Bitter! Naomi, in these verses from Ruth 1, is overcome with the difficulties and evils of this life. Having left Bethlehem in a happier state, she is returning as a widow who has also been bereaved of both of her sons.
20 But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
Ruth 1:20-21, NKJV
Naomi, in these verses from Ruth 1, is overcome with the difficulties and evils of this life. Having left Bethlehem in a happier state, she is returning as a widow who has also been bereaved of both of her sons. Gone is the hopefulness of youth, only to be replaced by the weariness and troubles of advancing years. How often do we, as believers, face the same circumstances? How hopeful were those days of youth, and yet often our advancing years are filled with difficulties and despair.
We find a similar situation in the life of Jacob. In Genesis 47:9, Jacob addressed Pharaoh with these words: “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.”
Was Naomi correct in her assessment: The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me . . . the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me. In other words is Naomi charging God foolishly?
Actually, Naomi has a better perspective on the realities of life than most people, even most professing Christians, do today. While God is not to be charged as though He is at fault, yet Naomi understands that God's providence is at work. Though she may sound somewhat bitter, she still understands that all of her hope and all of her help will come from this same God.
As Christians, there are two important lessons we can learn from Naomi in these verses.
First, God does allow bad things to happen to good people. Why? God allows us to experience pain, grief, and misery so that we understand the emptiness of this world apart from Him. Naomi's joy or lack of it was not caused by her move to Moab or even her return to Bethlehem. God, in His great providence, chose a difficult path for her so that she would find all of her hope and joy to rest in Him and not in the things of this world.
Second, as believers in this 21st century, it is good for us to remember that God is still on the throne. We live in a world that chooses to forget God or even believe that He exists. We look to the world for happiness, joy, prosperity, etc. Yet, this world, because it is tainted by sin, cannot produce love, peace, or joy. These are attributes that come from God, alone.
So, if we find ourselves in circumstances similar to those of Naomi - if we find bitterness and despair seems to rule our very existence - let us lift our eyes to heaven and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. He, alone, through His death and resurrection has conquered sin and death. He, alone, can grant the joy and peace we so desperately desire.
Naomi is a wonderful example of a person who understands that in returning to Bethlehem, and especially to God Himself, she still had hope. No matter our age or experiences, Christ is available to all who turn to Him. He is our kinsman Redeemer who paid the debt of our sin so that we might have life - and have it more abundantly. Go to Christ who is our everlasting hope.
What an amazing God we serve!