Ruth Offers Wisdom in Handling Unknowns

The year of unknowns would be an accurate tagline for 2020. Which of us hasn’t experienced something completely unexpected this year? Today’s guest post by writer and teacher Marlene Houk offers biblical wisdom for handling the unknowns in our lives. I trust this post will be an encouragement to you!

Post by Marlene Houk

Lysa TerKeurst relates to unknowns in her book1, “When we need to know something, as a Christian, it makes us turn to God. We are willing to follow God even though we don’t know what we’re doing” (Terkeurst, 2018).

Does the unknown affect us? Building that first house? Learning the intricacies of a new job? Caring for our first baby: that tiny human, helpless and dependent upon our knowledge and wisdom?

My husband and I experienced significant confusion when we brought our daughter home. She seemed quite delicate and dainty, but what was coming out of her wasn’t! After seven times, while my husband paced frantically, he suggested we take her back to the hospital! Even after years of helping my mother keep babies in our home, I was confused myself. After we calmed down and realized a baby’s diet may cause her to assimilate differently and newborns needed to get their systems working, we heaved sighs of relief. But those emotions ran high because we didn’t know what to do.

Harnessing our emotions

After reading the book of Ruth, I realized that unknowns fill her story. Not knowing creates within us emotions ranging from eagerness to fear and from rapid heartbeat to goosebumps. Unawareness creates devastating results as in the sinking of the Titanic.

But, as Christians, when we realize that God knows our unknowns, we don’t need to fret about them. We do need to research, collect information, and make decisions. But, many times unknowns still exist. If we train ourselves, they can encourage us to trust the God who knows. We can then make our decisions—but leave the outcome to Him. Knowing that God is already in the future, waiting for us, clears the fog of panic and empowers us to focus.

As Christians, when we realize that God knows our unknowns, we don’t need to fret about them. ~ Marlene Houk on @khogrefeparnell

The best emotion to come from unknowns could be amazement and wonder when God shows us spiritual truth. Imagine what Ruth felt as she realized that God had indeed taken care of her and Naomi by preparing Boaz for them. Experiencing the truth of God’s care birthed wonder in her heart at the generosity of her newly found Redeemer.

Coping with uncertainty

Ruth’s unknowns show us how to cope with our uncertainties. Looking at Ruth’s story in a generic way reveals that her unknowns are very similar to ours today. The following list contains a few of the unknowns in her narrative.

1. She didn’t know about her direction in life.

2. She didn’t know how to walk with a friend through grief.

3. She didn’t know how to find a husband.

4. She didn’t know who to trust. She possibly knew her future husband for less than three months.

How do we handle the feelings that arise from unknowns in our lives? Does your heart sink at the array of many choices? Sometime being healthy eludes us and causes frustration and fear. Conversely, you may be eager to attack your lack of knowledge. Many might shout, Google! I agree because I research as quickly as an eyelash can blink. Or, perhaps, an unknown requires us to consult an expert such as a specialist, repairman, or doctor. Our struggles may demand articulating them to a professional such as a counselor or psychiatrist to help us separate our emotions from our identity. 

As Christians, our confusion pushes us to follow the Truth, nudges us to go and work in God’s fields, and causes us to look to Jesus who pierces our concerns with clarity.

Dealing with unknowns

How is Ruth showing us methods for dealing with our unknowns?

1. Follow the truth that you do know: For example, Boaz followed the Mosaic law that he knew (Ruth 3:11-12). We know that Christ fulfilled the law and that John 14:6 says that He is the truth. So, when we follow Him, we follow truth.

2. Go do the next right thing (Ruth 2:2). Ruth asked Naomi if she could go, and Naomi said go. Ruth went, even though she didn’t know where to connect with her kinsman redeemer. Her story overflows with Ruth going to the fields to provide for her mother-in-law.

3. THINK about the way God works in your life (Ruth 2:12). Realize truths from what God has already done. Ruth, at some point, learned that Boaz’s mother was a prostitute, rescued by Hebrew spies. They saved Rahab and her family, and she became Boaz’s mother (Matthew 1:5). Ruth could reason from this that God was an inclusive God, and he would find a way for her to fit in too.

Now, a few decades later, we demonstrate more relaxation in our role as mom and dad. We followed parenting truths gleaned from years of advice. My husband and I activated this wisdom in the daily care of our children. And we acquired priceless truths from this journey. We learned, like Ruth, that our unknowns lead us to God and His ways for dealing with them. Ruth’s plan for managing unknowns (follow, go, think) are ready for you to glean from the Master’s hands. 

~ Marlene

Ruth offers wisdom in handling unknowns by Marlene Houk on @khogrefeparnell

1Reference: TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way. Thomas Nelson, 2018.

About the Author

Marlene Houk opens doors of truth through her passion to bring alive the stories of women in the Bible. She reveals patterns in their stories that lead to biblical thinking, empowering emotional healing. Determined to find and apply truth, she connects the Bible’s wisdom to everyday living through thought-provoking questions that help others to embrace wholeness and freedom. Leading women’s Bible studies for ten years has increased her passion to share profound and life-changing truths with others. She and Sid, her husband of 38 years, have two adult children and two grandchildren. After work, you might catch a glimpse of her at the lake, watching the sun on the water.

About Hidden in a List

Do you have a plan when life kicks you to the curb in its daily grind and when disaster strikes? Imagine relying on simple, doable, Scripture-based steps to realign your emotions with God’s Word. In this short read, called Hidden In a List: secrets from Bible women, you can:

  • Unlock proven secrets to control reactions and instead act from a God-given perspective.
  • Triumph in the knowledge of Jesus Christ as he overcomes fears and failures.
  • Delight for a lifetime in using these secrets and sharing them with others.
  • Conquer insecurities by following the women of the Bible.
  • Boldly increase your faith and hope as a daily part of life.

Available on Amazon.

Got Goals? Let the Elephant Live.

We’ve heard the saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” People use this expression to refer to tackling goals, a buzz topic this time of year. The idea is that you can’t possibly accomplish them all at once but rather through a series of small, manageable steps.

I’m not saying I disagree. I’ve personally practiced the SMART method, and the whole Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound practice does work.

But eating an elephant can be painful and unpleasant for both us and the elephant. And although the SMART approach gets results, it leaves out the important element of priorities. Someone could argue that prioritization is implied, because after all, we wouldn’t spend time plotting out our approach to a goal if the goal weren’t important. Or would we?

I’m 100% for goals, but not at the expense of people. Perhaps you saw my theme for 2020, and this idea of letting the elephant live is an expansion of being people-focused over goal-focused. For example, I’m on a self-scheduled writing deadline and have a revised blogging schedule and some other writing commitments. I also work a full-time job, set aside intentional quality time with my husband, help manage our home, prioritize church community, practice a consistent fitness approach, and want to build into my existing and new relationships with others.

Let’s suppose I reach the week’s writing word count but must choose between a date night with my husband or writing a blog post for next week. You better believe I’m going on the date night. I’m not going to stuff the daily elephant bite into my mouth at the expense of relationship.

This is why I say, “Let the elephant live.” We can still conquer important goals but in their priority of importance. If today’s daily elephant bite doesn’t happen, there is tomorrow. Everything is not equal in importance.

A Resource for Prioritizing

Stephen R. Covey, author of the best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, discussed what he called “The Urgent Important Matrix.” I’ve created a simplified model here to illustrate the point, but you can review a more detailed version on Franklin Covey’s website.

Important/Urgent

(Necessity or Crisis)
Important/Not Urgent

(Effectiveness or Goals)
Urgent/Not Important

(Distractions or Interruptions)
Not Urgent/Not Important

(Time-Wasters)

In other words, we can categorize everything on our to-do list into one of these categories. Getting dinner is a necessity. Writing a blog is a goal. If while I’m writing the blog after dinner, my phone rings, I then have to decide if I take that interruption or remain focused on my own plans.

That’s where the prioritizing comes in. Do I care more about people (the phone call) or my own agenda (the goal)? Each of us has to make her own decision there, but the answer boils down to personal choice. Maybe if I’m on a tight deadline, I let the call go to voicemail. But maybe I’m just working on a “me” project that can wait. Shouldn’t I answer the phone (and let the elephant live)?

What God Asks of Us

When I think about the goals I’d like to accomplish this year, I go back to Micah 6:8. This verse so simply and clearly summarizes God’s expectations of us:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (NKJV)

The verse doesn’t say that the Lord requires we achieve all our goals, be a success, and earn a pat on the back. No, it says to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. Maybe we do or we don’t get those elephant-sized goals all accomplished, but may we make wise daily choices in how we prioritize the time that God’s given to us.

~ Kristen

May we make wise daily choices in how we prioritize the time that God’s given to us. #priorities #wisdom

To Guard Your Marriage, Guard Your Tongue

Special thanks to my friend and author Ashley Jones of BigSisterKnows.com for sharing her words of wisdom in this guest post. Whether you’re newly married like me, been married a while, single, or dating, the biblical command to guard our tongues is relevant to all of us.

***

As you know, Kristen just tied the knot with a great guy (woo hoo!). Now, I know she’s overwhelmed with newlywed life, and she’s being bombarded with advice she probably didn’t ask for. Still, as the “big sister,” I feel the need to share the following bit of wisdom I’ve learned over the course of eight years of marital bliss:

To guard your marriage, guard your tongue.

Here are a few practical ways to bless your marriage through your speech.

1 – Don’t be Ugly

One day your hubby will spill his drink on your beautiful new couch, forget your anniversary, or run over your favorite rose bush with the lawn mower. In that moment, you’ll want to scream at him for being careless, forgetful, lazy, or just plain mean—but don’t do it! Instead, take a breath. If that’s not enough, take a hot shower, put on your comfy jammies, and blast the BeeGees.

Remember that this is your partner in life. You’re on the same team. Then sit him down, make sure you have his attention, and tell him how you feel. Even then, don’t yell or say anything ugly because you’ll regret it later.

“There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18 NAS).

2 – Don’t be Critical

Reality check: your hubby will never cook, clean, or take care of the kids the way you do. He is a man, after all, and men always approach these things a bit different than we do. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t help around the house or that his quality of work should be less than yours. However, when you see him wipe up a disgusting mess on the floor with your dish towel, take a breath. (There’s a lot of breathing in marriage. Go ahead and practice counting to 10 now.)

Start by thanking your hubby for cleaning up the mess. After all, if he were still living alone, it would probably stay on the floor for a long, long time. Then say something like, “Hey, honey, I like to use those towels for the dishes, so it’s probably best not to use them on the floor. Let’s use paper towels next time, okay?”

If your hubby understands why you do things a certain way, he’ll be more apt to follow your lead. But be careful here! If you correct everything he does, you’ll become overly critical, and he’ll start to tune you out. No one wants to be a nag (or live with one), so pick your battles wisely.

“It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman” (Proverbs 21:9 NAS).

3 – Keep His Secrets

As soon as you get married, you learn little things about your new hubby. Some might make you giggle—like his penchant for bubble baths after a rough week. Others may make you cringe—like when his frugality leads him to buy frozen steaks from the dollar store. You may feel the desire to share these little secrets with your mom or best friend, but don’t! Marriage is a sacred union of two, and when you share your hubby’s secrets with others, you let them into your marriage … and nothing good comes from that. Enjoy this time as you get to know your new hubby, and assure him that he can trust you with his heart as well as his little quirks.

“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip” (Proverbs 20:19 NAS).

4 – Speak in Love

While it’s important to avoid negative speech with your hubby, it’s just as important to fill your conversations with positive speech. Is he worried about work? Tell him that you’re proud of him and that you’re praying for peace and new opportunities. Did he spend all day planting new flowers for you? Tell him how much you appreciate his hard work and how great the yard looks (but avoid mentioning the fact that he ran over the last batch of flowers). This isn’t about platitudes but about finding something good, something sweet to say to the one you love.

“A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4 NAS).

Those are four different ways you can guard your tongue—but that’s easier said than done. The apostle James had this to say about it:

“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison” (James 3:8 NAS).

That’s less than encouraging, right? So what is the answer?

“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives. Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:1-3 NAS).

The truth is that we can’t control our tongues through our own efforts, but if we submit ourselves—including our speech—to the Lord, He will give us the strength and desire to do so. Here’s a simple prayer you can repeat as often as needed:

“Lord, please guard my marriage by placing a guard over my tongue. Keep me from saying things that would hurt our relationship, and give me the humility to speak in love and kindness. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

~ By Ashley L. Jones of BigSisterKnows.com

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Theme for 2019: Choose What is Better

Hello, dear friends! Even though we’re a few days into 2019, I still want to wish you a happy New Year. In fact, these “extra days” I’ve taken to consider a theme for this year reflect the theme itself.

The Kristen you know is a planner, an organizer, a deadline-driven achiever. The Kristen of 2018 would have made sure she sent out her monthly newsletter on January 1, because that’s what her calendar said she should do.

I think the Kristen of 2019 is going to be different. Especially as I prepare for my wedding, I’m realizing there are just some things I can’t control and some things that need more time. Merging two lives is wonderful, miraculous … but also messy. I’m learning to re-prioritize as I pray and prepare for a godly marriage and home with Christ at the center. I’m hoping for courage to be selfless and sacrificial, which may mean giving up what I want sometimes for what is better.

This is the lesson Martha had to learn the hard way. When she offered to host Jesus in her home, she immediately became task-focused. She lost sight of loving people and listening to Jesus in her obsession with preparing the perfect meal and being hostess of the year. When she saw her sister Mary simply sitting at Jesus’ feet, she “lost it” and in her to-do list tunnel-vision, demanded that Jesus tell Mary to help.

Jesus had to remind her what was better:  

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41 NIV).

Choose what is better. That’s my prayer and theme for 2019. I truly believe I am called to write and continue this ministry, but I have other callings as well: to my fiancé/future husband, to family and friends, to teaching, to my church, to the people and opportunities God places in my life. Oftentimes, I can’t “plan” for what these responsibilities may require. So if the blog doesn’t post on schedule, and the newsletter runs a few days late, I’m going to be okay with that.

May God bless your 2019 with wisdom to choose what is better over what is simply good.

~ Kristen

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