“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” 1 Thessalonians 4:11
“”Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.”” Ruth 1:20
The Canvas of the Soul
I’ve always been very aware of my nature – bold, steadfast, stubborn, outspoken, honest, and strong. My ability to stand firm and be truthful is a strength and testament to the faith I have in God, but it can also be a weakness. My honesty can be without grace, my boldness can diminish others, and my stubbornness can lead to my own folly. This year, I had it as a goal to start to learn and practice kindness, quietness, and gentleness. While I certainly have a lot of the head knowledge I need from Scripture, actually learning to live reverently and submissively is a challenge for this feisty extrovert.
Out with the Old…
Naomi’s response to the people of Israel when they recognised her upon her return home is the exact kind of heart attitude I don’t want to develop. Naomi was obedient in returning despite her circumstances (Ruth 1:6), but the culmination of sufferings had overwhelmed her, and her heart became bitter to the Lord (1:20-21). So much so, that she gave herself a new name – Mara – which means bitter.
When trials come in my own life and I reach a point where I am overwhelmed, I am tempted to have a similar reaction. When people sin, when things don’t go the way you planned, when sickness or injury or pain come, it’s second nature for us to give in to irritation, frustration and bitterness, because this is the way of our sinful nature. But as Christians, we are called to rid ourselves of our old nature, and put on the new:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24
In with the New!
Naomi’s companion and daughter-in-law, Ruth, is a great example of godly humility. Instead of doing what was comfortable and most profitable for her (1:8-9), she vowed to stay with Naomi on her return to Israel, to live where she lived and to worship the God she worshipped (1:16-17). While in Israel she was a humble, hard worker, and her godly character was noticed by none other than the owner of the land and, the man who ultimately married her (4:1-12). Instead of responding to the death of her former husband and relocation to a foreign land with bitterness, she humbled herself and through God’s grace became obedient and reverent to His will for her life.
We should do likewise, being prayerful and vigilant in our pursuit of becoming more and more like Christ. We should desire to live quiet lives (1 Thessalonians 4:11), decreasing ourselves so that God may increase (John 3:30), seeking humility, meekness and peace, and hungering and thirsting for righteousness (Matthew 5). We should maintain a constant self-forgetfulness that allows the glory of God to be perfectly displayed in our lives, that we may boast in nothing of ourselves except the cross (Galatians 6:14). We should be gentle, compassionate, and forgiving. Jesus was all of these when He came to earth – in fact, He was perfect – even in the face of tremendous suffering and persecution. He is our example of living life humbly to God’s glory (Philippians 2:1-11).
Read the Scriptures below, and ask yourself: how do you react to trials or sufferings of many kinds? Is there anything or anyone you hold bitterness and disdain against? Are there things in your life that could be a source of disappointment and frustration if taken from you? Pray that God would remove malice, envy and bitterness from your life – and replace it instead with gentleness, humility and a tender heart. Please also pray for me, that I would be obedient and humble to God as He conforms me to the image of His Son, that I would learn grace, kindness and peace.
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5:7
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For,
“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech.
They must turn from evil and do good;
they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”” 1 Peter 3:8-12