Breadless in Bethlehem. The House of Bread battled famine. Yet though she was hungry, Naomi felt full. She had her loved ones. Elimelech, whose name meant “my God is king,” packed up his wife and two sickly sons. They traveled 30 miles to a foreign land to greener pastures.
Away from family.
Away from friends.
Away from the land of promise.
In a sense, away from God.
To Moab. Where idols ruled.
Not that far in terms of distance. But a million miles in terms of heart.
Elimelech died shortly after the family arrived in Moab. The sons married Moabite girls. And then the boys died.
Naomi faced life as a widow alone. Without her girlfriends back in Bethlehem. Broke and heartbroken. Empty in a fertile land. Except for her daughters-in-law.
Then Naomi heard the famine was over. She dusted herself off and headed toward home. She tried to send the girls back to their own mothers, in hopes they could find rest and new husbands. The pull was too much for Orpah, but Ruth stayed, and the two widows continued on.
Circumstances plunged Naomi into a deep sea of grief. She did not blame God or rebel against Him. She recognized His control over everything, but pain and sadness still overwhelmed her. Her face mirrored tragedy. The women of Bethlehem hardly recognized her.
“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara. Don’t call me pleasant. Call me bitter.”
I’m grateful to Kay Arthur for teaching me the concept of making bitter waters sweet. More pleasant. Palatable.
After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, they went out into the wilderness. They wandered around for three days and couldn’t find water. Until they came to Marah. But the water was bitter. The people complained, and Moses cried out to God. God showed Moses a tree, and Moses threw it into the water.
And the water became sweet.
There’s another tree that stood on a hill. A cross that reminds us that Jesus tasted bitterness for us. He gave up everything so we could taste the sweetness of life in heaven. But even more than that. When we wade through hard and bitter circumstances, we can dip that tree in those waters. Painful times can become sweeter as we deny ourselves, take up our own crosses, and trust that He will work all things for our good.
Scriptures: Ruth 1, Exodus 15 (especially verses 22-25)
Dusted off from the archives and to be continued…
In the stillness,