…when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 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?” So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab…
The book of the Bible known as Ruth could really be called Naomi. When I read through it, it’s her that my heart goes out to at the loss of her husband and two sons. I feel her anguish and embarrassment for having left her home country in pursuit of a better life, only to have to return worse off than when she began the journey. Her soul is so troubled that she tells her friends to not bother calling her by her given name, which means “pleasant,” but rather to address her by a name which means “bitter.” She left hopeful, she left pleasant. She returned bruised and broken and bitter.
And life is like that at times. We are hopeful of a new situation, new job, new relationship, new child, new opportunity, and when it’s ripped from us, little effort is required to feel abandoned by the Lord. To wonder if he’s neglected to remember our dedication to him, or worse, maybe he’s not a good as they claim he is. Maybe he’s like everyone else. Maybe he, too, cannot be trusted.
But just like with Namoi, God shows us grace in devastation, and ultimately, victory.
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Namoi’s grace was Ruth, her daughter-in-law who rightfully could have left her alone. Instead, she stayed with her, mourned with her and helped mend her life. We must remember that even in our abandonment, God is there. He’s there in our loss, our grief, our mourning (of a loved one, a job, a relationship, strong health, a child, material wealth or that thing we hoped for that didn’t materialize). He doesn’t ask us to not grieve their loss, but he does ask us to not give way to fear and to trust his heart. To trust that he does indeed see us, that he has not forgotten us, and that he provides grace to endure unsettling situations and even hardships.
And just like he did for Naomi, the Lord leads us ultimately to victory. Naomi’s joy was restored at the marriage covenant of Ruth and Boaz and the child that came from it. Not only did Boaz marrying Ruth mean that Naomi would be taken care of in her material needs, but it also meant that she would have the love of family again. For believers, we can know that Christ leads us to triumph, as Paul wrote to the Corinthian church. Interestingly, when Paul penned these words, he was referencing the victory Christians find over–and even through–death. Even there we find ultimate victory. Other times, we see it in the restoration of natural things we’ve lost–we find a new job, we love again, we get healed or better from sickness, or, he empowers us to be whole as we cope to a new reality.
The story of Naomi and Ruth speaks to me about God’s heart of compassion for the brokenhearted, his restorative ability to refresh where there is loss, and his presence and his foresight in dark situations. It tells me that even when I feel like I’m facing what seems to be a net loss, I am not forgotten, so there is no need to be bitter: God will bring me pleasant, joy-filled life and nourishment.