“I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move; and nothing will be impossible.” Matthew 17:20-21 NLT
Can I be raw with you right now? I am struggling with taking God at His word. At the beginning of this year I entered into a period of prayer and fasting. Each week I asked the Lord for a specific word to pray over various circumstances in my life and the lives of my closest friends/family. Each week He faithfully delivered. For seven weeks I prayed for breakthroughs, healing, delivery (of answers/direction), breaking (of chains, strongholds and soul ties), repentance, protection, surrender and of course, victory. I watched sermons about fasting and felt encouraged everytime the preacher vowed that fasting moved mountains and made the Jericho like walls fall down. By the end of my fast I felt I had grown deeper in my faith, fully surrendered to God’s ability to answer my prayers and trusting Him to do it in His time and in His way. But since ending the fast I have felt far away from God. In fact, since the last day of the fast, I found myself fighting battles in the flesh once again.
Fighting in the flesh has led me to ask God, “Where did my “big” faith go?” and “Did I just throw away all the prayers I exhausted by doubting Him now?” God’s answers to these questions came through the story of Ruth and scripture about faith the size of a mustard seed. I had frequently came across Matthew 17:20-21. I een purchased a bracelet with the verse on it. A mustard seed charm hung from the bracelet also but fell off about a month after I began wearing it. On my desk sits a small clear jar, no taller than one inch with a corked top. Inside it lies one tiny mustard seed. I look at it daily-especially in those moments that doubt and worry rear their ugly heads into my heart and mind. The seed is a reminder to take God at His word and trust in Him with all my heart, leaning not on my own understanding. But every day I wrestle with doubt and fear. I even visited a church one Sunday where the Pastor preached on faith and if you guessed that he used Matthew 17:20-21 in his sermon, you guessed correctly. With hearing this passage so many times, you would think it would have taken root, but a bigger root, that of rejection, that had been growing since I was just a toddler, had blocked any spiritual roots of faith from taking hold of me.
Toward the end of February, a lifetime friend invited me to join an online Bible study on the book of Ruth. Personally, I struggle with Ruth’s story because I believe, if misinterpreted, it can easily create a fantasy love story, especially for the single soul who believes love only comes through a romantic relationship or marriage. But I’ve never participated in a study with this friend so I happily accepted and ordered the workbook. The study inronically began on March 6th, the Monday after a very difficult weekend where a heap of angry feelings and bitterness emerged and I spent two days crying and yelling at God. Talk about perfect timing. I’m now three weeks into this study, seeing a whole new perspective of Ruth’s story. Ruth isn’t just a love story. Ruth and Naomi’s story is God answers our prayers and redeeming us, even after we grow about bitter and doubt His goodness. It’s also a reminder that what God ordains, He will make happen, even if we temporarily step out of His will and spend a few years walking in our own way.
I’ve read the book of Ruth multiple times and am thankful for these new discoveries. They include:
1.) Naomi and her family disobeyed God’s warning to His people to stay out of Moab. They moved there after a famine hit their hometown. However, Moab is where Ruth becomes a part of Naomi’s family. She marries one of Naomi’s sons. After losing her husband and both sons, and hearing the famine had ended, Naomi decides to return home. She urges her daughters-in-law to stay in their homeland but Ruth insists on going with Naomi. In her plea, she tells Naomi this: “your God shall be my God.” Although Moab was a place filled with false gods, somehow Ruth knew about the One true God. This leads me to believe that Naomi and her family moved to a place that did honor God, but must’ve continued to worship Him and shared their faith with Ruth also. This faith is what led to Ruth’s devotion to Naomi, even in spite of Naomi’s bittered grieving heart, and to the perseverance in Ruth to find work and care for both her mother-in-law and herself.
2.) God ordained Ruth and Boaz to marry in order to continue His bloodline, yet Naomi met Ruth in Moab-the very place God had forbidden His people to go. Instead of God sending Ruth to Naomi’s home country, Ruth meets God in her place of sin-a place where she most likely grew up worshipping many false gods. This should encourage us that God in our places of sin also and leads us out of the places and back to Him. He only asks us to surrender to cling to Him and obediently say, “where You go, I will go, Abba.” (Ruth 1:16)
3.) Ruth happened upon Boaz’s field (Ruth 2:3). Nowhere do we read that God instructed Ruth to go find work or travel to a specific wheat field. In fact, no where in the book of Ruth will you read that God audibly or spiritually spoke to Ruth, Naomi or Boaz. From a human perspective, Ruth’s story could be chalked up to happenstance and sheer luck. But God was acting, without audibly directing. Perhaps, knowing Ruth and Naomi’s obedient hearts, He didn’t have to direct them as much as He did with Abraham and Moses. Whether we hear God or not, He is acting on our behalf. Circumstances in our lives will change either through His audible direction, or through His divine intervention that looks more like events just suddenly “happened.”
3.) Naomi and her family left their homeland because they doubted God’s provision. After losing her husband and two sons, she returns home, bitter and believing that God was punishing her. Yet her joy was restored when she remembers Boaz is a kinsman redeemer. Her faith was renewed when Ruth gave birth to Obed. Naomi’s faith was based on her circumstances yet even in Her bitterness, I believe she still had faith the size of a mustard seed. In spite of her doubting God’s goodness and not trusting His perfect ways, , God used Naomi as an interceptor for His will and redeemed both her and Ruth.
It’s been 23 days since I completed fasting. Everyday is a struggle to not only remember the things God spoke to me during the fast, but to keep the faith that God always keeps His word. Times when I focus on what is seen instead of focusing on what is unseen bring about the worst feelings. Every day I find myself combatting the lies of the enemy through prayer and confession. I don’t fight my fears, I confess them to the Lord. He already knows the thoughts are there and the feelings are consuming me. Failure to confess them isn’t hiding anything from Him. Failure to confess is only lying to myself.
I beg for a word from Him daily. Some days He answers, other days He does not. On the days He seems silent, I have to remind myself to go back to the last word He gave me and cling to that message until He speaks again. Of the four areas in my own life that I fasted for, 23 days post fasting, none of the circumstances have changed. In fact, none of the circumstances of my friends and family that I prayed and fasted for have changed. Some have even worsened or grown more dire than before I began fasting. But I know God is faithful and is moving in each area and in each family, including my own.
When I lose my grip on the foundation of hope God called me to stand on, when I stumble or fall, and especially when I grow a root of bitterness, God doesn’t punish me. He helps me up, and helps me to stand firm on His solid ground once again. When I want to be my own interceptor, and manufacture miracles on my timeline instead of waiting on God, He gently asks me to surrender and reminds me that He is fighting these battles for me. How does this control freak surrender? With faith the size of a mustard seed-the tiniest inkling that holds enough power to move me to die to self daily, take up His cross and do life His way. If you’re struggling with trusting God, may this reading encourage you to know that God doesn’t expect you to have “big faith.” He calls you to take Him at His word and to have a little faith, the size of a mustard seed to be exact.