Naomi: When Life Seems Bitter
After Naomi had lost everything (read Ruth chapter 1), she decided to go back to her home country. Ruth, of course, remained by her side. When the two of them got to Bethlehem, Naomi’s home town, she was immediately greeted by familiar faces. Instead of being overjoyed, she told them to call her Mara, “Bitter,” instead of Naomi, “Pleasant,” because the Lord had “dealt bitterly with her”. Why would someone ever want to be called “Bitter”? In verses 10-12, Naomi says the following:
“Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow. I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t. The Strong One ruined me.” (MSG)
“The Strong One ruined me.” I cannot tell you how often I have felt that way this year. Sometimes, life just deals us a bad bet, and during those times, one often wonders why God lets these things happen to us. Throughout the last few months, God has been dealing heavily with my heart, stripping me of bitterness and self-pity, and has given me a few revelations about trials and tribulations. Allow me to share a few of them with you.
The apostle Paul had a thorn in his side (2 Cor. 12:8-10).What that thorn was, I do not know, but I do know that it was painful and he begged God to remove it. Instead of removing it, God taught Paul a more valuable lesson that stayed with him for the rest of his life. “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” In our weakest times, God’s sovereign strength is displayed in and through our lives – even though it is painful and we want it to end. I encourage you to read this scripture on your own (I love the MSG translation).
Before being crucified, Jesus told His disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world.” (John 6:33) This speaks for itself. We need to take heart, and find our peace in Jesus in the midst of life’s storms. Hard is it may be, we must never let go of Him.
Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Another verse that speaks for itself. There is a greater glory to be revealed in us than in our present sufferings. God forms our character through trials.
At the end of the day, we will be able to look back at our present struggles and thank God for taking us through those difficult seasons. We will be so much stronger and more mature in our faith. “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4)
God is God through the bad times, as He is God through the good times. This is a great lesson that we can learn from Job. His wife was angry at God and wanted him to curse Him, but instead he told her, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10)
The well-known Gospel hymn, “It is Well With My Soul” was written by a man who was in the midst of trial and tribulation. Horatio Stafford had lost his son, lost his wealth, lost his daughter and nearly lost his wife in a ship wreck. Can you imagine how he must have felt? Lost, discouraged, heartbroken; and yet, he was still able to keep bitterness against God from his heart and wrote the words, “it is well with my soul”. My dear sister, though it seems as if everything around you is falling apart, never forget that there is One that can give you hope and comfort. Never forget His promises that are faithful and true, and that He holds your precious life and future in His capable hands. Be assured of your salvation in Jesus Christ, and know that though it feels as if you are losing your very self, it is still well with your soul because of Him. Your faith in God will sustain you, precious daughter of God. The seas may rage around you, but Jesus is ever-present. Just run into His presence.
Today, like Naomi, you may feel like God has dealt bitterly with you, but I encourage you to hold onto Jesus with everything you have – and guard against a bitter heart. With the little strength that you have left, do not let go of your God and trust that He will work everything out for your good – just like He did for Naomi. He promises that if we do not give up in doing good, we will reap the rewards (Galatians 6:9).