Alterations (Bring it On!)

Naomi and Ruth, artist unknown

“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?”

Ruth 1:19-21

Naomi has traveled from Moab to her hometown of Bethlehem. People were pretty excited and her arrival must’ve brought out the crowds. It’s great for her  to be around happy people who were genuinely pleased to see her again.

But a new Naomi returns. She 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. It’s what I’ve become.”

“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 Ruth the other day, and something intrigued me 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 of her life. She was becoming aware. Ruth was now attuned to the deep purposes of God.

It wasn’t fate, karma, or destiny after all. It was God! 

With my many, many issues, 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. Pain 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.            

There are distinct times when the Lord works to bring us to Christlikeness. That involves a refining and the smelting process. Crisis becomes the ‘new normal’. This is never “pleasant” and it’s almost always “bitter.” Naomi was finding this out first-hand, to the point of even changing her name.

“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined.
 Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.”

Isaiah 48:10

I’d like to encourage you to recognize (and announce) your weakness and your brokenness to the Lord in prayer. See God’s hand in your bitterness. You’ll be surprised at the release that will come to you. It shouldn’t engender anger, but surprisingly it can bring you healing and salvation. It helps to understand. Consider the following:

  • There often two sides of living–the life we’ve lived and the life we’re becoming.  Both are filled with grace and they’re as different as ‘night-and-day’
  • God is stealthily working good on our behalf, even when things are awful. He has full authority to do so.
  • He’s always (lovingly and passionately) trying us; probing to see if we draw closer to Him when we’re tested. He is patient when we fail our tests. Every test will be repeated until we overcome it
  • We can’t escape Jesus’ work in our lives. He is the Master Carpenter. He is building a cathedral!

“God  rescues us by Breaking us, by shattering our strength and wiping out our resistance.”

–A. W. Tozer

Author: Pastor Bryan Lowe

A repentant rascal with definite issues, but who is seeking to be authentic in his faith to Jesus Christ. An avid reader and a hopeful writer. Husband and father. A pastor and Bible teacher. A brain tumor survivor. Diagnosed with clinical depression, and now disabled. Enjoys life, such as it is, in Alask.a (Actually I have it pretty good.)

6 thoughts on “Alterations (Bring it On!)”

  1. This is good stuff, and close to my heart. At times, it does engender anger, or really despodency; a feeling that the changes in myself might be good if they ever resulted in anything I could recognize, yet they don’t seem to. A lot of pain for nothing, it seems, sometimes. I guess this boils down to not trusting his work and his goals. Maybe I see myself in Naomi, but I think she is much angrier than other people seem to think she is. It’s as if she’s angry and utterly disappointed with God. I’m almost embarrassed for her. Is that weird?

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  2. Isaiah 30:20-22 NIV
    Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. [21] Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” [22] Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you! ”

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  3. thankyou for this. i guess i am very bitter, I had a life it seemed and God took it from me. He left me broken within a second ( a car accident did this to me), he left me feeble in a moment ( a heartattack did this to me), and he left me scared ( a traumatic circumstance in my past did this to me) of the world at large. I am so angry at times i want to pull God down and scream at him. But I would get no where. Is he sadistic, no. I don’t know why he is molding me into this ” thing” that i am. Some days I want so badly to die my chest hurts. Come Monday i am going in for open heart surgery and I am scared. How will i come out? will I be more feeble thean I already am? I am already ” young at heart” for 42 ( the traumatic brain injury can do that), will I come out even “younger ” than I already am mentally? I am scared. But I took your suggestion about Naomi and Ruth and thought over the things that make me bitter, all the changes and disabilities. I do see God’s hand. Nomi had Ruth and she kept her going. I have a brother of encouragement, Dave and he is my Ruth. Infact I call him my guardian angel and my kinsman redeemer. He is my guardian ad lidiem and no matter what, he never gave up on my or abandoned me, like ruth to naomi. In this, in all my brokeness I am thankful. Thankyou Pastor

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  4. Dear Bryan, I believe we should always try to be honest with ourselves and with God but I don’t think we should own bitterness, negativity or illness, I sincerely feel that this is self destructive. You are right that we need to recognise God’s hand in the footprints of pr lives, for a long time I thought and felt that I was cursed and God didn’t love me, it was only when my perspective changed that God began the painful process of healing.
    I don’t know if what I’m saying makes sense, do you understand what I’m trying to say?

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    1. Agreed. We often injure ourselves by our own thoughts and actions. But God also can deal with our rebellion pretty harshly. If that is the case, we need to accept what He is doing. He loves us far beyond we can think.
      Even though Naomi had been harshly dealt with, she accepted it, and identified with it. But she maintained a thread of hope, seen in her connection with Ruth.

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