Read Ruth 1:19-21
19 So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked.
20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara [meaning ‘bitter’], for the Almighty, has made life very bitter for me. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?” (NLT)
There is no point in sugar-coating our journey of faith. Amidst the wonderful times of answered prayer and warm fellowship and inspiring worship, there are the times when we shake our heads and wonder what on earth is going on. What is God doing? Why doesn’t he show up?
When Naomi came home to Bethlehem, widowed, with all her earthly dreams turned to dust, she didn’t come out with any gushing testimony about how things were really OK since God was looking after her. She told it as it was: she was bereft and bitter. Her God had let her down. She was in pain and held God responsible for it.
We would rightly protest that this isn’t actually true. God hasn’t caused her affliction. The bad things that occur in our lives do not originate in God. But the very fact that he allows it causes us to put the blame on him, however unfair that might be. Naomi’s theology is deficient, but her feelings are authentic enough.
When we feel deserted by God, we can rationalise things and recognise God is still there for us, and that in this fallen world he permits pain to come into our lives and promises to sustain us. But that doesn’t take away the pain. We are still free to feel as Naomi felt: abandoned and even bitter.
She didn’t stay bitter, and nor should we. For Naomi, there was a happy ending to the story. And yet the happy ending comes after some truly unhappy chapters in that same story.