So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almightyhas made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflictedme; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Ruth 1, verses 19-22.
Confession: when I read these verses, my first reaction is, “Naomi, get a grip.” How quickly we forget. After all, she didn’t go away full: she left Bethlehem starving. The Lord did indeed allow bitterness in her life, but He provided a way home for her AND the unexpected love of a daughter. The Lord did indeed bring misfortune into her life, but He did so because He was painting a bigger picture than just the scene in which Naomi found herself.
Now is a good time to look in the mirror. Friend Reader, look there and see Naomi. I did. It’s unavoidable. You and I, we often find ourselves weeping at our own pity party just like Naomi did. We think the world is ending around us; perhaps it is. Yet in the middle of every problem, other things are in motion; other work is being done. It becomes so easy for us to forget that we play checkers while the Lord plays chess. We live our lives one move at a time while God already has the end of the game in motion.
Yes, misfortune happens to us as well. Let’s also be fair and admit that, sometimes, God deliberately brings it into our lives. I like to think that God only allows bad things to happen to us, but sometimes He causes them, too. Usually, I can’t see the difference when I’m in the middle of my crises, but it’s there. The really tough part comes in realizing that God’s overall plan is bigger than our single misfortunes. That He’s working through them. That is NOT to say that those misfortunes don’t matter because they do. They matter because we matter, especially to God.
But what God teaches us through them is the same thing He was teaching Naomi. “Rely on me.” “Come to me for all your rest.” “I am always here with you.” “My grace is sufficient for you.” My heart goes out to Naomi for the bitterness that was indeed part of her life, yet at the same time I also think she needs to get a grip, stop, and back up a few steps. Look around and see the bigger picture of what might just be happening in front of the eyes that she refuses to see with. So it is with us.
God, forgive me when I’m short-sighted and don’t see how You are providing for me and teaching me. Praise be to You.
Read Ruth 1, 18-22.
What misfortune plagues you?
How is God working through that?
Do you need to get a grip?