rest for Weary Women”.
Copyright © 2019 by Mimi Brady No Ordinary Day Planner. All rights reserved.