back to Homepage

Ruth: A Guide for Life’s Troubled Times

The woman that returns to Bethlehem is a shadow of her former self and the town women that meet her ask, “Is this Naomi?” Is this the woman they remember from more than a decade ago? She is not the same as they remember.  She has carried heavy burdens. The hammer of life falls on all of us, and it leaves a mark. She had left Bethlehem years earlier with her husband and two sons, concerned for the future but reasonably confident. She returns in rags, and her face is marked by a hard life.

Naomi has a very human response to the women: She has a meltdown. I can imagine that Naomi has been very strong for a very long time. She has lost her husband, her children, and all of her worldly possessions.  Now with all of theses tragic losses, she relocates back to her home town.

It is all, by this point, way too much, and her anger, frustration, sorrow, and self-pity explode. “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara!” She is saying, “Don’t call me Naomi, which means ‘pleasant.’ Call me Mara, which is translated literally as ‘bitter;’” “Call me marred, because God has marred me.”

Naomi is bitter at life’s reverses. She left Bethlehem those ten years before full—full of life and love and hope. She has returned, empty. But she is not empty. So often when we face a reverse of life, we feel empty, but the grace of God never leaves us totally empty or without comfort. Naomi is so preoccupied, understandably, with what has been taken away that she doesn’t yet see or understand what God had given her as a blessing and provision. In short, at this point, Naomi isn’t seeing Ruth.

For now, Naomi sees that God is against her. Literally, in the Hebrew, Naomi says, “…the Almighty hath done evil to me.”

Sometimes life has bitter fruit! But God sometimes takes bitter fruit and turns it into the peaceable fruit of righteousness.  The scene that is written here is another moment that would be wonderful to dramatize to get the full power of the story. This is one of those times when someone around you blows a head gasket, and you wish you could be anywhere else than right where you are, because it’s uncomfortable and embarrassing to witness. Although, it is all very human and, in a way, encouraging for the rest of us. Why should we feel encouraged? Simply this: What we see is real life in this story. It is real life that we can all relate to, because we have all experienced it on one level or another. All of us, at one time or another, have felt bitter about something that has happened to us. As human as it is to feel bitterness at times, we must also understand that bitterness is a poison of the soul. “…looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).

Sometimes, when life seems to have hit us with one of its MACK trucks, we feel like we were in fact run over!  We’re emotionally hurt and wounded, and we just can’t smile it away and say, “I’m doing fine.” Naomi is, if nothing else, authentic and real about her pain and agony. Naomi’s struggle is an encouragement for us all during those times that we feel angry and overwhelmed.

Some time back, I struggled with frustration and bitterness over a delayed surgery. These difficult and painful events forced me, again, to look at myself with greater honesty about my faith and level of (or lack of) spiritual maturity. The surgery was unable to progress as originally scheduled, because there were some anesthesia issues that required the services of the hospital, not the out-patient surgery center. When I took this issue and threw the economic impact of surgery into the brownie mix, along with a few other issues, the result was a greater sense of frustration. I am a type A personality; I like to make plans and see them come to fruition.

Obstacles really irritate me.

The point of pain here was that my timing and God’s sovereign timing are not the same. Guess who wins?

Another Christian writer once wrote, “You cannot box with God as your arms are too short.”1  So I didn’t lace up the gloves at that time, but they were still lying there on the table.

God moves in our lives in His timing, not ours. The delay in surgery reminded me of that once again. When the surgery was delayed, I didn’t like His timing.

But what are the options here, realistically? To state the obvious, we cannot whine, beg, and plead God into changing His schedule of events to coincide with ours. The frustrating truth about God is that if we think through it in our spiritually mature moments (you have senior moments; I have spiritually mature moments. We, in the church, need to be able to be honest and to be transparent about our hurts. This transparency, this honesty to be real about our struggles and hurts and burdens—this is the heart of true, genuine fellowship in the body of Christ. We have been hiding from others since Adam hid from God in the Garden. To be transparent, to be naked, really, requires trust in another. To be emotionally bare in front of another and to be accepted and not shamed is the most precious gift of fellowship that can be given. To the degree we can do this is in the church, this being honest and real about ourselves, we will be in a position to truly minister to the world.


Ruth, A Guide for Life's Troubled Times






Buy Now


Copyright © 2011 Brian Bailey, Author