“Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”
Ruth 1:20 (NASB)
In this one statement, Naomi finds herself emotionally in the same place many of us have been since March 22nd, the first Sunday we did not meet in-person due to the pandemic. Not only have we had to deal with the pandemic, just starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, then we go through the worst week of winter Missouri has experienced in a lot time. When Naomi says, “Call me Mara,” we must recognize the Hebraic word is “Bitter.” Essentially she says, “Do not call me Sweet (Naomi means sweet in Hebrew), call me bitter.” Not only does she view God having dealt with her bitterly, but she is bitter about the circumstances she finds herself in. Everything has spun out of control for Naomi and she feels helpless. She feels frustrated. She feels defeated. She feels that God is punishing her. How many of us have felt like Naomi over the course of the last year, even if we don’t admit it to others?
If we fast-forward in the book of Ruth, we see that Naomi is restored and is the nurse for King David’s grandfather, Obed. It is so easy in Scripture to be able to turn a few pages and see where God had worked, even in times of great struggle. We can do it with Naomi, Job, and David, just to name a few. Yet, when we are going through those great struggles, we can’t just flip a few pages, we have to go through the events to get to the other side. And in those moments, we can feel just like Naomi did. Yet, in my experience, every time we get to the other side of tragedy, we can look back and see where God was. How he was using those times of struggle to strengthen us for His work.
It is during these times that we rely on our faith. But not a simple faith, one that has been forged in the fires of trials and heartache. We have seen where God has been through past struggles. Not just in the narrative of Scripture (though it is clearly there), but also in our own history. When God helped heal us after a divorce. When God helped make us whole after the embarrassment of bankruptcy or alcoholism or drug abuse. When God carried us through the death of a loved one, a serious medical diagnosis, or a family tragedy. And in a few short months, we will look back and see God’s purposes for the refining/purifying of our souls in the fires of this pandemic. We are called to persevere (Colossians 1:21-23), but not of our own strength, but the strength from God (2nd Corinthians 12:9-10). Let us put our cares, our concerns, our anxieties, our stresses in God’s hands. And let us take his burden, for his burden is light, so we can find rest for our souls. (Matthew 11:28-30).
In Christian Love,