In chaos, God is our constant.
Times of misery are inevitable in this life. Even in our society, with its advanced medical science, people still suffer and die. Sometimes death hits unexpectedly. Sometimes an illness persists for years with surgeries, treatments, symptoms, and perhaps the worst: uncertainty.
Other losses can be just as devastating: unemployment, divorce, rebelling children, unexpected expenses, substance abuse, disability, incarceration — the possibilities are endless. Such losses make us feel like we’re wading through mud in an unknown territory and can’t get our bearings. If you haven’t yet experienced something that feels like a huge loss, you’re probably familiar with smaller ones that can sting just as badly in the moment.
Have you felt like God is silent in these times? We wonder how He could allow such disasters. If God is so powerful and so good, why doesn’t He change our circumstances or find a way to end our suffering? It’s the age-old question, “Why does a good God allow bad things to happen?” But the truth is that in this broken world, in His sovereignty and grace, He allows suffering to afflict lots of people every day because He knows the end of the story — the good and perfect and whole end.
In this study we’re going to be introduced to a woman named Naomi who lost her husband and both of her sons to death. She was so distraught she tried to change her name to “Bitter.” But through a strange, yet sovereign, turn of events, Naomi found a way of dealing with her suffering without giving up her commitment to a God who was real and good. It took time. Things didn’t get better overnight. But she found a way forward and went for it. She didn’t stay stuck.
Welcome to the first session of Naomi: When I Feel Worthless, God Says I’m Enough. To get started, give everyone a chance to do the following:
Say your name, unless everyone in the group knows you. Then, share just three or four sentences about something or someone you’ve lost or some experience that has left you feeling worthless.
Take a minute on your own and write down your response to these questions (you won’t have to share your answers):
Think of your emotional and spiritual life like your gas tank. On a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 being empty and 5 being full, how full is your tank today? Mark where you are on the measuring line below.
If your tank is not very full, how much hope do you have of its being full one day in the future? Can you look forward to a day when things will be a lot better than they are now, or do you see emptiness as far as the horizon? Mark your level of hope on the measuring line below.
At a Glance: NAOMI
Where in Scripture: Ruth 1-4
Age-old problem: Loss and grief
Age-old mistake: Blaming God
God’s timeless wisdom: Give voice to the depth of your pain, and keep trusting God at the same time. Consider how the Psalmist claims his pain and struggle. He is honest about his frustration with God’s lack of response — or so he thinks. He is basically calling God to the carpet but then it’s as if he remembers or recalls just who it is he is calling out to — God. Just a momentary lapse of reverence for who God is keeps us from trusting what He is capable of. “O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:2-3 ESV).
Play the video segment for Session 1. It’s about 26 minutes long, and you will be introduced to three speakers. As you watch, use the following outline to record thoughts that stand out to you.
Drama : Nicole
An art teacher moved cross-country after a divorce, and when she opened the boxes, everything was broken. Was God punishing her for ending her marriage?
Teaching : Jada
Sometimes God will allow pain in your life to push you out of a place you shouldn’t have been in to begin with.
In her hardest time, Naomi is still representing God well.
Does your life, even when it doesn’t feel great, still make someone else want to choose God?
Teaching : Kasey
A trauma to your brain is any time the experience is greater than your reality.
Let yourself lament. To lament is just to say out loud what you feel.
Pain is God’s way of preparing us for our purpose and revealing His promise.
God doesn’t buy our affections with blessings.
1. What stood out to you most from the video?
2. Kasey talked about lament. When we lament, we put words to the deep, internal grief we feel over the loss of something significant. How hard is it for you to lament? Have you ever allowed yourself to speak or write about your deepest feelings of sadness, loss, loneliness, fear, etc.?
3. Have you received help from believing Christians in painful past seasons? What feeling triggers at the thought of trusting Christian people with your pain?
4. Jada said God sometimes uses pain to push us out of a place that isn’t good for us. What are some examples of situations that God might want to push us out of? How might pain be the thing that gets us out of those situations?
5. Naomi modeled faith in God so well that her daughter-in-law Ruth decided to abandon her culture and go with Naomi to follow this God. Think of the people who have modeled faith in God to you. What have they said, done, and been that has made God attractive or compelling?
6. Why do you suppose people often distance themselves from God when life gets hard? What assumptions about God and suffering does this distancing reflect?
Select a volunteer to read the following:
Some people think God exists to make them happy. They commit to Him with the expectation that He will bless their health, their loved ones, their job, and everything else in their world. Yet, when He allows something to go horribly wrong, they feel betrayed.
While it’s true that God does involve Himself in our lives and that He will empower us to make good choices, He isn’t necessarily interested in making sure our lives go smoothly according to our standards. Like a loving parent, God is much more interested in helping us become strong in character, loving toward others, and trusting toward Him. Because we live in a world riddled with sin, He often allows us to endure terrible losses without giving us reasons why. Suffering happens to other people; why not to us? God doesn’t buy our affections with blessings. He wants us to love Him for Himself regardless of our losses. Jesus is God in the flesh, and He came to earth and suffered horribly, partly so that we would know that He knows exactly what it’s like to be human in a broken world. He understands what we’re going through, and He’s right here with us.
7. What reasons do we have for staying faithful to God even when life is really hard?
8. How do you respond to the idea that if you’re going through a dark season, you need to go to your local church and surround yourself with people who know God? How helpful does that sound to you, and why?
Ask for a volunteer to read this prayer aloud:
Jesus, you know all the intimate details of the losses each one of us has suffered. You have allowed us to suffer in many ways with many unanswered questions. And yet we know that you are good and you hold our good in your heart. We also know that you have been on earth where we are and endured worse suffering than we can imagine. You know what it’s like to be betrayed. You know what it’s like to lose loved ones to death. You know what terrible physical suffering is like. You willingly endured the burden of the sin of every person on earth and the feeling of your Father’s absence that this involved. And you are with us now in the midst of what we’re going through. Please strengthen us to hold onto our faith and empower us to make good decisions. Help us to trust you, even when we can’t see the future. Please go with us, and lead us to the other side of what we’re going through. In your name we pray, amen.
Keep This Close
As you go on your way this week, here are some thoughts from the video that you may want to save in your phone or write on a sticky note so you can refer back to them:
Does your life, even when it’s not great, still make someone want to choose God?
- When life is chaotic, God is your center point.
- Let yourself lament with the people who know your real name.
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Let us know your thoughts on the Naomi study. We'd love to hear from you!