A few months ago, I started going to this Bible study on Monday nights. A few weeks ago, some friends and I started grabbing coffee afterwards to continue on with conversations from it. Lately, we’ve been reading through Ruth.
Throughout the entire book, the themes of provision and sovereignty occur constantly, on a grand scale and in the most minute details. Out of all the possible instances of this, the character and life of Naomi is a point where my thoughts drift back to and an ongoing point of conversation with my band of coffee people.
Because Naomi forces a wrestle with a powerful question – What is God’s sovereignty?
When the book of Ruth begins, Naomi, her husband, and the rest of her family have just moved from their home turf in Bethlehem to the land of Moab because of a famine. Then her husband dies. Then her two sons die. In the context of this, Naomi would not have solely lost her loved ones but her means of provision and protection as well. She’s a foreigner, in a godforsaken land, who has just been crushed with overwhelming loss.
If you read on, Naomi eventually returns home. So the two women (Naomi and Ruth) went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed,”Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty, Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” (Ruth 1:19-21)
If that’s not intense, I’m not sure what is. Can you imagine the state of her heart? Deflated. Defeated. Beat up. Perplexed. Bitter.
I can. Because that was mine for a very long time.
What happens when your life shatters?
I imagine Naomi’s heart and mind were in turmoil with questions like ‘God, who are you?’ ‘God, what’s the point?’ ‘God, this is not what I signed up for.’ ‘God, why did you allow all of these things to happen?’
If you continue to read on, Naomi’s life is filled with provision in many ways. Her daughter-in-law even ends up in the genealogy of David and later, Jesus.
More than anything, though, I love that her journey of bitterness is recorded. I love that you can see her as a relatable human being who struggled, and who is flat out transparent enough to say to the people that knew her before her life was rocked, ‘Don’t even call me Naomi. Call me Mara. God crushed me.’
Before I waded into the most recent season of my life, comprised of navigating and dealing with what felt like my life derailing slowly over the two years before, I had this unexposed and false idea that God’s sovereignty means that everything should be a piece of cake. It’s one thing to think you know that isn’t true, and maybe even to profess it. It’s another thing to be faced with the reality that deep down in your soul you were white knuckle gripping that belief, as made evident by your reaction to your life circumstances.
Those things Naomi said? Those could have been words out of my own mouth.
Saying that God is sovereign doesn’t make hardship, struggle, or hurt vanish into thin air. It doesn’t always answer the question of why, if it ever does. The one truth that has been deeply taking root in my heart is God’s sovereignty defined as His unwavering ability to achieve His eternal purposes no matter what. All hell can be breaking loose, and He allows it.
Why? I probably couldn’t tell you.
Is it fair? I can’t answer that.
Is it broken? Yeah, it is.
For whatever reason, I think we sometimes assume that as we walk out this life, we should be free from adversity in the process, Christian or not. Call it adversity, call it hardship, call it struggle, call it an obstacle. It can be met with bitterness. It can be met with recoiling. It can be met with anger or resentment. Or, just maybe, it could be met with open arms, that despite understanding, can trust that somehow and someway, God is achieving and will achieve eternal purposes that are far beyond anything our finite minds can grasp.