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Call Me Bitter

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I wrote this post years ago, but God reminded me of it this morning. This year has brought so many challenges and thrown many of us into a tailspin. I thought this was a good reminder that no matter what is lost or how difficult seasons are, God is the great Restorer. His intent for you is still good, and he still sees you as the amazing warrior and victor that you are. Even when our identities slip a little, God always sees us exactly as he created us; glorious, victorious and strong. I hope this word encourages you today…

Call Me Bitter

Naomi was broken.

She had lost her husband. And her two sons.
She and her daughters-in-law were destitute. Grieving the loss of their loved ones. Without income or financial support of any kind. And far from home.

Naomi realized her only chance for survival was to return home and hope that God, in his mercy, would somehow restore some of what she had lost.

So that’s what she did. With her daughter-in-law, Ruth, at her side she returned to Canaan. There was no parade or party. Just a widow and her widowed daughter struggling to survive, stumbling home without even a glimmer of hope that God would somehow rebuild their lives.

As Naomi’s friends and family saw her, they began to whisper and question why she had shown up after all these years. She told them, “Call me Mara (or Bitter). I went out full but came home empty.” (Ruth 2)

After losing the three men she loved more than life itself; and having to do the unthinkable, bury her own children, she has found her way home. Yet, she is still without hope. Her once-full life is now vacant and void of the joy and love she had in her family. Her identity shifted. She could only see herself one way: call me Bitter.

As I was reading this story in the book of Ruth, tears streaming down my face, I imagined what she must have gone through. I have experienced the emptiness that comes from my sons leaving home and a husband who travels. The loneliness can be suffocating. But that is nothing compared to losing those people. The idea of losing the three men in my life is unbearable. Yet, that’s what Naomi was dealing with.

And she was homeless, broken and now, bitter.

If you read the book of Ruth, you see that God continues to call her Naomi. Unlike Abraham, when God changed his name from Abram, throughout the book, she is still Naomi, Pleasant.

God knew bitterness would not be her name forever. He knew what was about to happen and how her life was about to be redeemed, literally and metaphorically. There was a plan in place to bring her from the empty place of losing all she loved to holding a child who would breathe life into her brokenness.

You probably remember the story. When Obed was born to Ruth and Boaz, Naomi took him in her arms and began to breathe again. In that moment, God restored everything to her. Her hope, her dreams, her mother’s heart.
I can imagine she searched that child’s face for some small hint of her husband, a family resemblance that would connect her past and her present. As one who has held her grandson in her arms and had time stand still, the moment for Naomi must have been much more poignant in what it represented for her.

Perhaps at that moment she realized she was no longer bitter. Perhaps that was when God whispered to her, “Naomi. Life is still pleasant. And I am still your God.”

To be honest, there have been times I can relate to Ruth; times when bitterness has crept into my own soul. My own disappointments and loss, while minor in comparison to what Naomi faced, have left me feeling a little disenchanted. Reading through the pages of my journal you might be surprised to see the words of pain, brokenness, and bitterness. Life stuff, you know? Like Naomi, my identity has faltered at times and I’ve wondered if I should just change my name. To rejected. To worthless. To failure. To bitter.

In those moments, I ask myself, Can I find a reason to hope for a better day? Like Naomi, will I ever return to what I know about God’s promises, His mercy, His plan? The answer is yes.

Don’t we all wrestle with this sort of identity crisis sometimes? When tragedy strikes or the unthinkable happens, it is intensified. We question not only what we believe, but who we are at our core. Essentially that is what Naomi did. She determined that life was too much, that God had become bitter to her. She couldn’t even imagine a pleasant life again. She had lost too much. There was no going back. Her loss was just too great. 

And yet, here in her arms was proof that there was still hope. God still had a plan for her. Even after her heartbreak and brokenness, He was not going to leave her empty.

As we read the rest of the story, we see that Naomi and Ruth are restored to their inheritance, they are redeemed to their family, and baby Obed grows to become part of the lineage of Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but I needed to see this. I needed to be reminded that my best years are not behind me, no matter what I may be facing right now. Even if I feel like I am circling the same mountain for the thousandth time! Even as I wonder what God could have in store for a woman who has lived half her life already and hasn’t achieved what she thought she might have; a woman who wonders if she will ever do something truly significant.

And then, I hold my grandson in my arms. And God reminds me that life is not bitter. In fact, it’s about to get better and sweeter than I could have imagined. He isn’t finished with me yet. And he’s not finished with you either.

Maybe you are having an identity crisis in your own life. Maybe like Naomi you are grieving loss, feeling used up, poured out, broken beyond usefulness. You wonder if God could really redeem the fragments of your life and create something pleasant or even beautiful again.

He can. And He will.

Nothing wasted.

That’s His promise.

The years you spent on a relationship that is now lost to you. The time invested in others who have since walked away. A career that has dissolved or a dream that has died. God will bring it all around and redeem it into something meaningful.

Like Naomi before us, we need to return to the place of God’s promises, the “hometown” of His mercy and grace! If you are like me there are many verses that come to mind. Dig them out or write them down. Hold them close and allow Him to whisper to you, “We’re not finished. You won’t be left empty and bitter. I will redeem all of this for My greater purpose.” Let Naomi’s life encourage you. God will bring you to a place of fulfillment and joy once again. 

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