Have you ever experienced a disaster which left you paralyzed with grief or loss only to wonder how the world continued to turn and people went about their business as if nothing had happened?
Naomi, the mother in law of Ruth, survived a series of disasters. She left Israel due to a famine with her husband and two sons. She returned alone … with a Moabite daughter-in-law.
The name Naomi means “pleasantness” but returning alone, defeated and responsible for the life of another caused her pleasantness to run thin. Perhaps even the sound of her name felt like a slap in the face. Names were important in Hebrew culture. She demanded to be called “Mara” because of the bitter treatment she felt she had received. Exodus 15:23 spoke of the Waters of Marah where the Israelites could not drink due to the bitter taste.
All she could think about was her loss and it left her feeling bitter. We all know that bitterness is a tough pill to swallow. Even the Bible warns us about it.
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled … — Hebrews 12:15 (NASB)
Many women of the Bible struggled to live with difficult truths threatening to poison them with bitterness.
- Sarah faced barrenness.
- Miriam faced the struggles of life with and without her brother.
- The daughters of Zelophehad faced being left out of the inheritance of their father.
- Rahab faced the destruction of all she had worked so hard for.
Every one of these women faced doubts about how to proceed but resisted the urge to succumb to bitterness.
Ruth 1:1 explains that Naomi and her family left Israel for Moab because of a famine. There was literally nothing to eat. Their empty bellies motivated their move and yet just a few verses later she lamented she came to Moab full but returned empty. It is not difficult to feel the prick of her words, but, as always, there was more to the story.
Ruth’s desire to stay with Naomi seems a blessing, but in the middle of Naomi’s trauma, Ruth was yet another burden to carry. A woman alone was nearly without resource. Ruth was just another mouth to feed. Naomi’s only hope was the kindness of relatives. She may have feared that two mouths would be turned away.
When I have been overwhelmed by disaster I struggled to make even the smallest decisions. Sometimes the very next step seemed insurmountable, but it was a start. I’m learning to follow these simple steps when bitterness creeps in.
When I am overwhelmed my best bet is to find a time and place to be alone with God. Sometimes prayer just will not come and I use coloring to center my heart and mind away from my anxiety and on HIM. Rather than just wallow and die in Moab Naomi set herself on returning to Israel because she knew that the LORD had instituted safety nets for the “least of these” in the Hebrew communities. Sometimes we have to be willing to take a step back from disaster and establish our footing before proceeding forward.
Regardless of Naomi’s perspective of Ruth, she was young and strong. There are often people around that would like to help, but it feels like too much effort to even show them how to meet our needs. Just having one other person to talk out loud with is a step in the right direction.
As hard as it seems; it is easier than tackling a plan alone. The Middle Sisters have been that lifeline for me. Our private chatroom is a place of refuge, a safe place to vent and receive honest feedback.
Once Naomi returned to Israel, received Ruth’s help and developed a plan she was able to release the bitterness that had bound her and robbed her of her “pleasantness.” She let go of the past and began to plan for the future. A future which included a grandson in the coveted line of the Messiah.
Dear one, disaster, be it communal or personal is a harsh part of life in this fallen world.
Losing my mother a few years ago was a difficult road to travel, but death is a part of life. My heart grieves for those, like Naomi, who must bury their children. I cannot imagine that pain, but my own grief and loss opens my heart to love them more than before.
It matters not whether you have lost a loved one in death or if the relationship is simply strained beyond foreseeable repair. Your grief is legitimate.
You may have lost your job, your home or your even been forced from your country. Your grief is legitimate.
You may be part of a large group of displaced disaster victims or your home burned down and you are the only one effected. Your grief is legitimate.
Grief has its own timetable for each person and situation. It comes in waves. First, they are rapid, choppy and painful. Later, they may stretch out but still slap you in the face when you least expect it. Prepare for this journey.
Find your reset. If not physically, in your heart and mind go back to what you know to be true regardless of the circumstances around you.
Receive the help of those around you. Even when it feels like too much effort to pick up the phone or answer the door have at least one person that you let in and rely on. Ask them to help you make a plan.
As time goes by focus your efforts on digging out of the hole of disaster, despair and discouragement. Release the resentment, fears and bitterness that grow as rapidly as weeds.
If you are not currently finding your way back from disaster you probably have been before and will be again.
Prepare yourself to be that person who will not take no for an answer. Who continues to call, knock, pray, and do laundry for those around you struggling to hang on to even the slightest thread of hope. Comfort them as you have been comforted or even as you desired to be comforted in your time of need.
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