My nighttime Bible reading recently took me into the book of Ruth. I love a good story, and Ruth is no exception. On top of being a beautiful literary account, I love the symbolism that is found in the story. We, of course, are Ruth, in a helpless state, until Boaz, our redeemer, Christ Jesus, comes to redeem us as his bride.
This time through the story, I was particularly struck by Naomi’s character. Ten years of her life are covered in just a few short verses. Maybe it was that ten-year mark that caught my eye, since we recently celebrated Sophie’s 10th birthday, and ten years of our journey in special needs parenting. When you’re reflecting on an era of ten hard years, you can feel how long this decade was for Naomi. Here’s a quick recap of her decade in case you don’t know the story. Strap in; it’s intense!
· She left her homeland because of famine. (That’s rough all on its own.)
· While she was sojourning in a foreign country, her husband passed away. (Heartbreaking grief.)
· On top of all that, her two sons also die while she is in the land of Moab. (I cannot fathom the loss and grief that Naomi must have carried. It is soul-crushing.)
Ten years go by in the land of Moab. She’s alone with only her daughters-in-law, probably wondering what in the world she did to bring this on herself. Now, husbandless and sonless, she decides to return to her homeland, Judah. She tries to release her daughters-in-law to return to their households so that they can start fresh and have a new life. A hope and a future. Children. But of Ruth does not return to her home and swears to remain with Naomi, covenanting with her for all her days.
When Naomi returns to Judah, imagine the stir in the neighborhood. Her grief, no doubt, has aged her. No one there knows what has happened to her family. There were no text messages or social media posts detailing her losses in Moab. When they greet her by her given name, Naomi, she responds, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:20). Phew. What a staggering synopsis of her last ten years. Naomi is embittered, emptied, and a shell of who she once was.
Can anybody relate?
Whether you’re reflecting on the last decade, the last couple of years (hello, pandemic), or just the past few months, I know we all have seasons where we feel just like Naomi felt – mistreated by God, bitter, bereft, empty. The new name that Naomi has chosen for herself, Mara, means bitter. It is the essence of who she is now.
Oh but Naomi cannot indeed see the whole story. I’ve read the whole book of Ruth, and I know that all God stripped away from Naomi, he returned in greater abundance. All the sorrow that he allowed was from a heart of love. Because in Judah, Ruth was redeemed by a kinsman, Boaz, who gave her a son, Obed, who in turn had a son named Jesse, who was the father of King David, the greatest king of Israel. Beyond that, Ruth’s genealogy is traced down to Christ Jesus himself. While Naomi did lose a husband and two sons, she was granted a position in the lineage of Jesus Christ the Messiah!
Hindsight is always 20/20 right?
But oh that we could learn to view life as it happens through the lens of love. Whatever hard things God has allowed into our lives, he allows from a heart of love.
As we muddle through our life parenting a child with a disability and doing our best to raise two typical children in a very non-typical family, it can be easy to feel heavy. We continue to struggle to find a way to help Sophie sleep through the night, and it affects all of us. We are often physically so very tired. Literally weary. There are times where the struggle is so intense, and it feels unending, hopeless. But these are the times where, if I notice, I find that my eyes are on my circumstances, and not on the loving nature of my God. There is loss and grief in a life touched by disability. But my prayer is that I not allow myself to so misinterpret my circumstances to think that God has dealt bitterly with me. I choose to believe that God is always kind and that he always acts from a heart of love. I am living his best plan for me. There is life here, growth and goodness to be found. If I choose to look through the lens of love.
I don’t know what your circumstances are that tempt you to despair or to feel that God has dealt bitterly with you. But today I want to encourage you to look at your life through the lens of love. Whatever he has allowed to be stripped away, like Naomi’s loss of her entire family, God intends to restore to you. If not here on earth, certainly in heaven, all will be made whole, and right. Whatever difficult things He has allowed in your life, He fully intends to use for good as part of his perfect plan. I pray you receive these words as the Word of God, and not as cliché “band aid” type statements. These are God’s promises to you, and you can stand on them when it is difficult to see his love through the pain of your circumstances.
As the book of Ruth closes, the townswomen say to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age.” (Ruth 4:14) Today may you find through the lens of love that God has not left YOU without a redeemer, that he shall be to YOU a restorer of LIFE, and a NOURISHER to your soul, no matter where in the journey you are.