Share This Episode
Truth for Life Alistair Begg Logo

“Why Has This Happened to Me?” (Cancer Support Dinner) (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
January 31, 2024 3:00 am

“Why Has This Happened to Me?” (Cancer Support Dinner) (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1280 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

January 31, 2024 3:00 am

Is it wrong to complain about trials? How can we honor God while being honest about hardship? Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg explores one woman’s response to overwhelming tragedy and considers God’s providential provision through suffering.


• Click here and look for "FROM THE SERMON" to stream or read the full message.

• This program is part of the series ‘Dangers, Toils, and Snares’

• Learn more about our current resource, request your copy with a donation of any amount.

Helpful Resources

- Learn about God's salvation plan

- Read our most recent articles

- Subscribe to our daily devotional

Follow Us

YouTube | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!


When life is full of trials, is it wrong for us to complain? How can we be honest about our struggles and still honor God? Today on Truth for Life we explore one woman's response to overwhelming tragedy and we learn about God's providential provision through suffering.

Alistair Begg is teaching from the first chapter in the book of Ruth. Now, if you're like me, then you try and conjure these pictures up in your mind. You squeeze your eyes together, and you imagine her standing now at the doorway in her adopted homeland for the time being. She looks out of the door, she looks down the street. There's no familiar face. Certainly not the face of her boys.

Certainly not her husband's face. The three men in her life that meant everything to her have been taken away, and she knows why. And she knows how.

Because God, in his providence, did this. This was not like 7-1 to the devil, and God had taken a vacation. No, she understood exactly what was going on. It is important, I think, also to recognize that her faith—although it's pushed, tried, tested, stretched to the limits, the limits of, if you like, emotional endurance—it's still faith. It's not unbelief.

This is important. Faith is still faith. When we trust God, it's not unbelief in her part. She recognizes… If you read this story, as I'm sure you're now going to, you realize that she references the Lord all the time. The Lord has done this, she says. This is the Lord's doing. And it is not marvelous in my eyes. This is the Lord's doing, and it is difficult to handle.

It's straightforward. She doesn't doubt that Yahweh is still in control, despite the pain of her experience. Now, I don't know about you, but I think this is wonderfully helpful. I think that when I find people who are honest about things like this, it has a ring of reality to it that is both demanding and at the same time assuring. I'm not one for the triumphalistic statements. I'm not one for the, well, it doesn't really matter at all, because after all, well, fine, perhaps you live in a realm of spiritual geography that I have never experienced.

That's just not something that has an immediate appeal to me. But I do recognize when someone's heart cry is staggered by the incident, and yet at the same time is an expression of faith. Her faith, while still faith, fascinatingly, somehow or another, didn't quite cover the little bits and pieces of God's provision for her. What I mean by that is that her faith was blind, actually, to the fact that God was providentially at work in her life. In other words, she had faith enough to believe that God is sovereign, that he overrules all things, that he understands what he's doing with his people, that he will bring them back to the place of his purposes.

That's all well and good. But what about for her? At some point, as we read on the road, far enough away to not be tempted to go back to Moab, and close enough to be able to say to her daughter-in-law, I think you should go back. That's some point along the journey where this conversation takes place. And she urges them in a way that is wonderfully selfless, isn't it? The pain is a real pain, and yet she's not preoccupied with that. She recognizes that these girls have a future that is beyond her—the strange statement she makes about having babies and waiting and so on. Of course, there was no way that was going to happen, and so she says, You go back. Go home.

Go to where you are in a place of familiarity. Don't worry about me anymore, because after all, the best of my life is now over. She has in mind their well-being, their security—which, ironically, is exactly the perspective of God in relationship to her. There's a very godlike response on her part. I'm concerned about you, and I'm concerned about your well-being, and I'm concerned about your future. If she could only hear herself speaking, she would hear the voice of God saying to her, And Naomi, that's exactly why I'm concerned about you. You're worried about them.

That's fine. Now, I think we need to think this out, the way in which, when we face these things, as inevitably we will do, we can actually miss what God is doing. The daughter-in-law that she urges to leave, who doesn't leave, is going to prove to be the very embodiment of God's fellowship and faithfulness. She thinks it's a great idea to send them back.

Mercifully, only one of them goes. What, was that because God made Ruth do that? That she was a pawn on a gigantic chessboard? That she did not have the right to make a decision?

No! She made her own decision. They both made their own decision. Freely. I'm going back.

I'm staying. And in the providence of God, one of the two that Naomi thought she'd also be gone was the means that God had provided for her. And there was no advantage to Ruth in doing what she did. It's not as if, somehow or another, it would enhance her circumstances.

Not at all. There was no social or financial or even religious reason as to why she should do what she did. So, what happens, of course, is that her faith then is able to find hope in the signs of God's providence. And that's what the balance of the story really includes. The first chapter, which we just read, ends with the sun shining on the fields of the barley harvest.

So, Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. It makes me think of Sting, among the fields of barley, and the fields of barley, and the fields of grain. Little details like this are fantastic, aren't they? Aren't they?

This is not an invention. The way in which the Bible is written, incidentally, is according to the author and according to the genre and according to the context. So if Ruth… When we read Ruth, it sounded like we were reading Ephesians, we'd know something is seriously up here.

Because when God wanted Ephesians wrote, he had a guy called Paul who would be capable of writing Ephesians. When he wanted this one written, he was glad to have Naomi. But you will notice, she comes back into town, they arrive in Bethlehem, the whole town is stirred.

You can imagine it. Oh, goodness, did you see her? I think I saw her at the market. I think I saw Naomi there. Oh, no, no, and Naomi left a long time ago. No, I think she's back.

You better check and see. And she's got a girl with her. I think she's foreign. I think she's… I don't think she's, you know, I think she's a different… She's a different girl. Really!

The whole town is stirred because of them. And the woman exclaimed, Can this be Naomi? Can this be Miss Pleasant?

Can this be Miss Delightful? Well, she says, Well, I don't want you to call me Naomi. Call me Mara.

Call me Mara. Call me Miss Bitter. Now notice, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. She doesn't transmute the bitterness into a good because of its source. God, a sovereign God, looking down upon his children, acting according to his benevolent will, has done what he's done. And she says, We might as well face the facts. I went away full, but the Lord brought me back empty.

I like this as well. Because she's not kidding herself, and she's not trying to kid anybody else. There's no hiding of her feelings. There's no pretending. There's no saying to herself, You know, when I get back into town, I should put on a really good show. Because after all the people from the church, they're gonna expect me to be… You know, what happened?

No, no, no, no, no. She says, No, here's the deal. I don't think you should call me this.

I think it'd be better to call me Mara. There's no stiff, awkward lip from her. All the things that, if you're not careful, you might find creating a huge guilt trip for you when you lie in your bed at night and cry. Because you're sad. Or because you feel empty. And because you know that this is as it is. That's the benefit, you see, of the clarity and the sweetness of the Word of God.

Faith may not always see in the simple things the evidences of God's providence. I studied at home this morning, purposefully, because there was nobody there, and it was nice and quiet. And I opened the window to get fresh air, but also to hear the birds sing. I thought that would be quite nice.

And of course it was very nice. Consider the birds of the air. They don't store stuff away in a retirement account. God looks after them. If you see the grass, it's been closed once again, and God closed the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow thrown into the oven. Let's not miss the evidences of God's goodness to us—food on the table, companionship.

She could say, Well, he's not my husband, but she's such a nice girl, and I'm glad that she's with me. And then the rest of the story is, of course, just that fantastic story. And I don't want to spoil it for you if you've never read it, because I hate it when people tell me the end of a thing. I've never understood people reading the end of a novel before they do the beginning.

They're certainly not Scottish, because that's a dreadful waste of money. You might as well just go in the bookstore and read it by yourself and then put it back up, now that you know how it finished. Well, her mother-in-law asked her, Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you. Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she'd been working. The name of the man I work with today is Boaz, she said. Oh, the Lord bless him! Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, He hasn't stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead. Boaz was like God to her.

And when you read on in the story, this Boaz thing gets really quite compelling. And I think the last thing I want to say is this, because I've gone on too long, but Naomi's faith could never actually guess what God would accomplish through these trials. Because I think when we think in terms of the providence of God, most of the time we—well, I seldom get it looking forward.

I sometimes get it looking through the rearview mirror. You know, because looking forward it seems only daunting or whatever it might be, and we can't necessarily put the pieces of the puzzle together. And Naomi could never have guessed what this was going to result in. Chapter 4—and again, I don't want to spoil it for you, but so Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.

That's exciting. The woman said to Naomi, Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel.

He will renew your life, sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law who loves you, and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth. And then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap and cared for him. And the woman living there said, Naomi has a son.

And they named him Obed. God's plan was much bigger than anything that she could ever have conceived. And we are to acknowledge, too, that it's the very ordinariness of this story that is so appealing, isn't it? That in the ordinariness of the lives of ordinary people, God is working his purpose out. Jesus' life—Jesus' life in terms of physical descent—was linked to the story of a maw-bite girl gleaning in barley fields, miles from her home, looking after her mother-in-law, in whose sadness and in whose bereavement God had been at work. So that when we get to the beginning of the Gospels—and hopefully the next time that we broach this, we say to ourselves, Whoa, I get that!—a record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Peres, and Zerah whose mother was Tamar, Peres the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, and all the way down. And Salmon was the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, for crying out loud. Jesus came to save the kind of people who were in his family tree. Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife, and all the way down. And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ.

Why is this happening to me? Naomi said, It's not really about you, Naomi. It's about something that extends way back in time and all the way on into eternity. When all the changing scenes of life, in sorrow and in joy, through all those changing scenes of life, in sorrow and in joy, the praises of my heart shall still declare your glory.

And two closing comments, or just an observation, would be this. I don't think there can be any doubt that we will be far more effective in speaking to our friends and neighbors when we're prepared to be honest about our pain, honest about our disappointments, honest about our sufferings. And the fact that that tested faith is still faith. You know, I think it's John Murray who says, If we have faith as slender as one strand of a spider's web, there is the evidence of redeeming love. And I don't know, all of you who are here tonight, and I don't know what you make of all that I've just said, but I do want to commend to you first the reading of Ruth, and then the understanding that the end of the line for Ruth's story and for all of our stories comes in an encounter with the Lord Jesus, who, despite the fact that we try and muscle our way through life on our own, he loves us, and he pursues us, even when we don't expect it.

I had a wonderful illustration of this that just comes to mind, and with this I will close. A fellow sent me a text during the week last week when I was traveling, and he said, I'd like to talk to you sometime. It's not about cars. The reason he said it wasn't about cars was because he's a car salesman. And I had only ever had a conversation with him in passing about, Well, what about that?

Or what about that? We had no relationship at all. We had a mutual friend. So I called him back. He said, Call me. So I called him, and he said, Hello. I said, Hello.

He said, What's up? He said, Well, let me begin by saying, you know, I'm not a religious man, Alistair. I said, Okay. He said, Yeah, because I'm not at all religious. I said, Okay, fine.

You know, he called me up to tell me you're not religious. I don't know, that's all right. That's fine.

Okay. I said, So what's going on? He said, Well, I'm at an event at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C.

It's a big car event. I was sitting at the bar with my wife having a conversation slash an evolving argument. My wife left, and I was sitting by myself. For whatever reason, he said, And you know, I'm not a religious man. He kept saying this. You know, I'm not a religious man. I started to Google. I took my phone, and I Googled God, and I Googled faith, and I found myself sitting with the Ten Commandments in front of me.

Okay? And he says, As I'm sitting, looking at this, somebody comes and sits down right beside me. A big tall guy, he said. And the gentleman said to him, Hello. Hello.

Where are you from? The guy says, From Cleveland. The gentleman says, I have a friend in Cleveland. And he says, But I don't think you'll know who he is. He's a pastor.

His name is Alistair Beck. Oh, said this guy, Yeah, I know him. I do know him. I don't know him well, but I know him. Well, guess who God had sit down next to this guy?

Os Guinness, for goodness' sake. One of the great social evangelists of our generation. And he sits him down—of course, he didn't, you know, move in, say, Os, you gotta go sit next to a guy. No, Os decided he was gonna go and sit down there. And he sat down there by his own volition.

And he picked up the story with this guy. And so the guy phones me up to tell me, You won't believe what happened to me, because I'm not a religious man. And I said to him, I said, Hey, Bob, you may not be looking for God, but God is looking for you. And there is no coincidence that he'd sat down beside you, somebody that would be able to explain to you the nature of who God is and what he's done in Jesus. Well, that's enough.

It's probably more than enough. I think a brief word of prayer. Father, out of a multitude of words, bring home to our hearts perhaps something that is a blessing or an encouragement or a correction, whatever it might be. We want, when we look to the Bible, to meet Jesus, the one who finally emerges out of this amazing story, the one who has suffered on our behalf, and the one who's touched with the feelings of our infirmities, the one to whom we can go and ask him to help us, to save us, to keep us. And to this we commit ourselves as we pray in Jesus' name.

Amen. You're listening to Truth for Life, and that is Alistair Begg with a message he's titled, Why Has This Happened To Me? Here at Truth for Life, we know that life can sometimes feel out of control. It's easy to get caught up in our personal struggles.

That's why we pray that the daily Bible-centered teaching you hear on Truth for Life will offer encouragement as you reflect on God's word in the face of life's dilemmas. I hope you're finding this topical series titled Dangers, Toils, and Snares to be helpful in this way. In fact, if you're benefiting from this practical and reassuring study, you can replay any of the messages online. All of Alistair's teaching can be listened to or downloaded and shared for free using our mobile app or on our website at You can find the series by searching for Dangers, Toils, and Snares.

The complete study is also available on a USB at our cost of $5. Go to the online store slash store. While you're on our website, if you haven't already requested the book we've been offering called Divine Providence, be sure to do that today. It's the last day we'll be mentioning this book on the program. This is a book that explores the intricate relationship between faith, human free will, and God's providence. Ask for your copy of the book when you give a gift using the Truth for Life mobile app or online at slash donate. We are glad you've joined us today. When you face uncertainty, are you inclined to become paralyzed by fear, or do you embrace it as an opportunity for adventure? Learn how to make the most of every opportunity when you join us tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-20 17:41:04 / 2024-02-20 17:49:43 / 9

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime