When my dad died recently, I was greeted everywhere by the same condolences, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Well, my dad was 94-years-old and in failing health before his death, and I’m confident he’s now enjoying his new, strong, and pain-free body in heaven. Yes, I will miss the long talks we had every few days, but I know it won’t be long until I’m with him again. And in the meantime, my loss is his gain.
Dealing with the loss of my father has caused me to think about the many other kinds of losses people sometimes face. In addition to the death of loved ones, there are such things as health setbacks, divorces, lost jobs, broken friendships, and financial reversals. Our losses come in many different shapes and sizes, and sometimes they come without warning.
Losses hurt, especially when we deal with more than one loss at a time. There’s only so much we can take. At some point, even a straw can break a camel’s back.
While most people are familiar with the numerous losses experienced by Job, lately I’ve been thinking more about Naomi, a lesser-known character in the book of Ruth who suffered multiple losses during her lifetime.
In the beginning, she and her husband Elimelech, along with their two sons, probably had a pretty nice life in Bethlehem. But then famine struck, leading to Naomi’s first losses. The family moved to Moab in search of food, and she suddenly lost both her homeland and her friends. With no Facebook, Skype, or even phones back then, her friendships seemingly were lost forever.
In Moab, Naomi’s losses only multiplied. First Elimelech died, then her two sons. She found herself having to endure life as a widow, with no blood relatives, living in a foreign land.
I’m sure people must have told Naomi something like we’re told today at such times, “Naomi, I’m sorry for your losses.”
Such sentiments would have been sincere and well-meaning, and Naomi herself was keenly aware that her many losses had taken a toll. No wonder she concluded, “The hand of the Lord has gone out against me!” (Ruth 1:13)
While Naomi’s feelings were certainly understandable, they were totally wrong. God wasn’t against Naomi! Not in the least. Quite the contrary, He was getting ready to bless her with an unfathomable turnaround that would impact not only her own life, but history itself.
If you’ve read to the end of the story, you realize that the Lord had a plan for Naomi all along. Although there were plenty of losses along the way, each one paved the way toward her destiny. With every loss, Naomi was positioned one step closer to mentoring Ruth to fulfill her role in the lineage of Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem over 1,000 years later.
If it hadn’t been for the famine, Naomi and her family never would have gotten to Moab, where her son Mahlon married Ruth. If her husband and sons hadn’t died, Naomi never would have moved with Ruth back to Bethlehem, where Ruth would eventually marry Boaz and bear a son.
Consider how remarkable this is: More than 1,000 years before His Son would be born in Bethlehem, God sovereignly arranged events in the lives of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz to foreshadow the nativity. What a great testimony to His ability to orchestrate the events in our lives as well, even using our losses to prepare us for ultimate gains.
So, if God has removed something from your life recently, I’m sorry for the loss you’ve experienced. However, just as He did for Job and Naomi, He may be using your losses to prepare you for far greater blessings and breakthroughs ahead.
This may shed some new light on what Paul meant when he said he gladly “suffered the loss of all things…that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-10). Instead of spending much time lamenting about all his losses, Paul rejoiced that he kept gaining more of Christ. While the losses were no doubt painful, gaining more of Jesus made it well worth it in the end.
I’ll admit, I’m still grieving over the death of my dad and other losses in my life as well. But I pray I’ll experience what Job, Naomi, and Paul all found in the end—a new outpouring of the Lord’s grace and favor.