I have a heart that is fickle and discontent. I cry out against the Lord when I feel slighted but then ‘joyfully’ thank God for His kindness and provision as soon as things are going my way. I am Naomi.
The story of Ruth is one that I’ve been drawn to many times recently. It’s been particularly fascinating as I’ve realized that it is a story of God’s provision in a time of need as well as a story of simple faith. The book of Ruth is not like Exodus. It is not full of eventful miracles like the parting of a sea or various plagues that lead to redemption. No, the book of Ruth is about two women who were empty but found fullness in God. The book of Ruth is about God’s wonderful and ever-present care in one what would appear random family’s journey. As I’ve been walking through the book with a devotional by Mike McKinley, I found myself realizing that I was in fact Naomi.
Naomi was a widow, finding herself with a dead husband and two dead sons. She was broken and confused and in a foreign land. Orpah and Ruth were her daughters-in-law, yet only Ruth chose to return to Bethlehem with her. When they arrived, the whole town was excited and cried out to Naomi. This was Naomi’s response:
“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 1:20-21
On one hand, Naomi had a correct understanding of God’s sovereignty and control over all things. She on the other hand however forgot that not only is God great, He is also good and orchestrates all things to best glorify Him which in turn brings us the most good. She asked the town to call her “Mara” which means “bitter”. She was so distraught she proclaimed that they should refer to her as essentially the bitter one.
Fast-forward one chapter. In chapter two, God provides for Ruth and Naomi through Boaz. Boaz was their relative and allowed the widowed Ruth the opportunity to safely gather grain in his fields with the protection of his workers. It is a moment of great joy as Naomi acknowledges God’s care all along.
“The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative, he is one of our guardian-redeemers.” – Ruth 2:20
The Lord is no longer referred to as the one who brought down misfortune on her. Rather, Naomi refers to the Lord as He who has not stopped showing kindness to the living and the dead.
I wonder if Naomi would want to take back what she had said a chapter earlier. I wonder how often I am just like Naomi. One minute I’ll be crying out in anger at the Lord about all He has taken away from me, and then the next I’ll be praising Him for all that He’s doing in my life at the time. I would encourage you to read the Psalms and be encouraged that there will be times of heartache and doubt and times of joy and gratitude. However I would also caution you against criticizing God’s plan for your life (as I often do to be completely honest). Let us all push back against the Naomi in each of us. Let us be men and women of God who praise God in the storm and praise Him in the clear blue skies. Let us praise Him in the grief and praise Him in the celebration.
Crying and feeling heartache are not what I’m speaking against. I’ve had bouts of tears regularly in this most recent season of my life. When it becomes dangerous is when I begin to call out against God’s plan in my life due to my discontent and due to things not being perfect. Contentment is what I’m desperately fighting to secure in my heart and in my life. Hopefully this following passage will help.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. – 1 Timothy 6:6-8
Do you ever find that your heart is fickle, complaining about God’s provision for you one moment and then joyful when you later get what you want? What would be a godlier attitude in these times? – Mike McKinley
We take nothing out of this world. Nothing. If we have food and clothing, we should be content with that. I know that’s hard to actually live in but I’m striving to. I don’t want to be Naomi, I don’t want to have a fickle heart.
Let’s strive together for contentment.
– Nate Roach