A story of redemption, love, hope, and restoration
Naomi’s story is one of tragedy, sorrow, and bitterness. Last time we looked at Naomi’s positive traits and character qualities, but now it’s time to learn from her mistakes.
“I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
Naomi was right. The Lord did bring her back to Judah empty, but was it His fault? Was her life really completely empty and without blessing? What about the loyalty of her daughter-in-law Ruth? Was God really the one bringing sorrow and calamity into Naomi’s life, or were they the consequences of her own poor decisions?
The book of Ruth and story of Naomi starts out with famine and the decision of a man to forsake his country and leave his God for the security and prosperity of a foreign land. We are told that Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, took his family and sojourned in the land of Moab. This decision revealed a lack of faith and trust in God on Elimelech’s part. He didn’t believe God could or would provide for his family so he went looking for help among the secular nations around him. Stepping outside of God’s will and blessing is never a good idea and always brings grief and negative consequences, and for Elimelech it included the loss of his life. However, despite the tragedy and obvious display of God’s lack of blessing, Elimelech’s family didn’t return to Judah but continued to live in Moab; they put down roots by marrying Moabite women and stayed there for ten years! So what would it take for God to bring this wayward family back to Him?
Well for Naomi it took the additional loss of her two sons, essentially all that she had. And even when her two sons died, she didn’t return to Bethlehem right away. No, Naomi waited until she had heard that the Lord had visited His people and brought food. She didn’t return to Bethlehem as an act of trust in the Lord, but rather went because she was confident in a steady food source. And when Naomi finally did return to the place of her birth, she arrived with a bitter and hard heart!
Now before we get too upset with Naomi and begin to look down on her, let’s look at our own lives and see how similar we are to this downcast woman.
The Bible tells us that we are sojourners on this earth, that this is not our permanent home. However, how often do we, as we sojourn here, get comfortable with our surroundings and lifestyles that we end up staying and living for this foreign land? When things get tough, do we rely on God or have a “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” mentality? Have we put down roots and stayed in the enemy’s territory, and then when things didn’t work out blamed God?
God isn’t the sender of hardships and misfortune, but He does allow these negative consequences into our lives in order to teach us and show us that His ways are better. So when difficulty, sorrow, or calamity comes upon us, we have two choices: 1) humble ourselves before God, search our lives for sin and repent if there is any, and then rely upon God to see us through, or 2) blame God for the misfortunes and become bitter and angry. Naomi chose the second option. She blamed God for her situation and allowed bitterness to dwell in her heart. This is a very bad place to be, especially for Naomi. In biblical times, God was the legal protector and provider for widows. He gave the people of Israel specific laws on how to treat and help widows. So Naomi wasn’t just angry and bitter at the God of her people, but she was also resentful towards the only One who could provide for her!
But how often are we just like Naomi?! We point fingers and blame God for all the heartache in our lives and don’t realize that most of it is the byproduct of our own dismal decisions. But instead of humbling ourselves and acknowledging our error, we become angry at the only One who can help us out of our mess and bring about restoration. Oh may we take to heart and learn some valuable lessons from the mistakes and shortcomings of Naomi!
“No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake
that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.”