Ruth 1 vs 2
“…his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of her two sons…”
The story of Naomi and Ruth, for Naomi’s part, is one of being full in life but then suddenly losing everything – to the point of actually changing her name to match her new “state” of being…bitterness. Mara. Most people know the story intellectually…but there are many who also know the story personally.
I struggled awhile with how to approach the name of Naomi in a new light. I wanted to go beyond, “Naomi was happy and life was full, she lost her husband and then both her sons so she was empty and bitter and became Mara…then Ruth marries and has a son and she’s happy again therefore she’s back to being “full-of-joy” Naomi.” I mean, its already all right there in a nice, compact 4 chapters of the book of Ruth. I prayed over how to continue this series…and the Lord provided. And, as it happens often, he provided inspiration through whatever other study I am participating in at the time. In this case. Beth Moore’s “Breaking Free.”
As I read about Naomi’s name change I thought about what her argument would sound like. “Do not call me Naomi for I am no longer pleasant, winsome or agreeable. When I left Israel for Moab based on my husband’s decision, I was full and happy. He was human and made a human mistake. He wanted to save his family. My sons married pagan women and as a direct result of our disobedience of the Law, the Lord has brought me back empty, bitter, lost. So call me Mara, as I am no longer full, but empty. No longer winsome, but bitter.” Then I was struck by one thought. I can empathize with Naomi. I have two sons. If I lost them and my husband in the span of about 10-15 years…I’d feel pretty empty too. Id be devastated. Lost. Broken. Joyless. Alone. And probably pretty bitter at God, whether I thought He was teaching me a lesson or not. But all I can say is, I hope I would have the strength of mind to turn to God and trust Him to refill my life. That I would be able to remember about God’s hopeful future for my life. (Jer. 29:11) Or that I would have my strong Christian friends and family surrounding me to remind me. To help me.
But Naomi didn’t have that. She had Ruth and Orpah. Moabite women. Not exactly the strong influence you would want in your life at a time like that. But God was ever faithful. He led Ruth and Naomi back to her people, where the famine had ended. But still Naomi, or Mara, took matters into her own hands. Along with fullness of life, she had also lost her trust in God. (ch. 2) She resolutely began to play matchmaker. And still, behind the scenes, God was faithful. But we will come back to that.
My point is simple.
Naomi filled her life and measured her happiness by her family, her things, her comfortable way of living. I’m not saying she was completely wrong in this. God gives us these things as blessings in our lives, to INCREASE our joy. But first our joy needs to be complete in Him…(John 15:10-11) Or when we lose these things, what will we have left? Bitterness and despair. Please do not misunderstand my words on this. Sadness, confusion, despair and even bitterness at God is normal in the face of great loss. God made us human, with human emotions after all. Good thing He is God and we are not…He can take all the anger we can throw at Him. But in those time, God wants us to come to Him. To cry to Him. To rail and rant and weep at Him. And He will take away our despair and then we will realize that we were still filled by the Joy of the Lord the entire time. He never leaves or forsakes…but He will not fill the places where He is not invited. (Revelation 3:20 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.”)
Invite Him in. Ask Him to fill all places of your life. Ask Him to help you remove bitterness, sorrow, anger, dust and debris from all those dark corners in your life where we choose to turn from. Ask Him to help you in your Spring Cleaning this year. Clear your mind and heart and prepare to be filled with love and joy.
I’m not saying its easy. It certainly is not. I myself have just started the process. And just like real Spring Cleaning (which I have also started) you must look at things you wish you hadn’t kept for all those years, throw out things that are useless but painful to part with, view areas of your life you try to hide from others, clean the cobwebs from the hard to reach places and clear out those overstuffed closets. It can be painful and tiresome. It may be hard and distasteful. But so, so worth it.
Don’t change your name, ask God to change and heal your heart. Ask Him to fill all areas in your life. To help you find complete satisfaction in Him and to make your joy complete.
Philippians 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Jesus Christ.”