The book of Ruth begins with a narrative about a little family from Bethlehem who move to Moab because a famine has swept through their homeland. Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion make a home for themselves in this new country/
While in Moab, Elimelech dies, leaving Naomi a widow. Her sons then marry Moabite women: Ruth and Orpah. Things go pretty good for about ten years and then both of her sons die, leaving her in a desperate financial and social situation.
Naomi hears that God has blessed Bethlehem again with food, so she sets off, back to her home town for the same reason she left it. Hope of survival. Not wanting her daughters in law to suffer with her, having no promise of security of income for herself or them, she urges both young women to stay in Moab and remarry. Orpah decides to do just that, saying goodbye to her mother-in-law with a kiss. Ruth, on the other hand refuses to leave Naomi and makes a strong statement of fierce loyalty, declaring she will stick by Naomi wherever she goes, until only death parts them.
Ruth is an inspiring selfless character to say the least, but I want to look a bit closer at Naomi’s story today.
When she enters back into Bethlehem, her family and friends are excited to see her and the women begin to buzz with the news that Naomi has returned from Moab.
Naomi responds to this welcoming committee by saying, “Do not call me Naomi; ( pleasant) call me Mara, (bitter) 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?”
Naomi joins a long line of sufferers whom the BIble allows us a glimpse into their lives.
There is Job, Jeremiah and Paul to name a few, but the list goes on.
What can we learn about how and how not to respond to suffering by looking at Naomi’s response to her plight?
Naomi is bitter because of her circumstances, her losses.
Her logic appears to go something like this: God is the One true God. Therefore, He is Sovereign and in control. If then, He is in control, He is the One who has brought this suffering into my life. And, since He is the One who has brought this into my life, then my anger, frustration and resentment are towards Him. Naomi is bitter because she believes God was quite capable of altering her circumstances, but He didn’t.
Sound logical? Logical, maybe. But she has forgotten some key elements.
While Naomi exhibits faith that God is the one true God, in control and big enough to solve any problem, she falsely concludes that He is against her. She questions God’s character.
This is always what the enemy wants us to do. He began this tactic way back in the garden. He causes Eve to question why God would not want her to eat of that fruit. In essence, “why would a good God hold this good thing back from you? Hmmmm.. He must not be all that good.”
Can I just say.... Phooey!?
God is good. And, as one of my friends add..”all the time, even when it hurts.”
Listen to how Psalm 145:8-9 describes God:
“The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.
The LORD is good to all,
And His tender mercies are over all His works.”
Our suffering has nothing to do with God’s goodness. We live in an imperfect and fallen world as a result of that first bite of forbidden fruit. These bodies are temporary. They age and are subject to illness and frailty. This world is not our home. But, our Father has not abandoned or neglected us. He intervenes in our imperfect world’s in perfect ways to show His power, His redemption and His care for us.
Back to Naomi’s story.
Through a series of “God-incidences”, Ruth gets married to a rich land owner named Boaz, who redeems Naomi’s family land and thus, Naomi and Ruth as well.
Boaz and Ruth have a baby! Awww....
But who is this baby?
“Boaz begot Obed; Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.” Ruth 4:21-22
The grandfather of King David. Impressive, right? But even more impressive is the fact that this is the lineage of our Savior, Jesus, through his earthly father Joseph. ( Matt. 1)
God used a grieving mother and widow’s loss to get her in a position to be part of the biggest blessing the world has ever seen-the birth of Jesus Christ.
As Naomi coddled and cooed with her grandson, I wonder if she knew what her love and care of that little one would mean in generations to come. No, she couldn’t have.
But, she was no longer bitter. God had intervened in her circumstances by giving her security and a purpose all wrapped up in the blessing of a new life.
God is not the One causing your pain. He is the One that delivers you out of it. Or sustains you through it. He is the light in the darkness. The gentle hand that strengthens and guides. The Father who never takes His eyes off His little one.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
Let’s look for and count on His goodness today!