“‘Don’t call me Naomi,’ she told them. ‘Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty.’” Ruth 1:20
Coming home is such a delightful experience after being away a long time. We can enjoy being in familiar surroundings, and relish re-connecting and sharing our experiences with our friends. But although, “the whole town was excited to see them” (Ruth 1:19), Naomi returned to Bethlehem after more than ten years in Moab, a sad and bitter woman, very aware of her emptiness.
She had left Bethlehem with a husband and two sons, but all three had died in Moab, and she had finally returned with only Ruth, one of her two daughters-in-law, who was devoted to her and refused to leave her.
Bitterness had Naomi in her grip after the tragic and painful loss of her husband and children, as she couldn’t stop thinking about how much God had taken away from her. She did have Ruth to take care of her, and she had returned safely to Bethlehem at a time when there was food again, but she hardly noticed these blessings in her grief. But God was with her through it all. Through Ruth and a relative from the clan of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, He was going to turn Naomi’s fortunes around.
In the most beautiful love story of the highest integrity, Ruth and Boaz (Elimelech’s relative) are brought together and marry, and God blesses them with a son. Naomi is doubly blessed through their selfless love as she receives the precious gift of a grandchild, and an heir in place of Mahlon, her beloved, departed son, who would carry on his name, “so that his name (would) not be blotted out from Israel.” (Deuteronomy 25:6) God takes away her grief and sorrow and replaces it with joy of the highest order.
God actually gives her a third blessing, something very significant that she would not have known: her grandchild was to become the grandfather of King David, and the ancestor of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. “Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son.’ And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” (Ruth 4:16)
Hard times come to people in many different ways, “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:31) In this time of pandemic, where there is suffering and grief throughout the world which leaves no family untouched, this renewal of strength from God brings hope. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)
God is the One who is able to truly redeem our problems because He “is love”. (1 John 4:8) He takes whatever we bring to Him and, working through us in His time, often in ways that we don’t understand, transforms it completely, and gives us new hope and joy.
Prayer: Gracious Father, thank You for turning our sorrow into blessing, strength and joy. Amen