Mother Teresa said, “Loneliness is the leprosy of the modern world.” She went on to say, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love.” The book of Ruth is one of the greatest love stories ever told. Starting with a famine, funerals, and fear, there’s a lot we can learn from this story about how to handle loneliness.
In Ruth 1:1-5 we read about a man named Elimelech who moves his wife, Naomi, and his two sons to Moab because there is a famine in the land. The sons married Moabite women (Orpha and Ruth) and then all three men died. Death is always hard but even harder in a famine or pandemic. Naomi, Orpha, Ruth, and Boaz (who we will meet later in the story) are all single. This story is a great reminder that God knows who you are, where you are, and what you need, regardless of your marital status. Singleness and marriage have their own challenges and loneliness. Have you ever heard the saying, “Be kind to everyone you meet because everyone is having a hard time”?
Autophobia or monophobia is the fear of being alone. There is a difference between being lonely and being alone. I have talked to so many people recently (singles and couples) who feel so alone. They have hundreds of friends on Facebook and little to no friends in real life. The pandemic has exacerbated the problem exponentially. The world is more connected than ever before, yet people feel more disconnected than ever before. They move from job to job, state to state, relationship to relationship. We need less Facetime on the phone and more face time in person. People are craving community. Ruth and Naomi ended up moving back to Bethlehem and we read “that all the city was excited because of them” (v. 19). Bethlehem means the “house of bread.” When you are in a famine, hurting, alone, you need to go to the house of God. You need the Bread of Life. We are to bear one another’s burdens. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says “…Two are better than one. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up… A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” We need to do life together with others. There is no such thing as a solo Christian life. That is why God gave us the Church. The Church is not a building. The Church is people.
In this story, despite their hardship and loneliness, there was no need to sit home and starve to death. Ruth went to glean in the fields. Big doors swing on small hinges. What do you do when you are lonely? Get up, go to work, read your Bible, pay your bills, and live each day for the Lord. In this case, while Ruth was working, she met Boaz. There was an instant connection. When you read Ruth 2 you see that Boaz is attracted to her and especially her character. He asked her out for a meal. He even prays for God’s umbrella of protection to be over her. When you move forward in obedience, despite your feelings, God can do so much more than you can even imagine!
In Ruth 3:1-4, Naomi tells Ruth, “Ruth, you need a man!” (my paraphrase). Then, she gave her some good advice, “Wash and anoint.” Sometimes you just need to clean up, dress up, and look your best, but it is more than that. It is what David did in 2 Samuel 12:20 after his son died. Ruth’s season of grief was over. It was time to go on with her life. If you’ve been in a lonely and down season, maybe it’s time to get off the dark clothes of mourning and put on something colorful. For Ruth, this story has such a happy ending. She and Boaz get married and even have a son named Obed (Ruth 4:13)!
When Matthew wrote about the birth of Jesus, he picks up where Ruth 4 ends. Boaz, Ruth, and Obed are part of the genealogy of Jesus! Throughout the genealogy we read the names of a bunch of others as well. God’s grace is fully on display! Regardless of what you have done or what’s happened to you, God loves you and wants to use your life like He used the lives of these men and women. There were many times when these people felt alone, but God told them, “I am with you.” Even in our darkest hour, God is there saying, “Do not be afraid.” When God created the world and everything in it, He said, “It is good.” But the God who made us said, “It is not good to be alone.” The worst punishment known to mankind is to put someone in isolation. The worst isolation is spiritual loneliness. God does not want you to be alone. He wants to have a relationship with you. That is why Jesus came. Ruth understood this commitment. She said to Naomi, even when Orpha went the other way, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (1:16). Jesus loves you so much! If you will turn to Him and let Him be your God, His love will heal your loneliness.