“So Naomi and Ruth went on until they came to the town of Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, all the people became very excited. The women of the town said, “Is this really Naomi?”
Naomi answered the people, “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very sad.
When I left, I had all I wanted, but now, the Lord has brought me home with nothing. Why should you call me Naomi when the Lord has spoken against me and the Almighty has given me so much trouble?”
Naomi has traveled from Moab to her hometown of Bethlehem. People were pretty excited and made it a point to bring out the crowds. It’s great for her to be around happy people, who were definitely pleased to see her again.
But Naomi makes it clear that something has happened. She has been fundamentally changed by the Lord. She can no longer be called Naomi (“Pleasant”) but insists she is now “Mara”. Her reasoning is painfully clear, she grasps the reality of her condition. “I am now Mara (“Bitter”), that is my new name.”
“Call me by this new name, because the Almighty has acted “bitterly” against me. I am not the same person I was went I left here. I am different, when I left here I was prosperous, everything was going very well. But now, its different, and I come home with absolutely nothing. And it’s all because the LORD has hurt me deeply.”
I read this the other day, and was intrigued by her perception, and of her theology that recognized God’s handprints on her life. I believe she was a broken person, and therefore essentially changed. I believe she had a measure of peace in seeing the Lord was in control. It wasn’t fate, karma, or destiny. It was God! That is to say a lot.
As a mentally ill person, I find a comfort in this. God has touched me, and I am not the same person I was five years ago. I know hard things, even bitter things, about myself and the world around me. I went out healthy and strong and have returned weak and empty. Bipolar disorder will do that. God’s dealings will do this. He loves us far too much to allow us to go unchanged.
God is not malicious, but He is very thorough. And all that He does is for our good.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
There are distinct times when the Lord works to bring us to Christlikeness. That involves a refining and smelting process. This is never “pleasant”; it is almost always “bitter.” Naomi was finding this out first-hand, to the point of changing her name.
“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined.
Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.”
I’d like to encourage you to recognize and announce your weakness and your brokenness. See God’s hand in your bitterness. You will be surprised at the release that will come to you. It shouldn’t engender anger, but surprisingly it can bring you healing and salvation.
“God rescues us by breaking us, by shattering our strength and wiping out our resistance.”
–A. W. Tozer