Many people in the world and in the church are confused about God. They are unsure if He is hard and harsh, or warm and welcoming. They wonder if He is angry or caring, not totally convinced that He is good all the time. They may not say it out loud, but for some this question lingers deep in their hearts: “Is He cruel, or is He kind?”
Do you remember Naomi in the Book of Ruth? After losing her husband and two sons, she is left in a foreign country with her two widowed daughters-in-law. She hears people talking about how the Lord is providing food for the people of Israel, and just hearing of His kindness begins to stir in her the desire to return home.
Jeremiah 31:3 nkjv says, “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you.’” I am convinced that the Lord’s kindness is the way He hooks us, changes us, and causes us to come back home to Him. Romans 2:4 says, “The goodness (kindness) of God leads you to repentance” (parenthesis mine). Fear of judgment may cause people to turn back to God, but it is only HIS KINDNESS THAT KEEPS US.
I am convinced that the Lord’s kindness is the way He hooks us, changes us, and causes us to come back home to him.
Even though Naomi believes in the kindness of the Lord to some degree, she isn’t fully persuaded of it. She tells her daughters to return home to their families, and she cries out, “The hand of the Lord has gone out against me!” (Ruth 1:13).
But is God really against her? Or is she just confused about His character?
The truth is after Naomi loses her husband and her sons, she becomes sick in her soul from grief and sorrow. Did you know that if left untreated, people can develop soul sickness just like they develop sickness in their bodies? Medical science is now catching up with the wisdom found in 3 John 1:2—the health of the body is directly connected to the health of the soul.
Symptoms of soul sickness present themselves in many different forms. Some are confusion, envy, jealousy, pride, insecurity, and fear. But if we will successfully recognize and diagnose these symptoms and then medicate them with the Word of God, they will not be able to hinder us from living happy and healthy lives. For instance, I’ve found that the most effective prescription for envy is thanksgiving. If you will begin to continually thank God for all He’s done for you, you will lose the desire to compare yourself to others. Jealousy will become a thing of the
past. The best remedy for the sickness of pride is a good dose of humility, and true humility is to stare at Jesus until you lose sight of yourself. Do you want to know how to flush out fear and cure insecurity? Begin to meditate on Scriptures and sing songs about the love of God. Before you know it, His presence will invade your room, and His peace will put you at ease.
The sorrow in Naomi’s soul led to confusion about God’s true nature. She thought He was kind some of the time and cruel at other times. She let her circumstances and other people tell her who God was.
How we see God and how we think He sees us will affect every area of our lives.
When Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth return to Bethlehem, Ruth finds favor while gleaning in a field owned by a rich man named Boaz. As she gleans behind the reapers, He takes notice of her and begins to show her overwhelming kindness, even though she is a poor foreigner. He becomes a refuge and protects her by commanding the young men not to touch her. He makes sure she has water to drink while she works. He comforts her with his words and speaks kindly to her. Ah! How romantic! He tells the other workers not to shame her and to let extra grain “fall purposely for her” (Ruth 2:16). Ruth has more than enough food to eat until she is satisfied and plenty to take home for Naomi.
For the first time in her life, Naomi has a collision with kindness that radically changes her perspective of God forever. She rejoices, speaking of Boaz, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” (Ruth 2:20). Naomi can only see the true kindness of God after she has a face-to-face, head-on collision with the one who would become her kinsman-redeemer.
It is only in the face of Jesus, our Redeemer, that we are able to clearly see the kindness of our Father.
Ruth is so swept away with Boaz’s kindness towards her that she finds enough boldness to lie down at his feet while he is sleeping, and then she makes a huge request. She asks him to take her under his wing and become her kinsman-redeemer. To the Hebrew, to take someone under your wing is a big deal. It is to become an unconditional caretaker. It is an extreme expression of intimacy. Boaz becomes her kinsman-redeemer by marrying her, and he selflessly uses his wealth to buy back Naomi’s inheritance, restore her family, rescue them from danger, and provide for all their needs. In a sense, he crowns them with his “loving-kindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:4) and gives them a status beyond what they deserve.
Loving-kindness means you can never separate His love from His kindness.
The word loving-kindness is two words tied together: loving and kindness. To me, loving-kindness means you can never separate His love from His kindness. The Lord declares through Psalm 89:33, “Nevertheless My loving-kindness I will not utterly take from him, nor allow My faithfulness to fail.”
I’m constantly amazed when the Lord expresses His love to us through two actions, patience and kindness, without demanding us to respond. One night as I was putting my little boy, Justus, to bed, I said, “I love you, buddy.” My natural desire was to hear him respond with, “I love you, too, Mommy.” When he didn’t say it, I felt the need to solicit a response from him. I thought, This will be an excellent time to teach and train him how to respond to kindness. “When Mommy says I love you, you say, ‘I love you, too, Mommy.’” But before I could get those words out of my mouth, the Lord checked my heart. I heard the still small voice inside say, “Never force him to say I love you back. It will mean more to you when he says it of his own free will and from his heart.” I realized that even if Justus never said I love you back to me, I would still spend my whole life proving my love to him. We know from Ephesians 2:7 that our Father will spend the ages to come showing us “the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Kindness is also one of God’s secrets to living a long life. Not long ago, I returned to the church I grew up in to minister at a conference. Before the service, I said hello to a 95-year-old lady on the second row. Throughout the years, I always noticed her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and kind eyes. The pastor said to me, “Sarah, you remember Alice, right? You know as long as I’ve known her, I’ve never heard her say an unkind word about anyone.”
God’s kindness flowing to us and through us every day will produce life in our souls and in our bodies. It is only after we have a collision with His kindness that we are able to be genuinely kind to others. Think about what happens when two objects collide: an impact is made.
When we called on the Lord, we collided with Kindness; and what an impact Jesus made. Even when we were foreigners and strangers, He drew us with His loving-kindness, paid our debt with His own blood, and gave us a life worth living. In His kindness, He will never shame us or withhold anything good from us. Instead, His kindness is always comforting, protecting, satisfying, and providing for us.
Jesus shined a light on God’s character and now we see Him for who He really is: Relentlessly kind.
See, God was good to Naomi all along. He was always kind. He had a beautiful plan prepared for her. She just didn’t know it. She couldn’t see Him clearly. Her confusion is understandable because when she looked at God, there was a veil between them: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared” (Titus 3:4), our eyes became wide open. Jesus shined the light on God’s character, and now we can see Him for who He really is—relentlessly kind. When we collide with the kindness of Jesus, it will set in motion a chain reaction. We’re now on a collision course to impact a world with the kindness of our Savior.