Ruth aNd Hannah


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Ruth aNd Hannah

  1. 1. RUTH & HANNAH: Learning To Walk By Faith T he women of the Bible tell us a lot about ourselves. Although CONTENTS times have changed, human nature has not. Women as RUTH: different as Ruth and Hannah How To See God can still help us see how In The Dailiness to walk by faith. Of Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 In the following pages, HANNAH: author, Bible teacher, and How To Deal With Depression . . . . . 16 professor Alice Mathews shows us that women like Ruth and Hannah are especially important because of what they tell us about our God. She also explores the timeless truth that in the wisdom and grace of God none of us lives above the power of a decision or beyond the reach of our Lord. Martin R. De Haan II Managing Editor: David Sper Cover Painting:“Ruth Gleaning” by James Tissot (1836–1902) Scripture taken from the New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan.All rights reserved. © 2004 RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, Michigan Printed in USA © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. RUTH: to see who ends up in How To See God his arms. If you have ever sat In The Dailiness down to read the little Of Life book of Ruth in the Old D o you enjoy reading? Testament, were you It is my greatest joy tempted to sneak a peak to and sometimes my see how the story ends? If besetting sin. I can lose you did, you were probably myself in a good book when disappointed. The final I should be doing other verses of Ruth chapter 4— things. Most of us who enjoy the climax of the whole reading know that a good story—seem anything but story can take us out of the climactic. What we find humdrum sameness of our there is a genealogy: lives and transport us into “Perez was the father of the tension and drama of Hezron, Hezron the father someone else’s experience. of Ram, Ram the father of I have a second question: Amminadab, Amminadab Do you ever sneak a peak at the father of Nahshon, the ending before you get Nahshon the father of there? If you’re into a Salmon,” and so on. Can detective story and it’s time you imagine a duller ending to cook dinner, you may for a story? An author would think you can’t wait to find have to work hard to come out who dunnit. So you up with something more look. Or if it’s a great boring and anti-climactic romance and you can’t than that. stand the thought that the Yet, when we look at wrong girl gets the boy, you this little book of Ruth, we may glance at the last page see a very good storyteller at 2 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. work. All the way through To listen to her, it is clear we watch the author that the Stage Director does dropping hints of things not know what He is doing. to come—clues that draw But that’s getting ahead of us in, that keep us aware the story. Begin with the that the plot is thickening. description of the setting Things could turn out as we read it in the script several different ways. Why in Ruth 1:1-5. would the writer want to In the days when the blow a good story with a judges ruled, there was a bad ending? famine in the land, and a To understand that those man from Bethlehem in dull verses at the end of the Judah, together with his book really are the climax— wife and two sons, went and a stunning climax at to live for a while in the that—we have to go back country of Moab. and look at the rest of the The man’s name was story. Then, suddenly, a Elimelech, his wife’s name boring genealogy comes Naomi, and the names of alive and makes sense. his two sons were Mahlon Our story is a play in and Kilion. They were four acts. The five principal Ephrathites from actors on our stage are three Bethlehem, Judah. women—Naomi, Ruth, and And they went to Moab Orpah—and two men—Boaz and lived there. Now and the nearer kinsman. The Elimelech, Naomi’s stage director is God. husband, died, and she Act One. When the was left with her two curtain goes up on the first sons. They married act, we find a bitter old Moabite women, one woman on center stage. named Orpah and the 3 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. other Ruth. After they the god Chemosh, not had lived there about ten Jehovah. Elimelech and his years, both Mahlon and family left the familiar for Kilion also died, and the unfamiliar, the known Naomi was left without for the unknown. her two sons and her While in Moab, the husband. family faced first the loss of The setting is in the time the father, Elimelech. Then of the judges. This period of the sons who had both Israel’s history was one of married Moabite women barbaric oppression and also died. The play begins bloodshed. Between violent with three widows in a invasions, tribal civil wars, gloomy, hopeless setting. and unchecked lawlessness, Naomi, on center stage, the Jews had to contend has heard that once again with constant trouble. Now Bethlehem is really the a famine added to their House of Bread. The famine misery. In Bethlehem—the has passed. Food is plentiful House of Bread—there was in Judah. She and her two no bread. Elimelech chose daughters-in-law prepare to to take his family to move to Bethlehem. The neighboring Moab. dialogue in our play begins While the trip to Moab in verse 8: was not a long one—not Then Naomi said to her much more than 30 miles two daughters-in-law, east of Bethlehem— “Go back, each of you, to distance in the Bible, your mother’s home. May as H. W. Morton observed, the Lord show kindness is often measured not in to you, as you have miles but in distance from shown to your dead and God. Moabites worshiped to me. May the Lord 4 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. grant that each of you Naomi tried again: will find rest in the home Return home, my of another husband.” daughters. Why would Naomi knew that Orpah you come with me? Am and Ruth faced a bleak and I going to have any more uncertain future if they sons, who could become returned to Bethlehem with your husbands? Return her. They must stay in home, my daughters; I am Moab. She kissed them— too old to have another a sign of release from any husband. Even if I obligation to her. They had thought there was still voluntarily stayed with hope for me—even if I had Naomi after their husbands a husband tonight and had died, but now they then gave birth to sons— could not forfeit their own would you wait until they happiness just to care for grew up? Would you her. Desperate, powerless remain unmarried for to do anything for them, them? No, my daughters. Naomi prayed that God It is more bitter for me would care for them and than for you, because the provide them with husbands Lord’s hand has gone out who would care for them. against me! (1:11-13). But note what Orpah What is the tone of and Ruth answered: “We Naomi’s argument to will go back with you to Orpah and Ruth? It isn’t just your people.” Whether out another effort to persuade of loyalty to their dead them not to stay with her. husbands or out of love for It is also a lament accusing their mother-in-law, Ruth God of botching up her and Orpah pushed on life. It affirms God’s direct toward Bethlehem. But involvement in her life and 5 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. His accountability for her returning to Moab. situation. Basically Naomi Can we fault Orpah for told Orpah and Ruth that if going back to Moab? Not at God was “after” her, to stay all. Orpah did the expected with her was to court thing. It is Ruth who did the disaster. unexpected. We understand The second effort to the reasonableness of persuade them had its effect Orpah’s decision. We don’t on Orpah, who kissed her understand the incredible mother-in-law and started loyalty Ruth displayed. back to Moab. But Ruth Ruth demonstrated what still wasn’t persuaded. In the Hebrews called hesed. the next verses we hear her Hesed is a Hebrew unshakable decision to stay word we can translate “loyal with Naomi: love.” It is a love that goes Don’t urge me to leave well beyond the expected. you or to turn back from David’s mighty men showed you. Where you go, I will hesed for their beloved go, and where you stay I leader a hundred years will stay. Your people will later when they left the be my people and your wilderness and fought God my God. Where you their way into and out of die I will die, and there I Bethlehem to bring David a will be buried. May the drink of water from the town Lord deal with me, be well. God shows us hesed in it ever so severely, if sacrificing even His own Son anything but death to redeem us, to buy us separates you and back from sin. Ruth was a me (1:16-17). shining example of hesed With that Naomi gave as she stood at a crossroad up trying to talk Ruth into between familiar Moab and 6 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. unfamiliar Judah. exclaimed. “Don’t call me Her loyal love made the Naomi [Lovely] . . . . Call choice—for Naomi’s people me Mara [Bitter]” (1:20). and for Naomi’s God. We As Naomi continued see her making that choice speaking, her anger at God with no husband and no spilled over once again. prospect of marriage, The Almighty has made devoting herself to an old my life very bitter. I went woman. She might have away full, but the Lord wished for a crystal ball as has brought me back she stood on that dusty road empty (1:20-21). so many years ago. It would Throughout this first have been nice to see how act we hear Naomi talking her choice would work out. about God. She was But she had none. She conscious of His work in the had to choose for God and universe and in her life. But Naomi with no guarantees. as she talked about God, we The scene continues. see that she misjudged Him In verse 19 we see the and she misjudged life. She two women arriving in stated that she went out of Bethlehem where everyone Judah full. But did she? The came out to greet them. very thing that caused her “Can this be Naomi?” It family’s migration to Moab had been more than 10 was a famine. They went years since she had left. out empty. Life was tough Suddenly hearing her or they would not have left name, Naomi, the old Bethlehem in the first place. woman was reminded of Naomi also stated that the irony of that name. God had brought her back Naomi means “pleasant” empty. But had He? It was or “lovely.” “Lovely?” she true that she had lost her 7 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  8. 8. husband and both sons. harvest began. What did But in their place God had this presage for two poor given her the incredible widows newly arrived in devotion of Ruth, who town? pledged to stay with her to Act Two. As the curtain death’s door and beyond. rises on act two, we discover Naomi misjudged that Naomi had a relative in her situation when she town who was wealthy and misjudged God. She focused influential. Was he destined on the negative and became for some crucial role in our bitter. Calling herself Mara play? (bitter), she looked at God Meanwhile, Naomi and looked at life through and Ruth had nothing to dirty windows. eat. Ruth decided to glean, Like Naomi, we can that is to follow the reapers be religious. We can talk during the harvest and to about God. We can offer pick up from the ground any prayers to God. But if we grains left behind. In this misjudge Him and His act, Naomi moves to the work in our lives, we easily stage wing and Ruth misjudge all that touches us. moves to center stage. As act one and chapter In Ruth 2:3 we read that one end, the curtain slowly “as it turned out, she found descends on two women: herself working in a field loyal Ruth and bitter Naomi. belonging to Boaz.” That The last words of the last statement makes it sound verse of this chapter give as if all that followed was us a clue to what is to purely accidental. But the follow in the next act. Ruth author is actually hinting at and Naomi had arrived in a cause for this “chance” Bethlehem as the barley happening. Behind what 8 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. appears to be human luck bother her. She would also lies divine purpose. Even glean much more grain than in the “accidents” in life, would normally be the case. the hand of God is at work Not only did Boaz make on our behalf. Ruth’s gleaning easier, but Now look at verse 4: he also invited her to eat “Just then Boaz arrived from with his harvesters and Bethlehem.” saw to it that she had an Surprise! One more adequate meal. At the end coincidence! The wealthy, of her first day of gleaning, influential relative of she returned to Naomi with Naomi owned the field a shawl full of winnowed and happened on the scene grain. The Bible tells us that while Ruth was there! she took home an ephah of Noticing Ruth, he asked barley—about 29 pounds of about her and learned that grain. Ruth’s success on her she was from Moab and first day of gleaning far had come back with Naomi. exceeded her expectations Now comes the moment of when she set out that truth. “Chance” had thrown morning. Ruth and Boaz together in What happened when the same field. What would she returned to Naomi that Boaz do? evening? Of course, the Obviously, things are older woman wanted a full turning out well. Boaz, in recounting of all that had short, gives Ruth “most happened that day. Such a favored gleaner” status in huge shawl-full of grain his fields. By following his meant that she had gleaned instructions carefully, Ruth in a good place. Where had would be protected from she gone? In whose field young men who might try to had she gleaned? 9 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. Notice Naomi’s reaction for Ruth. Read her plan in when Ruth answered her 3:1-4. questions. Hearing about One day Naomi her Boaz, she exclaimed, “The mother-in-law said to her, Lord bless him! . . . That “My daughter, should I man is our close relative; he not try to find a home for is one of our kinsman- you, where you will be redeemers” (2:20). well provided for? Is not What does that mean? Boaz, with whose servant Why is that important? The girls you have been, a curtain descends slowly on kinsman of ours? Tonight our second act. But Naomi’s he will be winnowing statement about a kinsman- barley on the threshing redeemer lets us know that floor. Wash and perfume the play is not over. yourself, and put on your Act Three. Act three best clothes. Then go is about to begin. It turns down to the threshing out to be the turning floor, but don’t let him point in the play. God has know you are there until provided food for the two he has finished eating widows. But that is only a and drinking. When he short-term solution to lies down, note the place their needs. Ruth needs where he is lying. Then go a husband. Naomi and uncover his feet and needs a son to preserve lie down. He will tell you her inheritance and to carry what to do.” on the family name. As the Thus Naomi began to barley and wheat harvests answer her own prayer for end, Naomi cooks up a Ruth back in Ruth 1:9— scheme that is bold, brash, “May the Lord grant that and a little bit dangerous each of you will find rest 10 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. in the home of another on the threshing floor? husband.” In one way The Levirate Law Naomi models for us the required that if a man died way God works through without an heir, his brother human actions. We are was to marry the widow. The not to wait passively for first son born to them then events to happen. When an became the legal heir of the opportunity presents itself, deceased husband and we may need to seize the continued his name, initiative. Naomi did just inheriting his property. If no that. But we also recognize brother were available to that in Naomi’s plan lay marry the widow, she could real risk for Ruth. ask a more distant relative Boaz and Ruth would to do so. Here we see Ruth be in a secluded spot where using a strange old custom they could talk privately. to propose marriage to Boaz. In Old Testament times, The meaning of what she however, threshing floors did was to ask for Boaz’s were associated with total protection. licentiousness. Naomi I’ve always been glad was gambling on the for many reasons that I was character of Boaz, that born a woman. One reason he would not take unfair is that as a woman in our advantage of Ruth. Naomi culture, I never had to was asking Ruth to enter an risk rejection by having to uncertain, compromising propose marriage to a man! situation with a great deal But Ruth lived in a different hanging in the balance. time and place. She had What was hanging in the to take that risk. balance? Was Ruth being She didn’t propose asked to seduce Boaz there as someone might today. 11 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. Rather, she asked Boaz to Even the schemes of men spread his garment over her and women can be used by as a kinsman-redeemer. That God to accomplish His act symbolized his intention purposes. This scheme did to protect her. It was like not turn sour, not because giving and receiving an the circumstances were not engagement ring today. right for hanky-panky, but Did he do it? Yes and because of the character no. He replied, “Mmmm, of Ruth and Boaz. Boaz yes. I’d like to do that. was concerned for Ruth’s But I’m not your nearest reputation. She was safe. kinsman-redeemer. There is Naomi staked the scheme another man who is closer on Boaz’s integrity. He to Naomi by family ties. He proved to be a man of has first choice. It’s up to honor. But the question him” (see 3:12-13). now in the air is, Which So, no. They were not guy will get the girl? engaged that night. But Ruth Act Four. The curtain knew that Boaz would marry rises on act four. We see her if the nearer kinsman Boaz at the city gate, where reneged. Boaz would settle he knew he would find the things properly and leave nearer kinsman. It was the outcome to God. certain that Ruth would Ruth remained quietly at soon have a husband. What Boaz’s feet throughout the was not certain was who it night, then just as quietly would be. What up to this went back to Bethlehem point had been a private before dawn. The curtain matter between Naomi, descends on our third act as Ruth, and Boaz now had to Ruth tells Naomi everything become public. This was a that happened. family matter to be worked 12 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. out between the kinsmen keep the property when the in a public meeting. son was old enough to claim Assembling 10 witnesses, his inheritance. Boaz addressed the nearer Suddenly the picture kinsman about redeeming changed for the nearer the property of Elimelech. kinsman. He quickly The kinsman must have waived his prior rights of thought, Sure. That looks redemption. Boaz would get easy enough, so he replied, Ruth! The crowd cheered “I will redeem it” (4:4). and Boaz took his bride He knew he would have to home. marry the widow to do that, What follows in this act but he assumed that Naomi ties up all the loose ends in was too old to have children our story. It isn’t enough and he would end up with that the guy gets the girl or the property with no heir the girl gets the guy. All of to claim it. Financially the that is for a larger purpose. investment was a bargain One purpose lies in without risk. How could perpetuating Elimelech’s he lose? name over his inheritance. Boaz sprang the For that Naomi must have a clincher: Ruth comes with son. But she’s too old for the property. If the nearer that! Not by Jewish law. kinsman bought it, he When her kinsman Boaz bought her as well. The and Ruth, her daughter-in- kinsman would be obliged law, produce a son, we see to father a son by Ruth to an interesting procession perpetuate Elimelech’s name winding through the streets over his inheritance. In of Bethlehem. The women other words, the kinsman of the town are carrying this would not be allowed to tiny baby and placing him in 13 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  14. 14. the arms of Naomi. Naomi God provided security now has a son. The bitter through Ruth’s marriage woman who complained to Boaz. God provided in the first act about being posterity for Elimelech empty is now full. Not only and Naomi. Even more, is she well fed. She has God provided a great king a son to carry on her for the nation Israel through husband’s name. This son a foreign woman. God used is Elimelech’s legal heir. the faithfulness of ordinary Does our story end people to accomplish great here? No. We still have that things. strange genealogy as the We find the same climax of our story. What genealogy in Matthew 1:3-6. do we learn from it? Pick Perez the father of up reading where I left off Hezron, Hezron the father (on page 2): “Salmon the of Ram, Ram the father of father of Boaz, Boaz the Amminadab, Amminadab father of Obed, Obed the the father of Nahshon, father of Jesse, and Jesse the Nahshon the father of father of David” (4:21-22). Salmon, Salmon the David! Suddenly the father of Boaz, whose simple, clever human story mother was Rahab, Boaz of two struggling widows the father of Obed, whose takes on a new dimension. mother was Ruth, Obed This bitter old woman and the father of Jesse, and this foreign Moabitess Jesse the father of King become bright threads David. woven into the fabric of This genealogy does not Israel’s national history. stop with David. After many God provided bread more unpronounceable through Ruth’s gleaning. names, we read in verse 16: 14 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  15. 15. . . . and Jacob the father is at work, making divine of Joseph, the husband appointments with us of Mary, of whom through the things that was born Jesus, who happen to us. God is the is called Christ. stage manager in control of Not only did the faithful all the players on the stage. Ruth and the upright Boaz In the midst of what seems serve as great-grandparents terribly ordinary, He is doing of Israel’s greatest king. They something extraordinary. also stand in the line of It has been said that those through whom God what we are determines chose to send His Son into what we see. We may look the world to bring us for God and miss Him salvation. because we confuse Him Many times on a dreary with shining angels. Tuesday afternoon we may God is found not just in find it hard to believe that the miraculous and the God is really at work in our extraordinary. He is at work lives. God seems hidden in us and through us in the from us. Like Naomi in the dailiness of life. On a dreary first act, we can misjudge life Tuesday afternoon we can because we are not sure get the idea that life is all God is actively involved in up to us. But if we belong to our lives. God, even when we don’t Things happen that look see Him at work, we can be like accidents—like Ruth sure that God is moving gleaning in the fields of events on our behalf. Boaz. Life can seem Ruth made a choice on haphazard and accidental. a dusty road between Moab But over all the seeming and Bethlehem. She chose accidents in our lives God to give her loyalty to God 15 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  16. 16. and His people. That HANNAH: choice may have seemed insignificant, but it changed How To Deal Naomi and it changed With Depression D history. epression. It When you and I choose happens to the God and His people, we best of people. may hear no bells ringing. In her book Some Run But the silence does not With Feet Of Clay, actress mean the choice is not life- Jeannette Clift tells of a changing. As Christians, conversation she had we are involved in an with a good friend: incredible drama. There The other day I are no ordinary days. called one of the most There are no insignificant productive Christians I choices. If we saw our know. “How are you,” life as God sees it, we’d be I asked, thinking it was overwhelmed. On a dreary a somewhat needless Tuesday afternoon we can question. She was remind ourselves that as always fine, and had 19 we choose for God and His Scripture verses to prove people, God will use that it! I didn’t get her usual choice in ways that exceed answer, though. Instead our imagination. I got a long pause, and then words all capsulated in one breath. “Oh, Jeannette, I’m awful! I’ve been so depressed I don’t know what to do. I’ve had to quit teaching my Bible 16 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  17. 17. classes. I’m not doing in the web of paralyzing anything. I don’t go out, depression. One woman is I don’t see anybody. It’s the college friend whose all I can do just to get up faith and commitment to in the morning, and some Christ brought me into a days I can’t even do that. personal relationship with I’m so ashamed of myself God. She and her husband I don’t think I can stand have ministered effectively it!” in Christ’s name in East Jeannette explains: Africa for more than 30 This was no erratic years. During this furlough, spiritual novice; this however, she has been was a mighty Christian plunged into severe soldier! I had seen her in depression. action and praised God My second friend was for her accuracy as she a colleague in ministry in taught or counseled. My France. Gifted with a heart hurt for her. This splendid mind, she has not dear friend was not only always found doors open to down in the depths, but the use of her gifts. Focusing ashamed of herself for her energies on her family, being there . . . . Any she and her husband have Christian who is truly successfully parented two shocked by another model sons. Now that the Christian’s depression boys are grown, she has not has not dealt honestly been able to find outlets for with the possibility of all that she has to give. She her own. has lived for several years In the past year, I have now in a miasma of spent many hours with each depression. of two close friends trapped Cynthia Swindoll, 17 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  18. 18. executive director of Insight was excruciating. For Living, looked back over Depression comes in the 15 years in which many forms with many her life was darkened by symptoms. Perhaps you depression. In the preface experience some of them to Don Baker’s book, right now. Dr. Timothy Depression, she described Foster lists seven main her experience: symptoms of depression in [It was] black as a his helpful book, How To thousand midnights Deal With Depression. in a cypress swamp. 1. We lose emotional [It was] loneliness feeling and call it “the that is indescribable. blahs.” This is that drop [It brought] confusion in mood in which we say, regarding God. “I don’t feel particularly [I experienced] bad; I don’t feel frustration with life particularly good. I and circumstances. just don’t feel much [It was] the feeling of anything.” (Foster that you have been reminds us that every abandoned, that you emotionally-caused are worthless. depression starts with a [I felt] unlovable. case of the blahs that The pain was hangs on and gradually excruciating. deteriorates.) Depression. Did you 2. We become overly self- notice the feelings Cynthia conscious. Most of the Swindoll had? She felt time we do scores of lonely, confused, frustrated, things “on automatic worthless, unlovable. pilot”—we drive the car, The pain, she said, cross our legs, scratch 18 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  19. 19. our noses, or eat dinner take two forms. If we cry with no conscious regularly, we may find thought about our something holding back actions. But suddenly we normal tears. We can’t have to think about what cry. Something blocks the are usually unconscious flow of our emotions. Or decisions. We become we may constantly feel self-conscious. that we need to cry. The 3. Our sleep patterns tears are always only an change. If we normally inch below the surface. sleep through the night, 6. We lose confidence in we may experience our ability to function. sleeplessness. If we With this we may usually function well experience a loss of on 7 or 8 hours of sleep energy or a lack of at night, we may find initiative. that we want to sleep 7. Our mood drops. We all the time. feel sad. Depression 4. Our eating patterns often starts with feeling change. If we have “nothing” or the blahs, always kept our weight but eventually the mood under control with drops and a combination disciplined eating, of sadness and not caring we may find ourselves sets in. reaching for food Foster states that the constantly. Or we presence of only one or may lose our normal two of these symptoms appetite and cannot should not alarm us. But if force ourselves to eat. we experience three or more 5. Our crying patterns of these symptoms, we may change. This too can be in depression. 19 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  20. 20. Where does depression divorce. Or perhaps come from? In most cases it someone close to us can be traced to the way we has recently died. Maybe think about ourselves. it’s a job loss with the Some depressions— threat of losing our house. about 5 percent of them— Depression from loss is the are due to a biochemical easiest kind to understand. imbalance and must be Other depressions can’t treated with medications be tied to anything specific for life. It is estimated that that has happened to us. the other 95 percent of We feel down “for no depressions are rooted reason at all.” in emotional factors. Stress often moves Depression is one way in with us when we focus of handling stress. Some on ourselves negatively. people handle stress by It comes when we feel becoming physically ill. powerless to change our Others handle stress by situation. We see no over-achieving. Still others alternatives from which to handle stress with a drop in choose. Wherever we turn, mood, by checking out from we see closed doors or full participation in life. roadblocks shutting us off Many depressions are from happiness. What is caused by some traumatic merely a minor barrier for event in our lives. We one person becomes an can point to those events insurmountable obstacle and explain why we are for another. depressed. Perhaps we feel For many women in their rejected by someone we middle years, depression value. Or we’ve just come comes when they realize through a devastating that they will never become 20 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  21. 21. what once they dreamed of fact, I assume, he is getting being. Psychologists call this so disgusted that he will involutional melancholia. probably fire me. I believe Helplessness gradually that I deserve whatever he becomes both a cause and throws at me because I am an effect of depression. not a capable person. I am All depressed people really a failure. Because I experience a decrease in am so worthless and really self-confidence. If I have am a handicap to my low self-esteem, I am much students, the best thing I more vulnerable to can do is to quit my job so depression. Something my boss can hire someone happens to me that else who will do the job confirms my idea that correctly. I’m no good. The scenario Have you ever played might look like this: that kind of scenario in I’m a professor at your head? I have. What Gordon-Conwell Theological happens is that I file this Seminary. Suppose the incident away in my department head stops by memory where I have my office and asks me if I already filed many other have finished a project he incidents of “rejection.” My gave me to do. I haven’t. So level of self-confidence sinks I feel his disappointment in a bit lower each time under me. I begin to translate that the weight of this heavy file- into all kinds of feelings he, drawer full of my failures. in reality, isn’t having. If As my self-confidence my self-esteem is low, I drains away, I withdraw may conclude that he is from people around me, disgusted with me for not from life in general, and getting my work done. In often from God. I’m 21 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  22. 22. probably not conscious of them with no objective my reasons for withdrawing. evidence at all. But that But the more I withdraw, doesn’t stop us. the more I blame myself. Depression creates a This merely increases the frame of mind in which problem. Each time I do almost everything we this, my self-confidence hits experience reminds us a new low. A vicious cycle of our miserable, helpless begins to spin, leading me condition. This is one into more withdrawal and reason depression is so more feelings of guilt and worthlessness. h Caught in the cycle, Depression creates I feel totally helpless. a frame of mind Nothing that I do is worth in which almost anything. I’m at the mercy of forces that overwhelm everything me in my inadequacy. I feel we experience myself being sucked reminds us of our down, down in a spiraling whirlpool of depression. miserable, helpless Negative thoughts about condition. ourselves quickly become h automatic. We don’t have painful. We really believe we to work at thinking are to blame for whatever negative thoughts. They we think is wrong. We hold become well-ingrained ourselves responsible for habits strengthened by years everything bad that of practice. We do not arrive happens around us. We at negative thoughts through emphasize failures and we logic. We reach most of ignore successes or brush 22 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  23. 23. them aside as accidental. we look at a biblical case Most of the time, study in depression. depressed people anchor Our case study is a their sense of self-worth to woman named Hannah. Her a very narrow idea of what story can help us as we walk success is. Unrealistic with her through and out of expectations and impossibly her depression. We meet her high goals lead us to an in 1 Samuel 1. As we get overwhelming sense of acquainted with her, we failure and worthlessness. discover that she had We set ourselves up to fail. several sources of stress. The mental habit of inflating First, she lived at a others and deflating stressful time in Israel’s ourselves is typical of history. The nation was depression. We end up merely a loose confederacy with distorted perceptions of tribes united around the of other people that leave worship of Jehovah at the us feeling hopelessly inferior. shrine at Shiloh. Invaders We see ourselves as stupid, harassed one tribe, then unattractive, untalented, or another. Over a period of unspiritual. several hundred years one So much for a clinical or another strong leader description of depression. called a judge would deliver It can be helpful to review God’s people from foreign symptoms and the rule, only to find another syndrome. But this isn’t Israeli tribe oppressed by a a medical journal and different group of outsiders. depression is not a virus. As we flip on the news or It is always personal. It pick up Time or Newsweek, happens to real people. We we can understand how the may understand it better if tensions in the world and 23 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  24. 24. in our town can affect the family. In 1 Samuel 1:2 we way we feel. Not only was learn that Elkanah had two Hannah’s nation oppressed wives—Hannah, who was by neighbor nations, but the beloved but barren, and religious life of the people Peninnah, who was less was being corrupted by bad loved but very fertile. Some priests. The two sons of the of Hannah’s stress came high priest made a mockery from living in a polygamous of the sacrifices, and to marriage. make bad matters worse, Polygamy was a fact of they were sleeping with the life in ancient Israel. Wives women who served at the were a means of securing entrance to the tabernacle. children. In Hannah’s case It was not a time to inspire it is likely that she was faith and devotion to God. Elkanah’s first wife. But Yet, in the midst of because she was infertile, religious hypocrisy we find he took a second wife to a pious family living in insure that the family name Ramah in the hill country would not be lost because allotted to the tribe of he had no children. Ephraim. Elkanah, the In Hannah’s day, a husband in our story, was woman who failed to a Levite, or a priest. Every produce children was year he and his family made considered to be a useless the 10-mile journey on foot link in the chain leading to the tabernacle or shrine to the promised Messiah. at Shiloh to worship. Hannah’s situation was Hannah lived at a depressing. Year after year stressful time both politically Peninnah produced children. and religiously. But she also Year after year Hannah had to live with stress in her suffered emotionally from 24 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  25. 25. her infertility, her hopes for children keep bumping into a pregnancy receding with you, wiping their noses on every menstrual period. your skirt, or asking you to Hannah’s stress in the family carry them. No wonder came not only from being in Hannah arrived at Shiloh a polygamous marriage. It under a black cloud of also came from her infertility depression. as she lived next to a co-wife How do we know she who had no trouble was depressed? What were conceiving and bearing some of her symptoms? children. Elkanah’s questions to his Hannah’s stress, wife in verse 8 give us some however, was compounded clues: by the fact that Peninnah Why are you weeping? never stopped needling her Why don’t you eat? Why about her childlessness. In are you downhearted? verse 6 we read that her Think back to Foster’s rival, Peninnah, “kept seven major symptoms of provoking her in order to depression (pp.18-19). irritate her.” We know from He said that any three verse 7 that this had been indicated depression. going on for a long time— Hannah was depressed. “year after year.” Elkanah’s well-intentioned One of the most trying effort to console her did not times for Hannah appears succeed. Nothing seemed to have been the annual to make any difference. Her pilgrimage to Shiloh. despair was overpowering. Imagine having to walk for She withdrew from the 10 miles with someone who comfort of her husband. never stops picking at your She withdrew from the inadequacy all the while her family circle. 25 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  26. 26. If you have ever she tried to help Elkanah been in the black hole understand her misery of depression, you can when he attempted to sympathize with Hannah. console her. Until she She was depressed, and speaks in verse 11, she she had much in her life to has been a silent suffering cause her depression. In the figure, very much like midst of it all, however, many women suffering Hannah had not lost her from depression today. grip on God. Watch what Depression has a way of happens next. In verses 9 robbing us of the ability and 10 we read: to communicate with the Once when they had important people around finished eating and us. We may feel that no drinking in Shiloh, one will understand. Hannah stood up. In bitterness of soul she Now Eli the priest was wept. But she did something sitting on a chair by the else. She prayed to the Lord. doorpost of the Lord’s The first time we hear her temple [tabernacle]. In speak, we hear her bitterness of soul Hannah addressing God: wept much and prayed to She made a vow, saying, the Lord. “O Lord Almighty, if You Note that while we have will only look upon Your learned a lot about Hannah servant’s misery and in the Bible story up to this remember me, and not point, we only now hear forget Your servant but Hannah herself speak. give her a son, then I We have had no indication will give him to the whether she answered Lord for all the days of Peninnah’s jeers or whether his life, and no razor will 26 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  27. 27. ever be used on his head.” of her petition. “Look at my Hannah’s vow was called misery! Remember me! a Nazirite vow. Samson, an Don’t forget me! Give me a earlier judge of Israel, was son!” We hear the heaviness also a Nazirite, “set apart in the words she prays. We to God from birth,” one see it in the way she prays. who would “begin the Read verses 12 through 16: deliverance of Israel from As she kept on praying to the hands of the Philistines” the Lord, Eli observed her (Jud. 13:5). Jews believed mouth. Hannah was that anything that had not praying in her heart, and been touched, plowed, or her lips were moving but cut belonged to the Lord. her voice was not heard. A field was the Lord’s until it Eli thought she was was plowed. Once a farmer drunk and said to her, dug it up, it was his and “How long will you keep not the Lord’s. A person on getting drunk? Get rid dedicated to the Lord from of your wine.” “Not so, his birth could not have his my lord,” Hannah replied, hair cut. Once it was cut, “I am a woman who is he no longer had the deeply troubled. I have same relationship to the not been drinking wine Lord. This explains what or beer; I was pouring out happened to Samson when my soul to the Lord. Do Delilah wheedled the secret not take your servant for of his strength from him and a wicked woman; I have a razor was used on his been praying here out of head. my great anguish and Listen to Hannah as she grief.” bargained for a son. Feel her Added to Peninnah’s jibes desperation and the urgency and Elkanah’s ineffective 27 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  28. 28. effort at consolation came a something happened to sharp rebuke from the high Hannah as she stood there priest. In the midst of her praying. Whatever it was, it misery, Hannah also had produced the result we see to deal with unjustified in verse 18: criticism from one who Then she went her way misunderstood her. and ate something, and In the prayer in verse 11 her face was no longer she made a vow that if the downcast. Lord gave her the desire of Hannah joined in the her heart, she would give worship of the Lord the that son back to Him to next morning, went back to serve Him all the days of Ramah with Elkanah, and his life. But that vow and voila!—before long she was her pleas do not account for pregnant and gave birth to all the time Hannah stood Samuel whose name means praying. In verse 10 we read “heard of God.” She asked, that “in bitterness of soul and God heard her and Hannah wept much and answered her prayer. No prayed,” and in verse 12, wonder her depression “she kept on praying.” lifted! She had the baby Sympathetic to Hannah’s she asked for. words, Eli told her in verse Is that really what 17 to “go in peace, and may happened? If our story the God of Israel grant you ended with 1 Samuel what you have asked of chapter 1, we might think Him.” Notice that Eli did that the only way out of not know what Hannah had depression is to have asked God to do. He merely God intervene in some added his prayer to hers miraculous way to fill up to the God of Israel. Yet the empty places in our 28 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  29. 29. lives. But the story doesn’t part of depression. end with chapter 1. The key If we define holiness to understanding Hannah’s negatively—as a separation dramatic turn-around in from all that is unclean— verse 18 lies in her song, that may make us feel worse or psalm, that we find in about ourselves. But God’s 1 Samuel 2:1-10. holiness is much more. Hannah’s depression Charles Ryrie suggests lifted when she took her an analogy that may help us focus from herself and her understand this word holy. situation and put her focus Ryrie asks, “What does it on God. In the midst of her mean to be healthy?” It misery she was able to focus means the absence of on three important facts illness. But we all know that about God. She underlined being healthy is a lot more these three facts in her song. than simply not being sick. The first thing she knew It also means having energy, about God is found in being physically able to 1 Samuel 2:2, meet the demands of our There is no one holy like daily lives. the Lord; there is no one Holiness is not merely besides You; there is no the absence of evil. It is also Rock like our God. the presence of positive She recognized God’s right. It is God at work doing holiness. What could the what is positively right for fact of God’s holiness mean us. It is the part of God’s to a woman in depression? nature that keeps Him Far from being consoling, from doing anything in that could only intensify the our lives that is not in our feelings of worthlessness best interest. His love is a and guilt that are often holy and pure love that is 29 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  30. 30. committed to our best good. see this in 1 Samuel 2:6-7 The second thing and at the end of verse 8: Hannah knew about God The Lord brings death is found in 1 Samuel 2:3, and makes alive; He For the Lord is a God brings down to the grave who knows, and by Him and raises up. The Lord deeds are weighed. sends poverty and wealth; The New American He humbles and He Standard Bible translates exalts. . . . For the this verse, “For the Lord is foundations of the earth a God of knowledge.” Not are the Lord’s; upon them only does God’s holiness He has set the world. keep Him committed to our The Lord of creation has best good; His perfect all power. He can do knowledge keeps Him from whatever He wants to do. doing anything in our lives That fact without the that is not perfectly right first two facts might terrify for us. us. If God had all power and Someone has said that we did not know anything “God does not waste His else about Him, we’d strokes in our lives.” That is have reason for a massive true. It is true because God depression. We’d all cower knows what is best for us. in dark corners to escape No trial and error. No foul His wrath or His caprice. balls or strikeouts. The Lord But God tempers His power is a God of knowledge. That with His commitment to our gives us confidence in His welfare. He controls His actions in our lives. power with His knowledge The third thing Hannah of what is best for us. knew occupies much of her My husband, Randy, and song. God has power. We I have four adult children. 30 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  31. 31. We have always wanted the knowledge what is best, He best for our children. But also has the power to make often we didn’t know what the best happen in our lives. was best for them. Which God’s holy commitment to schools would be best? us, God’s knowledge of what Which activities would be is best for us, and God’s most wholesome? Which power to make the right church would nurture them? things happen in our lives As our children grew up, we are all linked together for made thousands of decisions our good. with their interests at heart. What brought Hannah But we were not always sure out of her depression? She that our choices were wise. saw God as He really is. God Not only have Randy and backed His commitment I often lacked knowledge of to her welfare with His what was best for our knowledge and His power children; there were times to do what needed to be when we knew what was done in her life. best but didn’t have the Hannah’s story had a power to make that decision happy ending. Samuel was stick. We’re finite, fallible born. She gave him to the parents who have made lots Lord, and God gave her of mistakes along the way. three more sons and two We wanted what was best daughters. Yet in 1 Samuel for our children, but we 1:18, when she stopped lacked the knowledge and praying, ate some food, and the power we needed. stopped looking sad, she God is not finite. God didn’t know at that moment is not fallible. He not only how the story would end. wants what is best for us She was able to do that and knows with perfect because she had met with 31 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  32. 32. God and understood who reminds us that “looking He was and what He could downward that makes one do. dizzy.” I’m an acrophobe. At the beginning of I don’t like being up high this section, I mentioned on the top of things like fire that psychologists believe towers or monuments or depression is related to skyscrapers. Looking down the way we think about terrifies me. ourselves. It is also true that Spiritually speaking, the depression is related to the downward look is the one way we think—or fail to that leads to depression. think—about God. Once The upward look takes we bind ourselves to a God- away our fear. Look to sized God, we have a the God of Hannah, resource for dealing with the One who dispelled depression. We can focus her depression with a new on God—His holiness, His understanding of His love, knowledge, His power. We His knowledge, and His can face our fears and power. anxieties in the light of His character and His commitment to us. If depression results from the way we think about ourselves, then it can be lifted by the way we think h This booklet is excerpted about ourselves in relation from A Woman God Can Lead to a holy, knowledgeable, by Alice Mathews, published and powerful God who is by Discovery House Publishers © 1998. Alice is a regular committed to us. participant on the RBC daily Robert Browning radio program Discover The Word. 32 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  33. 33. Get your free Bible Resources catalog! Discovery Series booklets can be valuable guides to help you learn what the Bible says about a broad range of topics. Each 32-page booklet can be used in your personal Bible study or in a small-group setting. Your free Bible Resources catalog includes a brief description of each Discovery Series booklet. To get your copy, write to us at the address below and ask for a catalog. Or follow the link below to request your copy today. USA: PO Box 2222, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2222 Canada: Box 1622, Windsor, ON N9A 6Z7