So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
Naomi, led by her husband and two sons, left Bethlehem when famine hit. They had chosen to go where the “grass was greener,” so to speak. They settled in Moab, a pagan land. In this land, the Moabites worshipped many other gods but had food. Naomi and her family’s faith was strong enough, as long as their physical needs were cared for, that the lack of faith in God around them couldn’t shake them. Sounds like a familiar emotion. They knew enough of God that He would provide for them, but let their emotions and physical desires distract them from their faith. They left even though they were “full” (v. 21) to go where the future looked more promising. But what they didn’t recognize is that their faith would starve in Moab.
By the time Naomi realized that she had been spiritually emptied in Moab (now a widow and lost both sons), she heard that God had provided in Bethlehem. She knew she needed to return, but now felt the burden of the two widowed Moabite daughters-in-law who accompanied her. Both women were familiar with Naomi’s faith in God, but one, Ruth, was consumed by it. Naomi was so spiritually drained she didn’t notice how God was still using her in her current situation for His glory. This is what is so fascinating to me about God’s love. He gives us free will. We can seek Him daily, pray about every decision, and still be on a path that will cause us turmoil along the way. We can’t lose faith, though. God is with us and will reveal beauty and blessing. But when we distance ourselves from God, we become bitter, selfish, and just plain miserable.
Naomi traded famine for spiritual drought. She was drained. Naomi is screaming “I have nothing left to give. My life is a mess. I’m a horrible example of a wife, a mother, a woman of God. Expect nothing from me.” Bitter, selfish, thinking only she is affected by her turmoil, and ready to accept this as her new identity. Have you ever felt this drained? Where you are so stressed out that you are unsure how you can “adult” today? Or this month? This year? This season? Have you returned to faith with an attitude? What about the fact it’s a new year? Do you believe things can be different for you?
Be encouraged by Naomi’s faith. She knew it was necessary to return to God and His people/land, to be with others who seek God. That is how God will replenish you. If you are feeling drained, seek time in His presence, and place yourself with others who will guide you in that way. Attend church services regularly, join a connect group, allow yourself to begin a new year blessed, refilled, and renewed.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.