Recently, a pastor/guy/friend, used that word in a conversation we were having.
That word stuck. It’s resonated in my heart for the past few weeks. The news is filled with brutal events and images. Maybe you or someone in your life is in the midst of their own brutal circumstances.
Merriam-Webster defines it this way:
1 archaic : typical of beasts : animal
2 : befitting a brute: as
a : grossly ruthless or unfeeling <a brutal slander>
b : cruel, cold-blooded <a brutal attack>
c : harsh, severe <brutal weather>
d : unpleasantly accurate and incisive <the brutal truth>
e : very bad or unpleasant <a brutal mistake>
It’s not a pretty word. It’s offensive to my pink, happy girl vocabulary. It’s palpably dark. It makes me cringe.
Sometimes, life is like that. It’s brutal. Infidelity and divorce are brutal. Listen to what God says, in Malachi 2:13-16:
Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring.[d] So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,”[e] says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
Notice that little “[e]”, it’s a note that says the verse can also be translated, “I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “because the man who divorces his wife covers his garment with violence…”
Most of us are more familiar with that, “I hate divorce” version. I think we get stuck there though, and miss the point. As if, that God hates divorce should be some major revelation. Having walked through a divorce, I can tell you it’s a given that God hates divorce, because I hate divorce. Ask any child of divorced parents, I bet you’ll find they hate divorce too. My favorite Pastor (and father in law) Richard Hatton, pointed out to me, the truth in these verses that we might miss. It’s that divorce is violent. It brings tearing, separation, pain, injury. It doesn’t just destroy one relationship. It deeply wounds a whole family. It wreaks havoc on the children who find their world turned upside down. There is a ripple effect. The impact is far-reaching. To the one rejected, it’s brutal- agonizing grief.
Ugh. If that was the end of the story, I’d be lying in the fetal position in a pink padded room.
Brutal is not the end!
God can take brutal endings and create beautiful beginnings.
In the story of Ruth we find three women in a brutal place. If you haven’t read this amazing story, stop here- grab your Bible! READ. I promise it’s better than any romance novel you’ve ever read. It’s four chapters of real life, hope, love and redemption!
Orpah, and Ruth have both lost their husbands. Naomi has lost her husband and her two sons. Women in those times, couldn’t just go back to college, get a degree and have a means to support themselves. They depended on the men in their lives for protection and provision. Naomi’s husband had taken her to a foreign land.
For Naomi, there were no fathers, no brothers, no uncles to step in and care for her or her Moabite daughters in law, as would have been the norm among the Israelites. Orpah quickly takes the out offered by Naomi, and returns to her own family. Ruth though remains committed to Naomi. She declares she will return with Naomi to her people.
It marks the beginning of new life for both women. We watch Naomi move from emptiness and desolation to fullness through Ruth’s selfless love. Ruth’s life is redeemed through the love of Boaz, who becomes her kinsman redeemer.
Ruth doesn’t just survive in some bleak existence. God sees her brokenness and her willing heart. He meets her in that place. He redeems! Ruth goes on to have children, and is a mother in the line of Jesus Himself! How amazing is that? God didn’t cast her aside in her dark place. He didn’t leave her in emptiness and pain. He worked out a beautiful plan.
God wants to work in our brutal circumstances.
Isaiah 61:2b-4 …to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
God will comfort, provide, give joy, peace. God will rebuild. God will bring hope, strength, new life. Renewal. Restoration.
Life is hard. Sometimes it’s even brutal. We’ll all face that word sometime. I hope that when you do, you will cling to the One who can bring you through. Who can strengthen you beyond your imagination, day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath.
God picked up a million broken pieces in my life and put them back together. It was not all in my timing, it was not painless, nor easy but is has been more than I imagined. I see beauty in His tenderness as He carried me when I couldn’t do more than breathe. Beauty in His undeniable ability to bring peace in the midst of chaos. Beauty in a faint sense that He was smiling as He anticipated, the unfolding of His amazing plan of redemption for me. Like He had a great surprise just around the corner and He couldn’t wait to reveal it to me- when I was ready. That’s how He is! He loves us so BIG! I wish we could really grasp that!
I can tell you with confidence, heart bursting-jumping up and down- confidence, God will see you through! He will restore. He will redeem. His Word is full of these promises and they aren’t just for me, they’re for you!
Be encouraged. The God that worked on behalf of Naomi and Ruth, is working on your behalf. I found a powerful side note in the pages of my NIV Study Bible, (p. 365) in the Introduction to Ruth it says, “She strikingly exemplifies the truth that participation in the coming kingdom of God is decided, not by blood and birth, but by the conformity of one’s life to the will of God through the obedience that comes from faith (Romans 1:5).
Don’t you love that? God didn’t see her as a Gentile. He saw her heart. She was as much a daughter to Him as Naomi was. Just like you and I are precious daughters to Him.
He’s got BIG, beautiful plans for you, beyond your brutal circumstances.
The book of Jeremiah is one of my favorite places to go to be reminded of this absolute, hope filled truth.
Jeremiah 29:11-13a “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you…”
Jeremiah 31:3-4 I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt…Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.”
Let’s cling to His promises!