The woman that I read about this week in my devotional book is Naomi. The devotional book that I am reading is called Women of the Bible written by Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda. Click here to see the book as listed on Amazon. (If you are interested in learning about any of the other women that I've written about before, click here to see the list of women. I hope to continue adding to that list in the future.)
We are introduced to Naomi in the book of Ruth.
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
Right as we meet Naomi, we are also met with tragedy. The worst kind of tragedy that any wife or mother could ever experience. In the span of about ten years, Naomi loses her husband....then loses both of her sons. As a wife and a mother to two sons, I cannot imagine the pain that Naomi must have felt.
There are so many lessons to learn from Naomi's story, but what I want to discuss today about her life is this: She was so overcome with grief that she felt she had to change her name.
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.”
In the Bible (and even still today) names have great meaning to the Lord. There are several instances in the Bible where He Himself changed some one's name due to a significant change in their life.
He changed Levi (meaning "joined") to Matthew (meaning "Gift of God").
He changed Saul (meaning "prayed for") to Paul (meaning "small or humble").
He changed Jacob (meaning "he who grabs the heel") to Israel (meaning "he struggles with God").
He changed Abram (meaning "high father") to Abraham (meaning "father of a multitude of nations").
He changed Sarai (meaning "contentious") to Sarah (meaning "lady or princess").
You'll notice that in each of these examples, when God changed their names after a significant event in their lives, the name that He gave them was representative of what He had done and would continue to do through their lives. You would have to read each of their stories to appreciate the exact significance of each of the names, but each one of them were positive changes that gave glory to God. That's not to say they did not continue to have struggles in their lives, but they were forever changed for the better, because of the changes that the Lord had seen them through.
Naomi's God given name meant "pleasant," but the name she gave herself, Mara, meant "bitter."
Naomi did live to see her life come full circle with the Lord. She witnessed God's goodness and faithfulness even in her old age.
Ruth 4: 13-17
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
In her "bitter" grief, Naomi could not have imagined the "pleasant" blessings that God had in store for her future.
Since we have the benefit of knowing how Naomi's story ends in the Bible, we know that "bitter" is not the name change that God would have chosen for someone He originally named "pleasant."
But Naomi, of course, did not know her future. When she changed her name to mean "bitter," she was trapped in her own pain and despair, and there was nothing "pleasant" about her life to her at that time. Her grief weighed so heavily on her heart, that she could not ever imagine feeling differently. Or even wanting to.
There are many difficult times in all of our lives that make it hard for us to clearly see that the Lord is still with us.
"For we live by believing and not by seeing." ~2 Corinthians 5:7 (NLT)
We have to rely on our faith during those times.
"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." ~Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)
Thankfully we also have His Word to help us through those times.
"Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up." ~Psalm 71:20(NIV)
Naomi's story is a reminder for us all to try our best each day to keep our focus on God...not our circumstances.
During rough times, we have to hold on to His promises.
We all have to remind ourselves to never undo in doubt, what we did in faith.
My parents named me Amy after a Bobby Darin love song by the same name.
If you're not familiar with it, here it is.
My mother just loved the song (as well as Bobby Darin), so she named me Amy.
But what God knew when she chose my name was that it meant "Beloved."
The meaning of my name is something that has encouraged me through my entire life. The older I get, the more it means.
After a particularly difficult time in our marriage (you can read a little more about that here), I gave my husband Shannon a ring with this verse from Song of Solomon 6:3 engraved on it that says, "I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine...."
Since Amy means "Beloved," every time Shannon sees the ring he is reminded of our marriage commitment to each other. "I am Amy's and my Amy is mine...."
When I am struggling with difficult circumstances in my life, I remind myself that Beloved means "one that is dearly loved." And if God dearly loves me, then He will always take care of me. My life may not always play out like I hope or expect it to, but God will always allow things that happen (whether good or bad) to benefit my life...no matter how they may seem as they are happening.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
In the Bible, we are all referred to as God's beloved children.
Ephesians 5:1-2 says: "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
I am His Beloved.
You are His Beloved.
We are all His Beloved.
God dearly loves all of His children. He would never want for any of us to walk through this life with the burden of being labeled as "bitter."
Thank you for sharing the story of Naomi's life with us. Seeing your faithfulness through the difficult circumstances in her life, encourages us as we go through difficult times in our own. Like Naomi, there are times when we all feel "bitter" facing life's difficult trials, but through Naomi's story, we are all reminded to walk through every trial knowing that regardless of the painful situations we may find ourselves facing, we are all still your "Beloved" children.
In Christ's Sweet Name,
"Let God's promises shine on your problems." ~Corrie Ten Boom