I love the book of Ruth. Most of the time the book of Ruth is being discussed, Ruth is the center of the discussion. Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi, or Ruth’s love story with Boaz take front and center. Or Boaz, the family redeemer, is compared with Jesus, our redeemer. When I think about the book of Ruth, I am glued to the details of Naomi’s journey. I find her story compelling.
Naomi’s story unfolds quickly. By verse six, she’s lost her husband Elimelech, and her two sons Mahlon and Kilion. Within a 10-year period, Naomi lost her entire immediate family. All she has left are her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth.
How easy it is for life to turn on a dime. One day everything is fine. The next day it isn’t. I haven’t lost my husband and children, but I feel a kindred spirit with Naomi. I know what it feels like to keep having one crisis after another unfold in front of me.
Naomi packs up and moves away, intending to leave Ruth and Orpah behind with these parting words: “…things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me” (Ruth 1:13 NLT). Naomi’s response to all of this is quite understandable. It isn’t healthy, but it’s understandable.
How easy it is to make decisions that bring us deeper and deeper into isolation. How many of us respond to trauma by pushing away the people who love us? I know what it’s like to emotionally pack up and distance myself from people who love me. I’ve bought the lie from time to time, that it’s less painful to suffer alone.
But Naomi couldn’t shake Ruth.
Ruth 1:19-21 NLT: So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?”
How easy it is for suffering to turn into bitterness. Before we know it, we nurse a grudge and wear it as a badge of honor. I have walked through the dark and lonely valley of resentment. Nobody made me do it. I walked through this deep valley all on my own.
I want to hug her, and exclaim, “Oh, sweet Naomi! Have hope! The Lord sees you. He loves you! He’s moving in your direction. Wait and see what’s going to happen next, Naomi!”
First, Ruth goes out to find work to feed her little family of two. Ruth comes home with food she harvested on a farm nearby. Naomi is astonished to hear it is the farm of a relative –Boaz. A short time later Boaz and Ruth are married.
How easy it is to lose sight of our hope in God. We know he works all things together for our good, for those of us who love him and call him our Lord. I can recall times I’ve looked so closely at my circumstances that I couldn’t see God at work. I remember being so discouraged that “hope in God” had become just a platitude to me.
This is my favorite part! Remember, that neither Orpah or Ruth were able to have children. But now God has helped Ruth conceive. Ruth and Boaz have a baby boy. Ruth 4:14-17 NLT: Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!” Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own.
I always gasp when I read those last two sentences. The beauty of the newness of life that God gave to Naomi is breathtaking.
I like to imagine in my mind’s eye what it looked like. I picture Naomi having supper at Ruth and Boaz’s table. I imagine a long chunky table with dark stain. Boaz at the head of the table. Naomi sitting next to little Obed who is filling the room with sweet baby sounds as he bangs his spoon on the table. Ruth sitting across from Naomi, close enough to clasp her husband’s hand. Eating their food with glad hearts, laughing together as they talk about the day’s events. I picture a moment when Naomi looks from Boaz to Ruth to Obed. She sees what God has done, and it fills her heart with sudden overflowing joy.
For God did not leave her sitting in grief and bitterness. God did not let her walk this life alone. No. He transformed her. God gave Naomi a new life. In this moment as she looks in the faces of her family, she feels her hope return.
Oh, friend, this is what God does for each of us. He reaches in and transforms us from the inside out if we let him. Can we have the courage to hope in God in the midst of our suffering? I believe we can. God is faithful. He will not leave us or forsake us. He doesn’t forget about us. He’s an ever-present help in our times of trouble.
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Revelations 3:20 (KJV)
This is the first in a series based on Naomi. Join the conversation! I’d love to hear your thoughts.