Ruth 1:19-21 So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?
When Naomi and Ruth returned from Moab to Bethlehem, the people could not believe the difference in Naomi’s countenance and appearance. They said, “Is this Naomi?” Naomi’s name meant “pleasant.” They were saying, “Is this Naomi, the lady who was always so pleasant?!” Naomi replied, “Don’t call me Naomi (pleasant); call me Mara (”bitter”) because God has deal very bitterly with me.” She said that she went out full and returned empty and that the Lord had afflicted her.
What caused Naomi, a previously pleasant lady, to be so bitter? Here is what happened. Her husband left Bethlehem in a time of famine to go to the country of Moab. Bethlehem was the place of bread; it was the place that God had given to him and his family. In a time of trouble, however, they left and went to Moab, a heathen land. Instead of trusting in God to take care of them in the tough times, they decided to take matters into their own hands. This would be a mistake that would bring them much heartache.
After some time in Moab, Elimelech died. The two boys Mahlon and Chilion married Moabite women (which they were not suppossed to do, according to God’s law). The two boys died as well. Finally, after much pain and suffering, Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem. Ruth, her daughter-in-law chooses to go with her.
Everything has changed for Naomi. Once she was happy. She had her husband and two sons. Once she was in the house of bread. Now, her husband and sons are dead. Now she is bitter against the Lord and blames Him for what has happened.
Maybe you can identify with Naomi. Maybe you feel like God has given you a raw deal, like He has dealt very bitterly with you. Maybe you feel like God has taken what you have and robbed you of everything good and joyful in your life.
I want to suggest that God did not deal bitterly with Naomi or with you. Here are some things to think about:
Elimelech left the place of God’s will for their life. At the very least, the death of Naomi’s husband and sons could have been the chastening hand of God upon them for not trusting in Him.
Death is going to come to all of us and to all of our family, if the Lord tarries His coming. No one will live forever. Death is a part of life. Even though it hurts, it should not surprise us when it happens. Death is not God’s fault. Death is our fault. We sin, so we die. God actually has made a way for us to have eternal life.
God was still good to Naomi despite the death of her family.
God gave her one daughter-in-law who was very committed to her (Ruth 1:14-18) and had dealt very kindly with her (Ruth 2:11-12).
God has spared her life and allowed her to return home (Ruth 1:22).
God gave her a kinsman (Boaz) who was very wealthy and took care of her and Ruth (Ruth 2:1-3, 3:17, 4:9-10).
God allowed her family to be in the line of the ancesters of King David and Jesus Christ (Ruth 4:17)!
The next time we begin to feel like God has dealt bitterly with us, let us stop and ask ourself the following questions:
Have I done anything to bring these problems on myself? (1 Peter 4:15)
Am I sinning or charging God foolishly in this situation? (Job 1:22)
What blessings am I overlooking by my anger and bitterness?
Am I willing to just trust God and believe that He has a purpose for everything and will work all things together for good? (Romans 8:28)