Shattered-Dreams300Any Jew reading Verse 1 would see it as ironic because the word “Bethlehem” means, “house of bread,” yet there was no food in the land, due to a famine.

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
Ruth 1:1

A man from the house of bread was without bread. Elimelech, dreamed of living in a land of plenty, but there was a famine. So he left Bethlehem, the house of bread for Moab. While there, he died and his two sons married Moabite women. For Elimelech, his shattered dreams were a closed door—a dead end.

Why the famine? Good question. Whether it is famine, disease, terrorism, divorce, cancer or heartbreak most people experience bad things.

Sometimes bad things happen as a direct result of people’s bad choices (see Galatians 6:7). Some of it is the disciplining hand of a loving Father (see Hebrews 12:6). Some of it is just life (see Matthew 5:45). Some of it, well some of it makes absolutely no sense, but because we know God is in control, even when life is out of control, we trust Him.

Why do bad things happen?

Sometimes it results from bad choices.

  • A dad who has neglected his family for a decade wonders why his teenage daughter will have nothing to do with him.
  • A couple who live in the fast lane and never take time for each other wonder where the closeness has gone.
  • A man spends his money on himself and wonders why God won’t bless his finances.
  • People eat the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) and wonder why they look like a normal American. They ask, “Why did I have to get diabetes?”
  • A woman neglects her quiet time alone with God and wonders why God feels so distant.

God has hard-wired this principle into the universe: people reap what they’ve sown. Bad things are often a result of people’s bad choices. Often, when there is pain, there is a reason.

Sometimes it is God’s discipline

It could be that this famine was a direct result of the discipline of God. When trouble comes, it is wise to ask, “Is this the hand of God’s discipline in my life? Is God trying to teach me something?

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:7–11

The famine may have been the discipline of God. God had warned His people that famine could come.

But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit. Leviticus 26:14–20

Sometimes God knows, but we never will

Sometimes bad things happen, and people don’t know why. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a reason. Job was a good man. Terrible things happened to him. He lost all his possessions. His children die. He never does know why. Job’s trials proved a point God was making to Satan, that righteous people don’t merely love God because of the favor He shows them.

Mark Tabb, Out of the Whirlwind (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Pub, 2003), 46.