“‘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.’” Ruth 1:20-21 NIV
Barrenness to Bitter
When Naomi cried out these words to her daughter-in-law, Ruth, she believed them. She had lost her husband and both of her sons. She had no one to provide for her or look out for her. She felt she no longer had meaning or purpose.
As moms and family of loved ones who are lost in their addictions or self-destructive lifestyles, we are also tempted to cry out these words.
Mothers cry because they have lost their children and everything they had dreamed their lives would look like. They live each moment wondering if they will receive that knock at the door. For some, their child or family member has been lost due to death. In either case, grief is a stark reality. Emptiness is so very real.
Wives grieve over the loss of their marriages. They have to become the head of the household and worry about providing for their children. Is this what marriage is supposed to look like? Their husband has vacated his role as father and spouse in pursuit of his other love, his life controlling obsession.
The things that once brought us joy and made us “feel” fulfilled now leave us feeling empty. The roles we identified with no longer fit into society’s definition of wife, mother, sister, daughter.
The image we see looking back at us is unidentifiable. Who is that girl in the mirror? Certainly, we never pictured ourselves here in this place right now. There was no way we could have prepared ourselves for this.
Barrenness to Bounty
God saw things differently, though. In doing so He prepared us in advance for this place of barrenness. Mara is a place of deep pain and bitterness. He knew we would feel such a deep grief that we would wonder if we could go on.
Naomi had lost all hope because she saw no way out of her situation. She believed she was alone, abandoned, and afflicted by God. Every person who had a responsibility to take care of her was gone. And here is the key. Naomi felt unloved and without value. She believed that because her husband and two sons were dead, she was all alone. She did not realize that God had a plan to take her from barrenness to bounty.
God’s plan to care for Naomi came in a very unpredictable way. He brought Ruth to come alongside her and to strengthen her. Ruth stayed with her. Naomi would no longer be her mother-in-law, but her mother. Ruth would provide for her and care for her. And in doing so, God provided Ruth with a guardian redeemer in Boaz. When Naomi lost all hope, God restored her hope.
"Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer today...He will renew your life and sustain you..." Ruth 4:14-15a
Grief can make our world monochromatic, void of color and light. How can color be restored to a life that has become absent of everything that brings it light? Hope adds vivid color and brightness back into those grey places. The Lord has promised to be our Guardian Redeemer. He promises to fill the areas that have become empty and barren.
Have you lost hope? Are you in a place of grief, emptiness, and bitterness. Don’t stay there. Don’t believe for one second, like Naomi, that this is as good as it gets. Look to the Lord of all hope. He wants to fill you to overflowing. He is more than able to restore your joy. How? Because He is your Guardian Redeemer. He has plans to take you from barrenness to bounty.
In this promise, you can find hope.
“Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13 NIV