“Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter.” Ruth 1:20, HCSB
Sometimes life is hard. Naomi knew this. She had been forced to leave her homeland or face starvation. Her husband died soon after moving to their new home; her sons, whose names mean “sickly,” also died after several years of poor health. Now she had two widowed “foreign women,” in addition to herself, for whom she was responsible.
It’s no surprise she felt bitter and angry at God as she returned to Judah. Her difficulties may have been etched in her hair, her face and her stature. “Can this be Naomi?” the women of Judah exclaimed. Trouble had aged her.
“Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” Naomi answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter.” Rather than put on a happy face and spew spiritual platitudes, Naomi was honest about her struggles. She blamed God.
Yet still, her daughter-in-law Ruth proclaimed, “Your God will be my God.”
Ruth’s god, the god of the Moabites, was called “Chemosh” whose name means, “to subdue.” He was a god who crushed. By choosing to follow Yahweh, though, Ruth was not necessarily looking for a “quick fix” to her problems. Naomi had been suffering for more than 10 years, but based on Naomi’s example, Ruth was willing to abandon the god she had known all her life to follow Yahweh. Through Naomi’s struggle, Ruth saw a personal, authentic faith — a faith that questioned but also one that surrendered.
Can we be transparent with our struggles and still set an example of faith for others?
The biblical record seems to offer a resounding YES! In addition to Naomi, consider the stories of Job and John the Baptist. Job spent 39 chapters of a 42-chapter book hurling questions at God in anger and frustration and listening to the pat answers and theologically accepted explanations of his friends. But, when all was said and done, God said to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7, HCSB).
In prison, John the Baptist expressed doubts about Jesus. He sent a message asking, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus told John’s disciples to report to him all that they had seen. Then, to the crowd Jesus said of John, “Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared.” (See Matthew 11:1-11).
God is not offended by our questions. He welcomes the opportunity to grow our faith when we honestly question Him from a position of surrender.
“Why?” we may ask in one breath, while whispering in the next, “Your will be done.”
Of course, God may not answer our “whys” in this lifetime. We may have to wait until heaven to understand the reasons behind some of our challenges. In the meantime, though, be assured of this: God responds with compassion to an honest, questioning heart that is reaching out to Him.
This week’s reading: Judges 8-21, Ruth 1-4, 1 Samuel 1-3
Post #14: Discovering how to live missionally through a chronological reading of God’s Word.