Ever feel like God is distant from your struggles? Naomi, living in this cruel world, felt just like this, but her story shows just how much He cares.
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
3 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
6 When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
19 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?”
20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
Imagine yourself in Naomi’s position. As if being forced from her home wasn’t enough, she then had to suffer the loss of her husband and sons. She would have felt so broken and alone, totally defeated by the world. It’s little wonder why she chose a new name for herself: Mara, meaning ‘bitter’.
Sometimes, the world can be so cruel. Some people feel it worse than others, and most of us pass through phases of feeling the kindness, or cruelty, of life. Often this causes people to question where God is if such unfair and terrible things are happening. As Naomi says in verse 13, “The Lord’s hand has turned against me!” Instead of merely demonstrating the cruelty of the world, Naomi’s story shows us that God does indeed stay close to His people, and he always has. Like Naomi, it can be so easy to feel embittered, defeated and isolated by life, but these are the very moments where God’s love enters through the cracks in our hearts to bring healing and deepen our relationship with him.
Naomi didn’t see it yet, but God was loving her, even as life was at its hardest. He was blessing her through Ruth’s devotion and commitment to her, and soon Naomi would experience the joy of a family, with thankfulness to God, once more. Isn’t it so amazing that even before Jesus came to Earth, God was sticking with his people, bringing them comfort and healing in the same way he does now? His love really is unrelenting. God comforts us in our suffering, but he also uses us, just as He used Ruth to bring his love to others in their times of suffering. His care for us motivates us to look out for people who are struggling and care for them. It really is an amazing privilege!
Head What does Naomi’s story teach you about the times when you feel defeated?
Heart How does this impact the way in which you see God and others?
Hands How can you be a Ruth to somebody? Look out for people in your community who could use some support and show them the love that comes from our Father.
Prayer Dear Father, You are always close, always watching over me. Thank-you for that. Thank-you that you care about me, even in the times when it feels like I’ve been left behind. Lord, sometimes the world throws terrible things at us that make us hurt. Help me not to become bitter, but, rather, to recognise and accept help from the people who want to remind me of your love. Lord, I thank -you for these people, and I pray that you will work through me to become one of these people for those who are suffering. You are our comforter Lord. Help us to be comforters to those around us. In your Holy name, Amen
A song to listen to: Good Good Father