Updated: Jun 9, 2020
"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."
You may know the story of Ruth. The young, foreign woman who is redeemed by the honorable and wealthy Boaz. While she is the main character in the book, chapter one deals heavily with her mother-in-law Naomi. Noami and her family left their hometown of Bethlehem during a famine. In her 10 years living in Moab, she lost her husband and both of her sons. She was left as an elderly widow. Through a series of events, she returns to her home town with her daughter-in-law, Ruth. The people of the town, many of whom were her relatives, were excited about her return home. However, the long years of loss had taken their toll. "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me". Naomi means "my delight," and Mara means "bitterness".
Naomi's experience is familiar for many of us. The world we live in is chaotic and often unkind, 2020 has proven that. You may have entered this year full. Full of hopeful expectation, full of joy, full of health, just full. Now, only a few months later, you may echo Noami's words, "I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty." When life fell apart, Noami felt like God had abandoned her. Like He was punishing her, and ultimately like he had changed her name. From child to stranger. From blessed to cursed. From delightful to bitter. There are no easy answers to our suffering, but there are two things we can stand firmly on.
1.) God only knows his children by a true name.
"My delight." No matter what our circumstances may try to convince us of. We are not abandoned. We are not alone. Our Redeemer, Jesus, made that clear, "And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20. There will be times you doubt; there will be times you struggle, but, as a child of God, there will never be a time when you suffer alone. When you come to Jesus, he gives you a name. Loved, cherished, adored, redeemed, his delight, and nothing you do or that is done to you has any power to change that.
2.) All of our suffering has meaning.
"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8. God doesn't do anything without a purpose, and so when we read that, he keeps track of all of our sorrows, collects our tears, and writes them down, it means there is a purpose. In ways, we can see, and many we never will understand, the suffering we face on this earth has an eternal purpose. Death is not random, pain is not wasted, and suffering is not pointless. Jesus suffering death on a cross is our guarantee that everything we suffer is remembered and repurposed for things more significant than we can imagine.
My Prayer for You That you would be unshakeable in the name given to you by the one who created and redeemed you. That you will realize Jesus is closer than your very skin, especially in your suffering. And that you would find peace in the knowledge that your suffering is never pointless and never wasted. You are His delight. Amen
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