“i’m starving!”, you say when you walk in the door at the end of a long day at work or school. Are you really starving? Did you eat at all today? Probably, but maybe not. Did you eat yesterday? Very likely. The “I’m starving” complaint is quickly followed by it’s annoying companion, “There’s nothing to eat in this house.” This is most often uttered in front of the wide-open refrigerator. Are your shelves and fridge completely and totally bare? Probably not but, possibly. Is there breakfast cereal, some almost out of date milk? Then there is food to eat in your house, it’s just not the food you want to eat!
Hunger by choice or circumstance is a very real problem everywhere but for most of us in present day America, food is always available for purchase or can be found for free/low-cost. We are told regularly and often the average American is eating too much and obesity is considered by many to be a serious health issue.
Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. Ruth 1:1
Famine is a devastating, extreme and wide-spread shortage of food. There has never been a famine in America. Gratefully, most of us don’t have any idea what it means to be truly starving. In a time of famine, the cupboards are literally bare. There is no food of any kind available to anyone for any price. Famine drives people to extreme lengths to obtain food for themselves and their children.
This famine drives a man, Elimelech, to leave Bethlehem with his wife and two sons and travel to the land of Moab. Elimelech chose Moab, and while there, he dies, leaving his wife Naomi a widow. His sons marry Moabite women and then, the sons die. Naomi is bereft of her two children and her husband. Naomi, hearing that there is food in Bethlehem decides to return home alone. Her two daughters in law insist on going with her and Naomi urges them to stay in their own land with their own people; one daughter in law agrees but the other, Ruth, refuses to be parted from Naomi. The two women, mother in law and daughter in law travel to Bethlehem. Naomi is so crushed in spirit, she now insists on being called ‘Mara’, which means, bitter.
Even in a time of famine and loss, there is blessing. Naomi/Mara refused to see the blessing of her faithful daughter in law, Ruth who traveled with her, leaving her own people and culture behind.
When you are completely empty it makes logical sense to go somewhere, anywhere, to get full. God allowed the famine into their lives and he allows famine to overtake us. Maybe your famine is the loss of a loved one, loneliness and sadness is crushing your soul. Perhaps you are experiencing a famine of work, you need a job desperately. You just don’t feel connected to God, your prayers seem to go unanswered, a time of spiritual famine. Whatever your present famine, be careful where or who you go to fill yourself up. Many things and people promise fullness and don’t deliver. Elimelech chose Moab, a land of idolatry, it is much easier to turn to the world and things of the world in a time of famine, don’t turn to an idol, turn to God.
God will sometimes strip us of everything, allow the famine to test us. What will we do when we have nothing left? Will we turn to Him, depend on Him or look to the world or our own resources to “get us through”? Trials are an opportunity and we have the choice to become ‘mara’/bitter or better. Unlike Ruth and Naomi, who had no idea if or how things would work out, we know the outcome of their story. The famine they experienced was not a coincidence and if you are in a time of famine, of being stripped to nothing, this is not a coincidence for you either.
Moving to Florida was, for me, a small famine. I was stripped (by choice) of familiar people, places and things. It forced me to look to God for comfort, strength and peace. God was getting ready to do something amazing for them and through them. God has given my many new friends, a job and now I can find my way around pretty well in my new neighborhood. God had a plan and a purpose in their famine and bitterness and He has a plan and purpose for me and you in our “test of having nothing”. Naomi and Ruth did not see it – we rarely do – but God calls us to keep moving, take the next step and to rely on Him – it’s called Trust!