Before you conduct this worship program ask the women to read the book of Ruth at home.
Play soft instrumental music. Use simple flower arrangements as centerpieces. Have available boxes of tissues as talking about grief can be very emotional.
Coffee, tea, water with lemon bars, strawberry shortcakes, or a fluffy key lime pie. You can find recipes on the Internet. The following is one site: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/fluffy-key-lime-pie.
If you know that one of the women has experienced a great sadness in her life, (death of a loved one, loss of job, loss of home, a great illness) ask if she is willing to share her testimony about her grief and how God spoke to her during this time.
Purchase paper lanterns that can be found on Amazon. At the end of the meeting invite the women to write a note of release or thanks to God, then symbolically light them and watch them fly towards the heavens. If lighting the lanterns is a not allowed in your community, use helium balloons.
A Letter to God
Encourage the women to write a letter to God expressing their feelings of disappointment or sadness. They can seal them to take them home or permanently shred them. It can be healing for the women to share their letters with the group of they wish to do so.
If the women like the hands-on approach, invite them to use modeling clay or paper and pencils to give shape to their feelings regarding grief.
Create uplifting and encouraging scripture cards that can be sent to others.
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Psalms 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalms 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Psalms 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Revelation 21:4 “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Washing of Feet
Read John 13:1–9
Consider closing out your worship period by following Jesus’ example and washing the women’s feet. Set up two to three tables (depending on the size of your group.) Ask one or two of the leaders to assist you by standing behind a bowl of water with hand towels and lotion. If your group finds this uncomfortable, wash the women’s hands instead. The reminder is that God hears our prayers. He graciously removes the “junk” we allow to build up, and then lovingly and gently brings us comfort from His Holy Spirit. Close in prayer.
- How would you describe grief or loss?
- Have you experienced a loss in your life? (Death, infertility, loss of job or a home.)
- How can we help someone in a time of loss?
- What does the Bible say about our feelings?
- How did you see God’s hand at work during your difficult days?
The story of Naomi, as outlined in the book of Ruth, is illustrated by the names of the characters. Naomi means “My Joy” and she was married to Elimelech which means “God is King.” Elimelech was from Bethlehem and all was well until a famine hit the land. Had he lived up to his name and trusted in God, he could have saved his family a lot of problems. He chose a rather faithless route and relocated to the foreign land of Moab, a place where God was not acknowledged as King.
Naomi and Elimelech had two sons, Mahlon (meaning sick) and Chilion (meaning ailing). Both married Moabite women. Soon, tragedy struck. First Elimelech died making Naomi a widow. By the time they had lived in Moab for 10 years, both of her sons had also died leaving three grieving widows. Naomi encouraged her daughters–in–law to return to their homes so they would be supported. One kissed her mother–in–law and wept bitterly as she returned home. The other daughter–in–law, Ruth, decided to stay with Naomi saying, “Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.” Ruth and Naomi then embarked on a journey to Naomi’s home of Bethlehem.
When they arrived, people immediately recognized Naomi but when she spoke to them, she said, “don’t call me Naomi for my name is now Mara.” Mara means bitter! Take a moment to consider your lowest point in life. Perhaps you lost a job or suffered great financial distress. Perhaps you were rejected by someone close to you. Maybe a death occurred causing you to doubt God and to become angry and bitter. Well, that was Naomi’s experience. “Call me Mara because the Almighty has made my life very bitter” (Ruth 1:20).
This is also an image of hopelessness. A tragic widow returning to the home she had left after losing her husband and two sons and accompanied by her foreign daughter–in–law. In her own words, Naomi “…went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:21). Thank God that this isn’t the ending point of Naomi’s life, but the beginning of a remarkable story of hope and redemption.
There is a great deal of kindness and forgiveness in this story which starts with the remarkable Ruth. At harvest time, Ruth goes to glean the fields belonging to Boaz who was a family member. Noticing Ruth and hearing of her reputation, Boaz not only allows this foreigner to glean in his field but makes sure she has enough to drink and eat. Indeed, so successful was Ruth’s gleaning that she returned to Naomi with six gallons worth of grain.
Naomi tells Ruth about Boaz who we learn is a “Kinsman–Redeemer.” A Kinsman-Redeemer represents a family member who cannot act on his own behalf. In this instance, Naomi was a widow who could not sell the land that belonged to her husband Elimelech because of her poverty. To sell the land she would need a Kinsman–Redeemer to buy the land from her. In doing so Boaz not only restored Naomi but took Ruth as his wife to maintain the family name. What a remarkable redemption story is portrayed in the lives of Naomi and Ruth. It is even more remarkable to realize that Ruth became the Great Grandmother of King David and part of the lineage of Jesus Christ.
Spiritually, Naomi was very low—to the point of extreme bitterness. But God did not forget her. One might argue that she had given up on life, but her return to Bethlehem was an important step towards redemption. She left the godless land of Moab and went back to her home of Bethlehem and, as such, back into the will of God. When we realize that we have wandered from God, the important first step is to turn back towards Him. In times of bitterness as in ease, we must cling to the hope that is Jesus Christ.
Put yourself into the journey of Naomi and Ruth. They had moments of desperate darkness; the loss of loved ones, the loss of position and a genuine sense that God had abandoned them. If you consider the lowest point of lostness as being away from God and their journey back as redemption, where do you stand right now? If your life is dark, is it because you have wandered away from Him? If so, it’s time to turn back to God. If you’ve turned back to Him but still cannot see a way forward, put your trust in Him who said, “I will never leave nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). If you’ve been fully restored, praise God for His faithfulness.
Jesus Christ is our Kinsman–Redeemer; He has called us brothers and sisters. “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So, Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Heb. 2:11). By His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus paid the price for our redemption and now He sits beside the Father interceding on our behalf. The Lord Jesus Christ bought us for Himself, out of the curse, out of our destitution. He has made us His own beloved bride and blessed us for all generations. He is the true Kinsman–Redeemer of all who call on Him in faith.