So the two women 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." So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. (Ruth 1:19-22)
As we wrap up chapter one, let's take a look at it's final lesson. In my opinion, it is one of the most important lessons. Let's recall where we left off. We are re-entering Bethlehem with these two women. A very heartbroken Naomi returns and the whole town is stirred. As people begin to inquire, she says in her despair, "Don't call me Naomi... call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty."
Wait. Did I miss something? Wasn't Ruth with Naomi? Hadn't she pledged herself to always be a part of Naomi's family? Yes, it was Ruth who vowed, "for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God...where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me." (Ruth 1:16-17, King James Verson) So why on earth would Naomi say the Lord brought her back empty? Why claim bitterness as your new name and disregard those who love you?
I think it is very easy to hurt those closest to us. I think when times become very rocky - when stress, trials, and earth shattering hardships occur, we quickly forget God's big picture and give into the bitterness and despair of the moment. In turn, we thoughtlessly lash out, mistreat, and even ignore those who love us most. We turn into drama monsters and act selfishly and like spoiled children.
Naomi did not return empty. She returned with a daughter-in-law who adored and loved her. A true friend who wished to see Naomi blessed and happy. A beloved confidant who could sympathize with the same grief of losing a husband and home. In fact, Naomi returned with much - she had Ruth. Yet she could only focus on her own bitterness.
Interestingly enough, Ruth reacted differently. Ruth could have joined Naomi in her pity party and complained as well. But notice, she says nothing. She simply accompanies Naomi... faithfully walking by her side as they enter the town. Ruth silently endured gossip and Naomi's harsh words and embarrassing disregard. She chose to love and remain positive while proceding forward from famine and walking directly toward God's harvest.
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)
Ladies, when we speak thoughtlessly and lash out in frustration to those who love us, it hurts. Rather than respond to Naomi's words with a retort she may later regret, Ruth knew that it was best to remain silent and display grace. Rather than add fuel to the fire, Ruth understood that is always right to be humble, sympathetic, and compassionate rather than to be recognized or defensive.
So, what is grace? Well, there is only one kind of grace... God's grace. And God's grace offers unconditional love. It is freely given in spite of one's bank account, popularity, or education. God's grace is for everyone and offers unmerited favor and acceptance, giving worth and credibility to it's recipient. God's grace lifts up, restores, supports. It encourages His holiness and exposes His love in all circumstances.
So how do you get God's grace? And how do you extend God's grace to others? There is only one answer... Jesus. For without Jesus there can be no grace. Grace is a gift from God... and Jesus is the gift!!!
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14)
Did you read that last verse? Sin cannot master us if we embrace the grace of Jesus in our lives! Sometimes, we forget this and give into our own bitterness and frustration, don't we? Sometimes we stumble and lash out at those around us, just like Naomi. Sure, it's an easy path to take... a wide path that so many can stumble down. Like anyone else, I have faced my fair share of earthly trouble and discouragement. I have fallen in this area time and again, and have given those I love an earful of nastiness and trouble. Fortunately, my God is always gracious. My God is always ready to lead me back to His narrow but righteous path. With Christ, I am learning to see His bigger picture... His eternal hope is right there to rejoice over... even through the trials - ESPECIALLY through the trials!
Ladies, in overwhelming and disappointing times, I encourage you to remember Ruth's example. Plan ahead for such situations and seek the Holy Spirit in prayer while meditating on God's Word. Come to know every verse that talks about His grace. Then, when trials come (and they will indeed come) follow these steps: (1) Take a deep, refreshing breath. (2) In Jesus' name, choose to hold your tongue. (3) Pray for God's Words on grace to consume your heart and mind. (4) Look at others the same way Jesus does. (5) In Jesus' name, choose to love love love love LOVE!
See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:15)
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)
This is the day to lay aside our bitterness and disappointment. This is the day to give God all our grief and despair, trusting Him for solutions in His perfect timing. This is the day to rejoice and see the big picture... the eternal hope of our King, Jesus. His harvest is plenty and awaits us. His kingdom comes. So, today let's choose to love others with grace... God's wonderful, blessed, undeserving, holy grace. Amen.
LOVE LOVE LOVE! XOXOXO ~Victoria
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