Monday, February 21, 2011

Tough Times - Tender Hearts

My life has been remarkably smooth. Sure there have been some rough spots - losses, mistakes, sins, heartaches - but compared to many others mine seem not so dramatic. I have no explanation for this. I am grateful for all the good days in my journey so far.

I talk with people regularly that are going through very tough times. I am thinking of just the past year - a woman who's husband died suddenly and she is alone now, a couple who lost a child, a man who saw his business crumble after 30 years, a teenager with a brain tumor - this is just a partial list. When we face these seemingly unfair events in our life it turns our world upside down.

I think of these folks when I read the story of Naomi in the little book of Ruth found in the Old Testament. Naomi loses her husband, then her two grown sons - she is a widow without her children in a foreign place - she says basically "I was full, but now God you made me empty."
She also says at a certain point in the story that she is bitter. She even tells people to stop calling her Naomi, which means "sweet one" and instead to call her Mara, which means "bitter."

When life comes crashing in on us it is hard to not become bitter. Phillip Yancey describes it this way: we ask God three questions - God, are you being unfair? God, are you silent? God, are you hidden? Yancey says these are the questions that Job asks of God - Naomi is a female Job. She is broken and bitter. It seems like life has crushed her.

I want to be very frank and honest. I am tired of seeing people suffer. It wears me out. Working with people in pain, is exhausting. I cannot even imagine how difficult it must be for them.

One thing I have noticed: people who somehow keep a heart and soul that is tender - not hardened - seem to recover from losses better. When we harden our heart we really stop living and just start existing.

In the case of Naomi, God sends a remarkable daughter-in-law named Ruth into her life, who blesses, loves and helps Naomi become "sweet one" again. The end of the story has a joyous ending - even with all the losses. Somehow Naomi did not allow her heart to become cold and calloused - God's grace came to the rescue!

The wisdom of Proverbs 4:23 makes the point:
"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

Just thinking, Steve

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