Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12 ESV
The opening scene of the book of Ruth shows three women on their way from Moab to Bethlehem. One of the women is noticeably older than the others. At some point, the older woman implores the other two to return home. One of the younger women obeys but the other doesn’t. Instead, the second woman clings to the older woman and fiercely declares her intent to remain with her until death parts them.
As we read Ruth 1, we learn the identities of the women and get a little backstory. Naomi had lost her husband and her two sons. No wonder when she returned home she was so bitter. You see, the name Naomi means “pleasantness” or “my delight”.
When things had been going well for her, it had been easy to be happy and praise God, but now that things has taken a turn for the worse, she wanted a new name. She wanted to be called Mara.
“Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. 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?” (Ruth 1:20-21 NLT)
The name Mara means “bitter” or “bitterness”. This new name, Naomi felt, perfectly described her new circumstances. According to her emotions, she had left home filled with blessings only to return years later with nothing.
The thing about emotions is that they lie. They lied to Naomi and they lie to us. Naomi had not returned empty. She had her daughter-in-law. Ruth would prove to be a great blessing to her in the years to come.
It was Ruth who went out to glean in a stranger’s field in a strange land (Ruth 2:2). It was Ruth who would marry a stranger simply because the culture of her mother-in-law demanded it (Ruth 3:1-4). As a Moabite, Ruth probably had a culture shock when she began living in Israel. It was completely unlike the culture she grew up in. Yet, she did everything she could to serve her mother-in-law according to the customs of the land.
Ruth’s impassioned pledge to her mother-in-law became one of Naomi’s greatest gifts (Ruth 4:14-17) and became known throughout the land (Ruth 2:6, 11).
Yet, Ruth had been Naomi’s companion when she claimed she had returned home empty. I’m glad that Ruth hadn’t been offended by Naomi’s statement and instead chose to show her steadfast love.
This story of Naomi and Ruth teaches us a powerful lesson: emotions can skew our perspective. Yes, Naomi had lost a lot. Her husband and two sons were dead. Her daughter-in-law Orpah had chosen to return to her people. But she still had Ruth. She still had God. And though it may not have felt like it, she was still under the protection of the Almighty.
My friend, are your emotions marring your perspective? Are the trials and issues that you’re going through skewing your perspective of God? I encourage you today to change your focus. Instead of focusing on your circumstances, spend a few minutes remembering who God is, I promise it will make every situation more hopeful.
Almighty God, sometimes my emotions distract me from You. They tell me lies that cause me to believe that I have less than I do. Father, I’m so grateful for Your presence in my life and the fact that every day, every single day, Your mercies are renewed. Teach my eyes to focus on You and cause my heart to meditate on Your words. Thank You for being my portion. In Your precious name, I pray Amen.
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