Many people find it almost impossible to have hope when you are filled with pain and loss. Naomi has lost her husband and both her sons and her dreams of having a large family had been shattered. In most of our lives we have felt pain and loss. It may not be on Naomi’s scale, but the struggle is still real for us. At one point in my life I was bitter and angry at how I thought God was treating. It turns out i was bringing this destruction on myself, but I was young and naive and very selfish. During this time, I spoke with a very god- centered preacher, Bobby Tucker. He said to me, “Missy, You have one choice. You can be bitter or get better.” Those words have often come back at me many times since that conversation. Although it is difficult to believe that God is near, His sovereignty never sleeps. When our pain is the deepest and our doubt the greatest, God remains with us.
Ruth 1:19-22 New International Version (NIV)
19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”20 “Don’t call me Naomi,[a]” she told them. “Call me Mara,[ because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
In this passage, Naomi is facing a crisis of faith. Returning to her homeland, Bethlehem, the home of her God, her faith, and her people should bring feelings of hope. However, Naomi is left empty and in despair. Naomi, in Hebrew means pleasant. After all that has happened, now wishes to be called Mara, which means Bitter
Naomi believes that God is punishing her. When everything seems to be tossed upside, do you get like Naomi or do you choose to cry out to God and get better. My Mother and father -in- law have have a rough 5 years. My father- in-law has battled prostate and bone cancer. My mother-in-law has battled stomach, uterine and brain cancer. Yet, they refuse to be bitter. Going into her brain surgery my mother-in-law looked at me and said, “It’s okay. Either way I win. I beat this and get to spend more time here with you or I don’t and I get to spend eternity with Jesus. Either way I win.”
God does not just extend the fullness of His grace and overflowing love during the good times in our lives. That Grace and Love are present in the bad as well, you just have to stop wallowing in you grief long enough to see God. We get so focused on me, me, me that we forget this story your starring in is all about God. God will use our doubts, our fears, and our pain for His glory. Nothing is wasted or without purpose. We can be assured that all of our struggles and our pain are in the loving hands of a loving Father.
Naomi, in her pain, called herself Mara, because she failed to recognize God’s grace. However, God, in His grace, blessed Naomi with a loving husband for many years. In His grace, Naomi and her husband birthed two strong sons who were then able to support and care for her after her husband’s death. In His grace, her sons were married, her daughters-in-law, who honored and respected her despite their Moabite upbringing. In His grace, Naomi was able to return to her home and her faith, in Bethlehem, after God had delivered the land from a severe famine.
In God’s grace, Naomi was never alone. She possessed the love and devotion of her daughter-in-law Ruth who shared her same struggles with pain and loss. In His grace, Naomi would become grandmother to Ruth’s first-born, Obed, and share in the majestic ancestry of the lineage of her Messiah, Jesus Christ. God’s grace is exceedingly more abundant than our circumstances, our past, or our pain.
God’s grace pours out love, kindness, favor, and forgiveness all over the place, to those who trust in Him. His grace changes everything. Our plan for our life is often drastically different from God’s purpose for our life. The challenge for believers is to filter our every experience through the love of Jesus Christ and trust His perspective, not our own. Grounding our lives in God’s promises in His Word gives us the confidence to trust His will and His plan for our lives.
But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me. – Psalm 13:5-6
Naomi thought she had lost everything. She thought God had afflicted her. Naomi was wrong. Everything she believed had been lost and perished was restored as a part of God’s plan because of His great love. There are no insignificant people or circumstances in God’s story. Even when we doubt it, God’s love for His people is eternally perfect, unconditional, and inexhaustible until the end of ends.
Have your circumstances derailed your faith in God? How might your emotions be limiting your ability to recognize God’s grace in your life? How might God be using your trials to strengthen your faith and reveal His glory? How can we pray for you as you seek out God’s grace in your life?