I’m haunted by these verses at times. They speak about rejoicing when there seems to be nothing in our circumstances worth rejoicing over. I know Philippians 4:4 encourages us to “rejoice always”; but have you ever wondered how to do that? Do you remember a time when you found it hard to find anything to praise or rejoice over? You knew that you should, but couldn’t?
In the past, when I read the book of Ruth, I focused on Ruth, the main character, but this time I was drawn to Naomi and read it through her perspective. Just imagine having to face all that this woman faced in such a short amount of time:Ruth 1:1-5
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
Imagine losing your life-mate and husband after spending most of your lives together and then losing the children you worked so hard to bring into this world and raise to manhood. I honestly can’t begin to fathom what that must have been like for Naomi, especially knowing she was now left destitute far away from home, family and friends in a strange country with strange customs. Is it any wonder that when she finally returns home, she chooses to change her name?
“…the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
“Don’t call me Naomi (pleasant),” she told them. “Call me Mara (bitter), because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.
But is it the circumstances that she finds herself in that are bitter, or has she become bitter because of her circumstances? There’s a big difference.
God’s Word clearly tells us:
It’s okay to get angry:
It’s okay to mourn:
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
It’s okay to weep before the Lord:
“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. … Jesus wept.” John 11:32-35
It’s okay to question God:
“ If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5-6
“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”, but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?” Habakkuk 1:2-3
It’s okay to experience all the emotions our difficult circumstances warrant. What’s not okay is to allow those emotions to control us!
How do we keep from being overcome by our emotions? I believe David gives us the answer in the Psalms. Look at Psalm 23:1- 4:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
The key is found in our relationship with our Lord and in a close walk with Him. The closer we draw to Him, the easier it will be!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
When difficult times come into our lives and make it hard for us to clearly see that the Lord is still with us, we still have:
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” ~Hebrews 11:1
“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” ~Psalm 71:20
“Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another.” Romans 12:15-16a
Naomi not only possessed the faith to keep going, but she found a way out of her troubles. She saw the Master’s providential hand in their circumstances upon returning from Moab and moved forward with Ruth.
What we don’t see is the enemy’s attempts to thwart her; but we all know him well enough to suspect he was there doing all he could to try and discourage Naomi. She would have none of it and neither should we. Naomi found a way to carry on in spite of the tragedies, pursued it and was blessed!
I pray you’ll remember Naomi when those trials come and your tempted to give up and in and the words of David in Psalm 43:5:
“Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, Who is the help of my [sad] countenance, and my God.”
‘Til next time,
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