“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” – John Piper
The two of them traveled until they came to Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, the whole town was excited about their arrival, and the local women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has opposed me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”So Naomi came back from the territory of Moab with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabitess. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. – Ruth 1:19-22
In the very beginning of the book of Ruth we read about bread, a famine, and a city called Bethlehem (means the house of bread). At the end of chapter one, Naomi and Ruth journeyed from Moab to Bethlehem. The town’s women questioned if Naomi was the same woman who left a decade earlier. It seems there was quite a stir. Obviously she would’ve aged in those ten years, but she left as a married woman with two sons and returns a widow who is accompanied by a foreigner. When questioned Naomi responds sharply in verse 20. She insisted that she be called by a name with the meaning “bitter.”
Interesting is that “Mara” was the place of grumbling in Exodus 15:22-24. It appears that in this passage, Naomi reflects the heart of her ancestors. Naomi grew bitter while wallowing in her circumstances. Scripture mentions no accountability for Naomi’s own actions; She blamed God. Naomi only complains about her situation, failing to see the grace of God in her life. Yet, the chapter ends with the barley harvest. No doubt, a merciful God intervened and provided food.
Truth be known, it would be easy for all of us to focus on what we do not have rather than the goodness of God. Bitterness comes from how we reason through circumstances – Christians are not immune. Bitterness is the result of anger changing from an actual experience to a belief. Its effects are seething and constant. Bitter people carry the same burdens as angry people, but to a greater extent (Heb. 12:15). And if we are honest, there are times we experience a sense of emptiness. We too can wonder where God is and what He is doing, but God does not owe us answers to our questions. He is active even in the ordinary days of life, and it is in our everyday rhythms He works most often.
We can rest in knowing God worked in the past, He is working in the present, and He will work in the future. May our struggles drive us, not to blind bitterness and resentment, but deeper love and knowledge of Christ, as we learn to share in the fellowship of His suffering. As Christians, we have the opportunity to fix our eyes on the cross knowing Jesus Christ will never leave nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). We have hope! And that hope is reason to rejoice.
“Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” – Rom. 12:12
*Sources listed in last post of series.