Embracing Hope in Bitterness because of God’s Providence

Dustin Folden July 28, 2019 Ruth 1

Psalm 31:24 - Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 39:7 - And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.

Psalm 42:5 - Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.

Psalm 71:14 - But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.

Psalm 146:5 - How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God…

Romans 5:1-5 - Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 15:13 - Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 4:31-32 - Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

1. Facing the reality of bitterness

2. Avoiding the pitfalls of sinful bitterness

Proverbs 14:10 - The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy.

Deuteronomy 29:18 - …so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood.

Hebrews 12:11 - All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Hebrews 12:12-13 - Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Hebrews 12:15-17 - See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

Romans 15:4 - For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

3. Embracing the hope in bitterness

I. When Facing Bitter Circumstances, Carefully Evaluate the Way You Think and Speak About Your God

“…the loveliest, complete work on a small scale.” Johan von Goethe

“What Venus is to statuary and the Mona Lisa is to paintings, Ruth is to literature.” John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, Introduction to Ruth

A. Important background

1. The days of the judges

Judges 21:25 - In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

2. The country of Moab

“Playing with fire.” John Piper, A Sweet and Bitter Providence, p. 31

3. Extremely bitter circumstances

Ruth 1:5 - Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” AW Tozer.

B. Naomi clearly believed in the sovereignty of God

Ephesians 1:11 - …also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will…

1. regarding the initial famine

Leviticus 26:3-4 - If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit.

2. regarding the return of food in Bethlehem

Ruth 1:6 - Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the Lord had visited His people in giving them food.

3. regarding her statements to her daughters-in-law

Ruth 1:8 - And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me.”

Ruth 1:9 - “May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.

C. Yet Naomi’s theology was frighteningly incomplete

1. Her focus was on the provision she could see at the time

2. Resulting in suggestions that were absolutely blasphemous

Ruth 1:9 - “May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.”

Ruth 1:15 - Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”

3. She failed to see God’s fundamental goodness, love, and mercy even in the midst of bitter circumstances

Ruth 1:13a - It is harder (literally – more bitter) for me than for you…

Ruth 1:13b - …the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me…

Ruth 1:20 - …the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me…

Ruth 1:21 - …the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me…

Genesis 50:20 - As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

“The problem with Naomi is that the story of Joseph has not gotten into her bones...Joseph too went into a foreign country. He was sold as a slave. He was framed by an adulteress and put in prison. He had every reason to say, with Naomi, ‘The Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.’ But he was never embittered against God. God turned it all for Joseph’s personal good and for Israel’s national good. The key lesson in Genesis 50:20 is this: ‘As for you [Joseph says to his brothers], you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.’ Naomi is right to believe in a sovereign, almighty God who governs the affairs of nations and families—and gives each day its part of pain and pleasure, as the old Swedish hymn says. But she needs to open her eyes—the eyes of her heart—to the signs of his merciful purposes.” John Piper, A Sweet and Bitter Providence, p. 38

D. The hope is in Ruth’s sweet, sincere faith

Ruth 1:16 - But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”

Ruth 1:17 - “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”

II. When Facing Bitter Circumstances, Carefully Evaluate the Way You Think and Speak About Yourself

A. What word defines you?

Ruth 1:20 - She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”

B. Don’t exaggerate the blessings of her past

Ruth 1:21 - I went out full…

C. Don’t fail to recognize the blessings of the present

Ruth 1:21 - …but the Lord has brought me back empty…

III. Understand that God is Probably Working behind the Scenes in Ways You Do Not Yet Understand

Ruth 1:22 - So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

Dustin Folden


Pastor of Discipleship & Extension Ministries - Faith Church


B.S - Electrical Engineering, Purdue University
M.Div. - Faith Bible Seminary

Pastor Dustin Folden joined the Pastoral Staff in 2010. He and his wife Trisha have been married since 2006. They have three children, Mackenna, Sawyer and Rhys. They enjoy playing board games, cooking together and going on hiking adventures. Pastor Folden shepherds the 9:30 worship service, oversees the Adult Bible Fellowship ministry, the Wednesday evening Faith Community Institute as well as serves in Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries.

Read Dustin Folden's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Folden to Faith Church.