Text: Ruth 1:19-22, Ruth 2:1-3, Job 27:2-6, Philippians 3:8-11
Have you ever asked for prayer because you could not pray on your own? Have you ever uttered “pray for me” and meant “pray instead of me, because I just can’t do it”?
If prayer is a picture of believers lifting one another before the Lord, there are times I have been full-on carried. I don’t mean they’ve just walked alongside me or encouraged me to go on. No, they have picked me up from the pit and held me high before the Lord, my spiritual self limp and lifeless, desperately in need of the life-breath of my Savior. It sounds melodramatic until you’re in the thick of it, too spent to sigh another “please” or “amen.”
This kind of spiritual and physical exhaustion is what I see when I picture Naomi walking into town that day, so affected by her suffering that she is hardly recognizable. The townswomen whispered to one another, shocked at the condition of the friend they used to know. Naomi quickly set them straight. “It’s over for me,” she said. “Don’t call me Pleasant. Call me Bitter” (Ruth 1:20, my paraphrase).
Naomi’s circumstances were indeed awful. She’d buried her husband, lost two sons, and said goodbye to a daughter-in-law. She had no hope of a grandchild, no path of provision. “I went away full,” she told them, “and the Lord has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:21). Yet, there was no fist-shaking at heaven. No renouncing her faith. Naomi believed God was sovereign, even in her tragedy.
But even this believing woman had trouble seeing past her circumstances. The hand was dealt, the credits were rolling. Naomi believed with her head that her God was sovereign, but she was too soul-weary to believe with her heart. And so she called it. Game over. Name changed.
Naomi could not imagine being filled back up. She couldn’t picture her daughter-in-law remarried to an upstanding man who would welcome them both into his family. She couldn’t dream of holding a grandson in her arms. She couldn’t imagine how bitterness could become beauty, but her sovereign God could.
Naomi named herself Bitter, but God names her—and us!—Blessed.
He names us Forgiven (1 John 1:9).
He names us Beloved (Romans 5:8).
He names us Redeemed (Ephesians 1:7).
These names hold true even when circumstances don’t, because ours is a God who is mighty over affliction and blessing, bitterness and beauty, past and future.
The same woman who walked into her hometown deflated of joy and hope, nevertheless trusted herself and her daughter-in-law to the Lord’s keeping. “Go ahead, my daughter,” Naomi said to Ruth, sending her out into the fields to gather up God’s provision. And provide, He would. Their circumstances were anything but good, but their God was always good.
Circumstances change, but they do not change our God. And they do not change the saving power of Jesus Christ. We need not waste time shaking our fists at heaven when we can run full-force into His arms, trusting He can redeem even us, even this, even now.
We are not named by our circumstances. We are named by our good God.