In my recent devotions, I spent time re-reading the book of Ruth. I never expected the story of Naomi to grasp my attention so boldly. To summarize chapter one, Naomi, along with her husband Elimelech and their two sons, traveled from Judah to Moab due to famine. Her sons married Moabite women. Within ten years, Naomi lost her husband and both sons. Upon learning that famine had lifted in Judah, she decided to return home. She urged both daughters-in-law to return to their parents' homes to have the chance to marry again. One daughter-in-law, Ruth, committed to leaving behind everything she knew, serving Naomi's God, and following her to Judah.
When Naomi and Ruth return to Judah, the women start wondering if that is Naomi. Naomi's name means "pleasant". She urges the women of Judah not to call her Naomi but instead Mara, which means "bitter". "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. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me." (Ruth 1: 20-21) I read this far and stopped dead in my tracks.
The first thing that struck me about this statement was that Naomi labeled herself based on a difficult period in her life. This period was temporary. In God's timing, it had an expiration date. She could not see beyond her grief and loss to the possibility that tomorrow may be different than the present day. She had lost her provision, her husband and her sons, but God had a plan to provide for her through Ruth's marriage to Boaz, a wealthy kinsman that would redeem her.
Like Naomi, we don't see the totality of God's plan for us. How many of us get stuck in mindsets of defeat and abandonment when we have various adversities? I, personally, sat thinking about my seven months in hospital facilities and the toll it took on my body to be in hospital beds. I had to learn to walk again and rehabilitate my shoulders. I've been in some type of physical rehab for over a year. I had to stop defining myself as a sick person, bankrupt of health. I had to take grasp of God's plans and purposes for my life. Even though I don't see the full plan, He challenged me to praise Him not just for what He has done but also for the plans He has for me.
Secondly, we must guard our minds from the lie that God has some sort of vendetta against us. Unlike Naomi, we have the entire body of scripture that tells us God is for us. Psalm 9:9 says, "The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble." He is the one we run to when there is trouble. It's natural to wonder why He allows difficulty and pain to reach us. However, Jesus prepared us that "[...]In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)
Thirdly, God is always working. We sing the affirming "Waymaker" song that says, "Even when I don't see it you're working. Even when I don't feel it you're working. You never stop. You never stop working..." In her bitterness, Naomi missed the value Ruth would add to her life. Ruth would be the vehicle to her provision. My challenge was to look for the "Ruth" in my life. What has God given you as a vehicle to your blessing? The Lord's fingerprints are all around us. He gives us encouragement along the way. Take a moment to see even the smallest miracle, and if you can't see anything, press into the truth you know about His nature.