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.” Ruth 1:19-21
Until this point. it seemed like things may be looking up a bit for Naomi. Her daughter-in-law has shown incredible loyalty and love to follow her back to her homeland. A new fresh start. But we see in this passage the despair is just as deep.
The women arrive home…Bethlehem. The whole town is in a stir. Imagine a life with no tv, cell phones, 24/7 news, social media. The return of Naomi was BIG news. Imagine the whispers and questions and stares.
When we envision a homecoming, we want to come back looking good, with sweet reports of the great life we left and exciting stories of our adventures. Naomi recalls initially leaving Bethlehem full. There may have been a famine they were escaping, but things were good. The last thing we want to do is crawl back home heartbroken with nothing. Worse off than when we left.
Naomi’s reaction quickly reveals her state of mind. Rooting her identity in her present circumstances, she tells them to change her name to Mara…bitter. Names had much meaning in their day. She recounts that she left full and returned empty. She recognizes God’s sovereignty but feels He has afflicted her and brought misfortune upon her. She is basically having a pity party, yet who can really blame her.
But we learn the barley harvest is beginning. Crops are growing again. New life. Perhaps this is a hint of what is to come for Naomi. God is so big, so good, so present… and has so much yet to show Naomi about her true identity in the One who provides and redeems.
Questions: Do you often find you have a narrow view of your life based on your immediate circumstances? Do you have a hard time looking forward or trusting that God has good plans when you are in the thick of a rough patch of life?