What Do You Do When You're "Without?"


In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion…
Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
                                                                                    -Ruth 1:1-5
Sometimes all the nouns, verbs, and adjectives of our lives are loaded up against us.

Check out Naomi’s decade of darkness: judges ruled (total chaos), famine, leaving family and home to try to find food to eat, husband dies, sons marry Moabite women (something that the people of Israel tried to avoid if at all possible), and then her two sons die.
The passage summarizes Naomi’s decade nicely: “Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.”  And along with that statement, there’s a whole lot of other things Naomi’s without in her time and culture: without many options, without hope of getting out of poverty, without much of a chance at finding another husband in her apparently advanced age, without hope, without, without, without.
Sometimes “without” is the only thing we can say about our situations. And for some of us, what we did in that season when we were “without” is the source of some of our greatest pride or our greatest regrets.
We’re going to talk more about what Naomi and her daughters-in-law do when their life is primarily described as “without” but for today, how about you do a little reflection exercise:  

  • When has “without” been the best adjective to describe how you felt?  Think back on those episodes in your life.
  • What did you do that was wise and good?
  • What did you do that you regret or that complicated the situation rather than helped to move it along towards health?
  • Did you turn towards God or away from God when you were without?
  • If you were going to summarize what you might learn from your previous “without” seasons, what would you say?

Spend some time now or as you drive today thinking about those questions.


Jan, thanks so much for sharing this. Those "without" seasons are difficult, some more difficult than others. This sounds like a Job-like season and I'm so grateful that you were able to hang in there spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Your story is powerful, thanks for posting!
When I lost custody of my young son in 1999, after a vicious divorce I felt totally without everything I needed to survive. I lost my health to lupus at the same time. Although I lost my trust in God I never denied His existence. The Holy Spirit kept me anchored to faith even while I was having temper tantrums at God. I am so grateful I never denied God. Rebuilding trust has been a long journey, but worth it.

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