I believe it’s safe to say the United States is going through a season of political unrest. The presidency has changed hands and political parties in each of the last three elections. The last two president’s inaugural months included mass protests—one peaceful (The 2017 Women’s March), one violent (January 6th).
Regardless of your political affiliation, all this political unrest—all this chaos—can be unsettling. And unsettling times can result in unexpected moves.
Part 3 of How to Respond When Life Happens
Political unrest and chaotic leadership churn are exactly the things Israel experienced “in the days when the judges ruled” (Ruth 1:1). The experience left Elimelech and Naomi so unsettled, they moved to Moab. For Naomi, the movement didn’t just change her physical position. God moved Naomi emotionally and spiritually too.
Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi.
~ Ruth 1:1-2a
Like with Elimelech and Naomi, God may be using the chaos in your environment to move you too.
God using the chaos in our environment to move us is the topic of today’s article, part 3 in our series on How to Respond When Life Happens—a deep dive into the book of Ruth. The Bible describes two methods God uses to move us in the directions He wants us to go—and both can feel chaotic and unsettling:
One of the ways God shapes the directions we take is through our personal growth Humans are living beings. By definition, living beings grow. We develop and change over time.
In John 15:1, Jesus illustrates this growth by describing Himself as the true vine, God as the vinedresser, and us (God’s children) as the branches. Then, in the next verse, we learn the future of the branches—our futures. Basically, there are two paths for us. Unfruitful branches are cut down and removed altogether; whereas, fruitful branches are pruned—cut where only a part of the branch is removed.
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. ~ John 15:1-2
Those are our choices. We can choose to be fruitful or unfruitful, but that’s it.
Pain and loss are inevitable.
Both choices require cutting, so pain and loss are inevitable. Although all cuts are painful, the unexpected loss of previously fruitful growth is particularly excruciating—even traumatizing. Losses due to cutting fruitful growth can leave its wounded perplexed as to why the loss happened, debating what to do now, and doubting which way to go next. As you can see, when such fruitful growth is cut, the effect can be chaos.Out of the chaos following the cutting of fruitful growth comes movement in new and different directions. Click To Tweet
The blessing though in the seemingly random and unpredictable cutting of fruitful growth is further—and if we embrace the pruning, abundant—growth. Because the branch wasn’t cut down altogether, it can continue to grow—just in new and different directions than before. So, out of the chaos following the cutting of fruitful growth comes movement in new and different directions.
This is how God uses pruning to move us where He wants us to go.
The second way God shapes the directions we take is through shaking. A shaking is the removal of something(s) by rapid movement, possibly up and down or side to side, often violently. In the process, shaking upsets the composure of the things inside of what’s being shaken.
In Hebrews 12:25-28, we see God shaking Heaven and Earth—the Earth multiple times. From this text, we learn God is shaking them to shake loose the things He wants to remove leaving the unshakable things behind.
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven." Now this, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. ~ Hebrews 12:25-28
As residents of Earth, the shaking of the Earth upsets our composure causing chaos. The main part of the chaos is the unexpected removal of various aspects of the Earth—its systems, industries, and institutions. As with pruning, the falling away of different systems, industries, and institutions can leave us perplexed as to why the loss happened, debating what to do now, and doubting which way to go next.
The blessing in the seemingly random and unpredictable falling away of systems, industries, and institutions is further growth—just in new and different directions.
Like with pruning, the blessing in the seemingly random and unpredictable falling away of systems, industries, and institutions is further growth—just in new and different directions. And if we embrace the shaking by moving in these new and different directions, abundant growth is possible.
This is how God uses shaking to move us where He wants us to go.
The Purpose of Remaining
As I studied the processes of biblical pruning and shaking, I was struck by a similarity. Yes, they both reflect loss and its accompanying pain and chaos. And yes, in both instances, God uses chaos and our pain to move us in new and different directions. I saw both of those points, but they aren’t what stood out. What stood out was the word “remain.”
In John 15 (NKJV), the English word “remain” appears in verses 11 and 16, but the Greek word from which it is translated meine has the same root word meno as the English word translated “abide,” which appears ten times in verses 4 through 10. Between it appearing as “remain” and “abide,” it appears a total of twelve times in as many verses. Eleven of these twelve times the words translated “abide” and “remain” refer to us remaining in Jesus and Jesus (or a part of Him like His joy) remaining in us.Do you get the impression that God wants us to understand the purpose of remaining? I sure do. Click To Tweet
From John 15, we see the purpose of remaining is to bear fruit—much fruit—that remains (vs. 16) and for Jesus’ joy to remain in us. Two very good reasons all on their own.
But wait. There’s more.
In adding Hebrews 12 to the mix, we see another purpose for remaining—to be unshakable. We are to remain so that we will withstand a shaking.
And as God uses pruning and shaking to move us in new and different directions, we are to remain in Jesus and Jesus in us, so when God moves us, we move from one unshakable thing to the next—at least that’s God’s desire for us.
So, during these unsettling times, in the midst of the chaos, when you move, also remain.
The “How to Respond When Life Happens” Series:
- Part 1 – How to Respond When Life Happens
- Part 2 – The Freedom to Do You
- Part 3 – The Purpose of Chaos
- Part 4 – The Difference Between Felt Needs and Real Needs
- Part 5 – Who’s Ruling You? An Article about Submission
- Part 6 – Famines in the Bible
- Part 7 – The Differences Between Famines, Fasts and Feasts
- Part 8 – Famine in the Community
- Part 9 – The Meaning of the Land as Israel’s Possession
- Part 10 – What’s Important about Naomi’s Opening Situation in the Book of Ruth?
- Part 11 – Three Locations in the Book of Ruth
- Part 12 – Traveling in the Book of Ruth vs. Now
- Part 13 – Naomi’s Family’s Names in the Book of Ruth