Tuesday, June 26, 2012

There's A Better Way Than Bitterness

In studying the story of Ruth and Naomi I learn something new every single time I open this book. We have two women, each very different, but both, women of God. When we look at Naomi we see a woman in deep torment. Pain that is almost unbearable. She not only lost her husband, but her sons also. The man of her dreams and the sons that filled her home with laughter.

I think Ruth was a god send for her. A daughter in law that we dream of having. One that chose to stand by her mother in law in difficult times. What catches my eye today, is not Ruth, but Naomi.

"She said to them, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?"
Ruth 1:20-21

Naomi had lost all hope. Even though she was a woman of God, she was not seeing God blessing her, but taking away all that brought her happiness. Life was not the same. As she once felt full of life, she now felt empty of all joy. Her perspective has totally changed because of her circumstances. How many times have we done the same?

I cannot relate to how Naomi must have felt. I pray I never feel that pain. That loss that totally consumed her. Here was a woman grounded in deep faith, but is now lost. She feels as though life is over and I can't say that I blame her. I think I too would have been shouting out to God, asking Him, "Why Lord, why?" In our asking why, is where we begin to seek the Lord on a new level and find that even in our why, He is there with us, every step of the way. I have had my own loss. My own pain. I too was like Naomi and was ready to give up, but the Lord was there. He wasn't allowing me to give up. It was through that pain that I grew closer to Him. I learned more about myself. I experienced God in a whole new way.

But even in her deepest pain, God had a plan. His love had not stopped. His will for her life had not ceased. In fact, He is the God who can turn ash into beauty. Why in our time of greatest emotion do we forget this very fact? No matter what goes on in our lives, He is still God. He still has our life in His hands and there in the midst of our pain. He knows our pain. He lived it.

Ruth is that girl I want to be. She sees things in a whole different perspective than Naomi. Ruth is that get up and go girl. She is filled with hope and sees past the circumstance. These two women were a perfect fit for one another. I imagine that they learned great lessons from one another. They grew in the Lord together as they witnessed Him moving in their lives. They had a relationship that went far beyond family. They were sisters. Nothing was going to separate them and we see nothing was going to separate them from God.

Naomi doesn't want to be called by her given name any longer. She wants to be called Mara. Mara means bitter. Naomi didn't start out this way. Life turned her bitter. She allowed the circumstances in life to change her from the woman she was. Ruth was seeing the depths of what life could bring as well. But she had this hope in her that never left. She too lost her husband. She lost her father in law and brother in law as well. She knew pain, but what is amazing is the fact that she didn't allow it to take control of her life. She kept her focus on God and continued to walk in faith. Ruth carried a spirit of gentleness in her.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control."
Galatians 5:23a

"Blessed are the gentle, for the shall inherit the earth."
Matthew 5:5

"He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor."
Proverbs 22:9

Ruth carried these qualities in her heart. She was just what Naomi needed. She was that encouragement that she needed to move forward and to see all that God had for her. Life as she knew it was over. But life itself was not over. God had more in store for her. Just as He has for you and me. Ruth was a cheerleader for Naomi. It was as though she was saying, "Yes, things are bad. Life hurts, but we are not giving up! We are going foreword together and God is going to carry us through. We will see joy again!" We all need those special people in our life. Cheerleaders who are there in the good times and bad. They give a strength. A joy. God sends those gentle souls in our paths for inspiration. They are an extention of His love.

These women were on a journey. Just as we are on a journey. We will have highs and lows. Each giving us growth. Each guiding us to a new place with the Lord. God uses every aspect of our lives.

Life doesn't always make sense to us. We can't see past our circumstances, but God can. He shows us that He is enough. This is a lesson I am learning daily. There are times I only see the pain before me, but He says, "Wait, let Me show you more. Allow Me to live through you and take that pain and turn it into something can create glory far beyond what you could ever imagine."

"And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9

Isn't that beautiful? It is through our weakness, that we are made perfect through Him. Perfect means complete. So through our weakness we are seeing His strength make us complete in every way. If it were not for that weakness we wouldn't be turning to Him for strength. Kind of changes everything doesn't it?

Friends, instead of being Mara, allow God to bring you comfort and fill you with all He has for you. We must make a choice to live in joy and not our circumstance. It can be a daily battle for us, but with the Lord, we can not only make it, but overcome with great joy.

"Then the women said to Naomi, "Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him."
Ruth 4:14-15

Great and mighty things came from the life of Naomi. God not only restored her, but redeemed her faith and brought her great joy. A joy that He had always intended to display through her life. A purpose He had planned for her long before she even knew of Him.

Lord, may we keep our eyes upon You. May we see beyond circumstance and live in Your purpose with great joy and gentleness. Thank You for all You give. Even when we cannot see the beauty in the moment, but loss, fill us with Your hope, faith and love, always and forever.


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