So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them, “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter, I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.” Ruth 1:19-22.
“Don’t call me Naomi . . . call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter . . . ”
Naomi means “pleasant,” Mara means “bitter.” Naomi went to the country of Moab because of a famine in Judah, her homeland. She went away full because she had her full household with her: her husband and two sons. But now she was returning to Bethlehem empty because her husband and both sons had passed away. It appears as if her very countenance radiated with bitterness and disappointment because the people exclaimed, “Could this be Naomi?”
Many times, we blame God when things go wrong in our lives even though the decisions that led to our bitter experiences were due to choices we made ourselves without consulting God in the first place. There was no indication that Naomi’s husband consulted with God about moving his whole family to Moab to escape the famine in Judah. Life didn’t turn out so well in Moab and Naomi was now returning empty-handed from Moab.
But God has a sense of humor: Naomi left because of a drought but she arrived at the beginning of harvest time. The timing of her return raises some interesting questions about the way God operates. Naomi left a drought behind but she returned to a harvest. The timing was divinely orchestrated. This becomes evident as the story unfolds.
Many times, God will allow us to experience some bitter situations that will cause us to return to where He can truly flourish us. If Naomi had not experienced those painful trials in Moab, she would not have returned empty to Judah and God could not have filled her life and given her the testimony she was about to experience.
In all things, God works together for our good even when we make wrong choices initially. So when we exclaim that, “The LORD has afflicted me, the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me,” it could well be that the affliction we are experiencing is meant to lead to the enlargement of our lives. That is exactly what happened to Naomi. The affliction and bitterness she experienced in Moab led to her enlargement when she returned to Judah.
May God turn your bitter experiences and afflictions into your enlargement.
Prayer: Father, even though my mouth may be filled with bitter complaints, please help me to understand that you are working all things out for my good. Amen.