Read Ruth 1:19-22
"So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, 'Is this Naomi?' She said to them, 'Do not call me Naomi, instead call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?' So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest."
Whew, the first chapter of Ruth has been quite the doom-and-gloom chapter for Naomi! Just when you think she's hit rock bottom, she goes deeper still. In the above verses, we see that Ruth and Naomi have made it back to Bethlehem and the city folk are marveling at the sight of them. It was one thing for Naomi to be down-and-out by herself in the land of Moab, but now she is being exposed to the people back home. Open shame is added to her heavy sorrow. She expresses her real and raw emotions before the townspeople, and her heart was hardened due to her affliction; she even changed her name from Naomi (cheerful) to Mara (bitter).
As we have mentioned before, Naomi's faith was skewed by her sorrow. She expressed her complete emptiness, but, in truth, she was not entirely lacking because her faithful daughter-in-law was standing by her side. Naomi did not have to make the journey alone. Also, they together made it back to Bethlehem safely, which is worthy of praise. And finally, the widows arrived at the beginning of the barley harvest which was a hope-filled season for the city. God saw to it that these women entered Bethlehem, "the house of bread", when it was plentiful. In these ways, hope was present, even though Naomi couldn't see or feel it.
The good news for us readers is that the bad news is about done! In God's sovereignty, the beautiful book of Ruth starts with the darkest of dark, so that by the end of these four chapters, we can celebrate, in even a greater way, when the Lightest of Light finally comes.
Some of you may be in a "darkest of dark" season right now. You may feel completely empty, void of hope...and you may even be wrestling with bitterness because of it all. My heart aches for you even without knowing the details. Like Naomi, pour out your raw and real emotions before the Lord. But in contrast to Naomi, believe there is HOPE. You are not alone. When I, at times, go to my inexplicable dark places of a depressed spirit, I have learned to claim this verse: "A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not snuff out" (Isaiah 42:3). This is when I must choose to believe the "Lightest of Light" is present in me, even though I may not see Him or feel Him. I must simply trust the truth of God's word. As stated in yesterday's post, let us both be DETERMINED to CLING to Him, and believe that there are brighter days are ahead.
Also, I want to say that just like Naomi had Ruth by her side, you have this Soul Sisters group by yours! My prayer is that you will be encouraged in the truth of God's word on-line, and if you need a personal face-to-face encounter, come to the local on-land gatherings. Allow us to embrace you with the loving arms of Jesus.
Ladies, no matter what, we are NEVER without hope because of our living and abiding Savior.
For further reading: Psalm 74:1-12; Romans 8:28
Thank Your for Your secure presence within us, no matter the diverse circumstances going on around us. Help us to believe in You even in the darkest of times. You are our living hope. You are our guiding light. Strengthen our faith as we walk forward with You today. Amen