Last time we looked at the life of Naomi, we considered the huge upheaval that she had experienced. In a time of horrific famine, she and her husband had left home, family, and friends, and had taken their two sons with them. They had traveled to the country actually controlled by enemies of their people; they went to Moab. They lived there for a good number of years, for the passage told us that their sons had taken wives from the Moabite people.
Then her husband, Elimilech, passed away. Later on, her two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, died. What a tragedy. What a burden on her soul that must have been. Times must have seemed very dark to her, and to her two daughters-in-law. We will see that she must have been a good example of her faith in Yahweh, though. (I'm getting ahead of myself in the story, here.)
I believe that it must have taken a good bit of courage for Naomi to go back to the tribe of Ephraim, to the town of Bethlehem. I mean, she'd been away for a very long time, and she couldn't really know what she was going home to. Have you ever gone back to a place that you lived or visited in the past, only to realize that you hardly recognize the place? And don't even think about trying to find the people that you knew or met -- good luck with that! Things change so much. And it seems to happen so quickly.
Not only that, but it took courage to go back because of her status. She was now a widow; she was standing on the lowest rung of the ladder, so to speak. This was a time when the people of Israel were wicked, and few followed the Law. She would be vulnerable to the folks who would want to take advantage of her, and of her daughters-in-law.
She showed even more courage when she was planning her trip home and told her daughters in law to go back to their own families, to stay in Moab. Instead of telling them about the dangers ahead for a single, widowed woman, and "guilting" them into coming with her, she was perfectly willing to go alone. She encouraged them to go back to their mothers, and to find other husbands from the men of Moab. Orpah and Ruth first said they would go with her, but as Naomi talked, it made more sense to Orpah to stay in Moab. After all, as Naomi said, even if she could find a husband and have sons, they would have to wait until they were marriageable age . . . Orpah hugged her and said she would stay in Moab.
Ruth, however, must have noticed the strong faith of Naomi. She must have seen how Naomi handled the tragedies and been impressed. How do we know that? She tells Naomi that not only does she want to go with her, but that she wants to accept her God, as well.
Ruth went back with her to Bethlehem. Naomi did not go alone. And that is a good thing, for I believe that she really needed Ruth with her. She was at a very low point in her life, and it seems that her faith began to waver just a little bit.
I'm sure that it was difficult, walking back into Bethlehem. As she walked those familiar streets and saw some familiar faces, she may have been overcome with memories. It may have been hard to see the old places through her tears, as she came back home without her husband and her two sons.
Have you ever been patting yourself on the back for how well you are handling a tough situation, and then one of your close friends or your spouse comes in the room and hugs you? Isn't that when your tears and emotions just let loose like a flooded river? I think that is what happened to Naomi here. She actually seems to blame God for her misfortune. She's feeling bad, so let's not jump to judge her, but she tells her friends that her old name just doesn't fit anymore. . . . instead of calling her Naomi (pleasant) she says they should call her Mara (bitter one).
Well, to tell the truth, we probably all feel that way sometimes. We may or we may not come out and say it like Naomi did, but if the heart aches and the obstacles and disappointments start to pile up, we might begin to waver a bit. We might begin to have doubts. Hey, we might even begin to feel angry!
Wait just a minute.
Do NOT pretend with God.
He knows our hearts, anyway.
Those are the times when we should tell Him how we feel. He doesn't want us to pretend. He would rather have us share our hearts with Him. We know with our heads that He is big enough, and that His shoulders are strong enough, to handle our fears and our doubts. But we need to get that head knowledge into our hearts, and then realize that He understands what we are going through. It's OK to let it all out with Him.
Remember what He told us in Matthew 11?
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)You see, if we have doubts, and if we have fears, that is not sinful. We are not failures in His eyes. Do you recall when you learned to ride a bicycle? We all had to learn that, and we all had times that we fell down! But the trick was this: we didn't stay down. We got back up, brushed ourselves off, bandaged a scrape if we needed to, and then tried again! If we stay "down" in our fears and doubts, that is when we have failed.
Some of us may be down in our faith right now. We may be on our knees, or even on our backs. Will we stay down? Will we feel sorry for ourselves? Or will we brush ourselves off and struggle back to our feet? If we keep on struggling and trying, that is when we can grow in our faith.
We'll see tomorrow that Naomi didn't stay down....