Beautiful Messes: Naomi
“In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion...But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband...”1
“So, the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, ‘Is this Naomi?’ She said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?’”2
“Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!’”3
In the Book of Ruth, we find the story of Naomi, a woman who went from being full of joy with a pleasant disposition, to being a woman turned bitter, depressed, and emptied by loss. Naomi’s name means “pleasantness”, however, life’s circumstances left her feeling broken, possibly even shattered. Naomi and her husband were Israelites; they belonged to the tribe of God’s chosen people. During a time of great famine in the land, they made a very difficult decision to leave their home in Bethlehem and relocate their family to the very pagan city of Moab. Sometimes, when we think we are doing what we believe is best for our family, it isn’t always what God has planned for us and it is our family that ends up suffering the consequences. Sometime after arriving in Moab, Naomi was left widowed and here began her suffering. She now had to raise her two sons on her own in a foreign land. Doing what she thought was best, she found wives for them among the Moabite woman, stepping out of her faith in doing so. A few years later, her sons died as well, leaving her utterly broken and despaired. Finding herself alone and feeling as if she had nothing else to live for, she packed up her few belongings and told her daughters-in-law to return home to their families, but Naomi’s greatest qualities were her loving and generous spirit. Therefore, having fallen in love with their mom-in-law, the girls were torn to leave her. Naomi was able to convince one of the heartbroken ladies to go, but the other clung to her. And so, together, they return to Bethlehem. Now, remember that Naomi was known for her joy and pleasantness, but her suffering had changed her so much so that upon entering the gates of the city the people said: “Is that Naomi!?” Such a mess was she that they didn’t recognize her! Naomi tells them: “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara –It means Bitter!” and she then goes on to complain about how badly the Lord has treated her.
Naomi’s story is so relatable! How many times do we not blame the Lord for the consequences of our choices? Naomi and her husband thought they were doing best, but when is walking away from the ways of the Lord ever best? Unfortunately, Naomi had to bear the consequences all on her own and they were too heavy for her to bear. She felt crushed under the weight of them as we may have felt at one time or another. But, even so, God took her misery and turned it into something beautiful that would glorify Him. She was able to rebuild her life and through her daughter-in-law, Ruth, enjoy a family again. Her friends, who I am sure missed the old Naomi, helped her to see that the Lord had not abandoned her (Ruth 4:14) and slowly her joy returned. Naomi reflected God’s love even through her deepest pain, and it was because of her testimony that her pagan daughter-in-law left her Godless ways to follow the one true God. Moreover, the Lord allowed Naomi to be an adopted grandma and cradle in her arms the grandfather of King David, an heir to the very throne of God!
Naomi is a glorious reminder of how God can take our bad decisions and terrible suffering and turn them into beauty; Beautiful messes turned remarkable.
Dear Lord, I have made decisions that have taken me far from you. I have suffered the consequences and may have even blamed you for them. But, today, I return to the protection of your mighty arms and ask that you forgive me for seeking it elsewhere. Thank for your unconditional love and forgiveness. Gratefully, In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Ruth 1:1-5 (ESV).
All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.