(originally published July 15, 2012)
As a believer, it is very encouraging to know that God is for us...He is on our side...He is good. And above all, that He loves us. Oh, how He loves us. Through it all, no matter how wretched we may feel or discouraging life may seem, the truth remains that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Few stories paint this picture better than that of Naomi and Ruth's. This week we find them both widows; two women mourning the loss of the men they love, alone in a wicked nation. However, things are about to shift in the direction of their lives. One day Naomi hears that God's favor has returned to Bethlehem and that food is available again in the "house of bread." With almost immediate action, Naomi decides to return to her home and people.
At first, both Orpah and Ruth decide to journey to Behtlehem with Naomi. Not too far into the journey, Naomi seemingly changes her mind about her company. At the urgency of Naomi, Orpah returns to Moab. Ruth makes a different choice. Ruth makes a decision to follow God and we see a geuine conversion on the road to Bethlehem.
"Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." (Ruth 1.16)
The two women continue their journey until they reach Bethlehem. When they do, the Bible says that the whole town was stirred. It appears that Naomi and her family were well known there. When she returns after being a way, the women of the town are all in a frenzy at the retun of Naomi (as most women are, correct).
When cofronted with her identity, Naomi asks the women of the town to no longer call her Naomi (pleasant), but to call her Mara (bitter). Have you ever felt like Naomi (or Mara)? Felt like you were once full but now empty? I felt like this not too long ago. I faced the stripping of what I held most dear in life and felt those moments of bitterness. It is in those moments when something dear has been stripped away, we feel vulnerable and angry. It's not unnatural to become angry; we just need to be sure that the anger does not turn into bitterness.
I must say, I like that about Naomi in this story. She didn't come back and put on the mask or the front. She returned to her people and she was honest. Brutally honest. May we all be willing to be honest with the people around us in our struggles. To admit when we need help and encouragement. Having a community of believers around you in difficult times is key to a healing process.
Ruth and Naomi have returned to the house of bread at the beginning of barley harvest. Coincidence? I think not. An unseen force is moving and these two women are about to see God do great and wonderful things that are invisible to them at this time.
My encouragement to you today, if are in a difficult season (and if you're not, one will soon appear), to trust that God is at work. Know that His plan is in motion and you are in His sight. He has not forgot about you, and nothing could make Him stop loving you. If you're struggling or feel alone, don't be afraid to reach out to the godly people you are surrounded by.
Be sure to return next week: Boaz is coming!