Topic: Marred by grief
Text: Ruth 1: 19 – 21
Key verse: 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,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?”
When a vessel is marred, it does not loose its original form, only some aspects of it is altered. If you have been in a fire accident, your body will look different but the essence of who you are remains the same. Your voice will not change, your knowledge base is not lost, but your image and personality can be altered. How you perceive yourself is how you would expect people to see and treat you.
Naomi arrived Bethlehem looking different. She had changed from the woman they knew, who left a few years ago with her husband and sons in search of a better life in Moab. She looked older, but also wore a sad look. Life had dealth her some hard blows that left her bitter inside. Grief marred her! No wonder the women could not recognize her easily.
The loss of a loved one is a painful experience, but even worse when you find yourself in a foreign land. The presence of family members and close friends make grieving easier. Having to mourn over your husband, your leader, your visionary, the father of your children, the bread winner of the home, leaves you completely shattered. Its like picking up broken glass, you don’t know which piece to pick up first.
Its even more difficult when you have young children and you do not want them to understand what has happened, so you bottle up your emotions, hide your pain as far away in your heart as you can , and act as if everything is under control. That’s actually living in denial.
As a stranger in Moab, they may have had a different culture about how to mourn the dead, so those who came to console or comfort may have said things that hurt her instead of comfort her. They may have been people like Job’s friends who would have accused her of not acting quickly or maybe her sins are the reason for her husband’s death. These words do not give any relief but aggravate the pain.
I also don’t have any idea, whether the decision to go to Moab was a mutual one, or maybe she had been reluctant to leave the “house of bread” because of a temporal problem. But like a good wife, committed to submit to her husband like Sarah, she must have tagged along with some reservations. Living with the feeling of guilt, knowing you could have prevented the relocation is a common weapon the devil uses to torture a widow in cases like this. As if death does not happen everywhere, the accuser of the brethren will not stop at anything to make the widow feel it was in her power to save the man. “If only l had the money to fly him overseas “, “If only we had done that family deliverance prayer that was prescribed,” are just a few of the thoughts in a widow’s heart after the loss of her spouse.
These thought pattern leads to a feeling of hopelessness. You feel helpless and abandoned, even when so many people have been by your side during your ordeal. Naomi even accused God of being responsible for her loss! Sometimes, widows accuse their in-laws for the death of their spouses. This is a faulty thought pattern, but it is natural. You are human, that’s why you can think that way. God has the final say over who lives or dies, he even has the power to bring back to life those who are dead. He permitted it to happen, but in his sovereignty, he thought about you and how it would affect you. That’s why the scriptures say in the letter to the Corinthian believers “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” God does not tempt us, the devil does. God cannot prevent us from being tempted, but when we pray and listen to his voice, we will be led away from temptation and delivered from evil.
He is the comforter, he has given us the Holy Spirit and other people(some trained professionals and good hearted persons) to walk us through our season of grief, till we can see a future that he has for us in spite of our loss. When we refuse to be comforted, we find ourselves slipping back into hopelessness, anger and bitter ness even many years after the loss.
Naomi’s grief was even extended, because she lost her two sons in quick succession while still in Moab! If the death of her husband left her broken, the death of her sons without any children, completely crushed her. She had nothing to look forward to. No future could be more bleak! When will she have other children who could give her grandchildren? She wondered aloud, as Ruth tried to follow her back to Israel. She felt her case was hopeless, she resigned to fate, and resolved to return to her home country alone and die a bitter woman.
Naomi, was a woman of faith. Her testimony of being a worshipper of Yahweh was no secret in Moab. Her daughter in-law, Ruth saw it in her, admired it and wanted to have that same faith irrespective of what had happened to their husbands. Widows should not forget that even in their season of grief their testimony matters. The way you conduct yourself in your grief should be a reflection of your belief in the resurrection. In as much as the pain of separation is difficult, we must bear it in mind that people are watching to see how our faith in God will make a difference as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Paul admonished us not to mourn like the unbelievers.
Ruth saw Naomi’s character not from a distance, but as close as a daughter in-law can see. In good and bad times, she saw the true person of Naomi. Many mothers in-law miss the opportunity to be credible witnesses for Christ, when they refuse to nurture a relationship with the wives of their sons who do not meet their “standards” of faith or class. Learn from Naomi, that no case is hopeless, God can use a marred vessel broken by multiple grief experiences to bring to faith a heathen.
Though Naomi was Marred yet she was useful in the Potter’s hand! She brought Ruth back to Bethlehem reluctantly, not knowing that her own survival depended on it. Many times God sends people our way and because they look like work, we turn them away and loose the opportunity to be blessed by their lives.
Managing another widow, a stranger who had no relatives in Israel, was going to be a lot of work for Naomi, but being a younger widow, Ruth came into the relationship with some gifts too. As Naomi mentored her, and she grew in her faith, her testimony went ahead of her and prepared her for the next level! She remarried Boaz, a very wealthy kinsman of Naomi, became the mother of Obed and qualified to be in the lineage of Jesus.
Naomi’s story didn’t end as she imagined, she was never called Mara, the women who saw her arrival back from Moab, also gave this testimony.
Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. 15 May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”
… women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.
I want to encourage you today to let the Potter do his work in your life. You may feel your best days are over, but God is still at work in you. The righteous are like a palm tree, they are fruitful even in old age. Naomi gave up on herself, don’t give up, you are in the Potter’s hand to become “another” vessel different from the first, fulfilling a purpose that will impact several generations.
Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own.
You will hold your own baby, it may be a new project, business, ministry or even another marriage. God will give you what you deserve in Jesus name. Amen.
Talk of lemons and lemonade, that’s what the Potter can do with vessels in his hands.
Stay hopeful and joyful!