The name Naomi means “pleasant.” Yet the life of Naomi in the first chapter of Ruth seems anything but pleasant. Naomi herself is brought to wonder, “Is this who I even am any more?” Yet Naomi’s story is that of the sweet bitterness of God’s affliction, of the pleasant paths of pain that God sends.
The apostle Peter writes to hurting and persecuted Christian believers, who have been “scattered” from their homes and familiar surroundings, and tells them to cast all their anxieties on God knowing that God cares for them (1 Peter 5:7). This is not some puff piece, or academic lecture, or thoughtless encouragement. Peter is communicating to real people, in real pain, and giving them real comfort. God cares about you!
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me“ (Psalm 23:4). We too often talk about God, without talking to God. We can give mental assent to certain Bible teaching – Jesus is Lord, Jesus is a Shepherd, Jesus is awesome – but not say to Jesus, “Rule my life as my Lord, be my Shepherd, help me to walk in awe of you!”
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. (Psalm 23:2) While it is true that we all have experienced what we might call “a good day” — when the children are behaving, the sun is shining, our body is healthy, our spouse is agreeable — these blessings from our benevolent God are not unique to believers who have Christ as their shepherd. Even unbelievers can enjoy these things.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Nothing could be more purely practical than this passage, this claim by Jesus! Yes, it is a theological claim, but it should be far more than another point of orthodoxy for us as Christians.
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45). David was victorious over Goliath because he trusted the invisible God with very real and visible and impending problems. But remember this! It is easy to look at someone else’s successful battle, after the fact, and take for granted the outcome.
Do not fear, only believe (Mark 5:36). As you read this, you may at this moment be filled with hope and expectation … or you may be filled with dread and anxiety about the future. Either way, Jesus’ simple words to a suffering man speak volumes. Jesus invites us to rest in him, now and always. But why should we trust Jesus? How can we be certain that he has our best in mind, or that he is working for our good?
The appointed time has grown very short … For the present form of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:29,31). God himself has set the bounds of this universe, and it will not last forever. Therefore, every day that passes is God drawing the earth closer to its eventual and inevitable conclusion. And not only is this world finite, but our individual time on it is more limited still. As James reminds us, our life is like “mist,” here and then quickly gone.
Did you know that the command “Fear not” is by far the most repeated command in the Bible, across both Testaments? We can so easily paint an inaccurate, unrealistic picture of biblical heroes in our minds. The fact is they, like we, struggled with fear and anxiety about God’s working in their lives. This is of course the only explanation as to why we see this constant refrain throughout Scripture: “Fear not.”