When Grief Gives Way to Bitterness

And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. - Ruth 1:14-15

To catch you up on what's happening, Naomi, after leaving Israel because of famine and moving to Moab, lost her husband and both her sons.  Now, left alone with her two daughters-in-law, she decides to travel back to Israel, but she is determined that her daughters-in-law not follow her.  She compels them to stay with "their people."

Grief and disappointment can throw a person for a loop.  They can turn a sane, rational individual into an illogical, weak-minded person.  They can bring out emotions that one never even realized he/she had.  But most importantly, they can pull us away from God.  I believe this is what happened in Naomi's case.

First off, she tries to send off the only family she has.  Why would she do that?  Did she want to be alone?  Didn't she love her daughters-in-law?  While suffering from grief and disappointment, the last thing we should do is to distance ourselves from others.  We need to be around family and friends.  We need to be around God's people.

What's even worse about this whole situation is that Naomi not only distanced herself from her daughter-in-law, but she drove a wedge between Orpah and God.  Notice what it says in verse 15: Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods:  In her hour of confusion and desperation, Naomi turned her own family away from God.  She sent her back to her people and their false gods.  Not only that, but she tried to get Ruth to do the same.  Thankfully, Ruth refused.  Still, it makes me wonder what ever happened to Orpah.  Did she ever get saved?  Is she in Heaven today or in Hell?  Naomi had a chance to teach those young women about the one, true God, but instead she allowed her own circumstances to make her selfish.  She thought more about her temporal existence than about her daughter-in-law's eternal one.  What a shame!

Once she and Ruth arrive back in Israel, the evidence of Naomi's attitude toward God continues:
And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? (vs.20-21)

The name Naomi means "pleasantness, joy, bliss," but Mara means "bitter."  Naomi decided to change her name.  She was no longer pleasant or joyful.  She was bitter, and she blamed God for it.  "God dealt bitterly with me.  God did this to me.  God is against me and has afflicted me."  Wow, she really was bitter.  You see, Naomi had a made a choice--the same choice we often make when dealing with grief, frustration or disappointment.  Naomi decided to view her circumstances from her perspective, without even taking into consideration that maybe God had a plan.  Things looked bad, so she decided to take them as such.  Instead of allowing God to work in her and through her during this difficult time, she chose to grow bitter and withdraw.  How often do we do the same?

Grief and disappointment are serious matters and are difficult to deal with.  I understand that, really, I do.  But we must be careful not to allow those things to cause even greater harm in our lives.  We must guard against growing selfish in the midst of difficult circumstances.  We must be steadfast to maintain our connections with friends and family that can help us through our trials.  And above all, we must not allow our storms to deter others from the path to Christ.  We should be an example and a guiding light, not a stumbling block. 

As we can see from the rest of Ruth's story, God did, indeed, have a plan--a marvelous plan. He has a plan for you too, and your current circumstances are simply a part of that plan.  I know it's tough.  I know it's dark, and the way seems long.  But hang in there.  Don't grow bitter.  Grow better!  The best is yet to come.