As twilight gradually faded away into the darkness of night this past Tuesday, I was delighted to see the most beautiful full moon creeping above the housetops across the street. The higher it rose, the brighter and bigger it appeared. Earlier, I had heard a meteorologist refer to it as the “snow moon” and indeed it seemed more brilliantly white than usual. How it lifted my spirits and lit up everything in its gaze!
Sometimes in my darkest hours of life experiences, I have felt that inky blackness penetrating my very soul. It is a very lonely place even when I am clinging to my faith in God and the knowledge that He has all things under control.
|Okanagan Valley, British Columbia|
I learned some valuable principles this week as I studied the life of one woman who had faced her darkest hour. She, along with her husband, had made the difficult move to a new land because of famine in their home territory. They now lived as foreigners among people who spoke a different language, worshipped strange gods, and followed unfamiliar customs. If that wasn’t hard enough, her husband died leaving her with two sons to raise on her own. Being a widow in a foreign land would no doubt put her in a desperate situation. Eventually, the sons married local women. But, the sons also died and now this dear widow had lost her entire family and was left with no heirs to carry on the future of her family lineage. Only her two daughters-in-law remained with her. What could she possibly do?
If you’re familiar with the story, you realize the widow was Naomi, found in the biblical book of Ruth. The daughters-in-law were Orpah and Ruth. Naomi’s experience has taught me several lessons that I can apply when I am in the midst of a tough time.
First, Naomi never lost her faith in God. Even though she suffered great personal loss, was thrust into poverty, and realized she was too old to marry again and bear more children, she still trusted in God’s sovereignty. Although she admitted to feeling God had abandoned her, she continued to believe in Him. That really inspires me!
|Path near home|
Second, she returned to the support of her friends. As soon as Naomi heard the Lord had provided for His people back in her homeland, she began packing. Orpah and Ruth also prepared to accompany her, but Naomi tried desperately to convince them to return to their own mother. What could she possibly offer them but a life of poverty? She also knew what they would face in a foreign land, especially as widows. She could never provide them with a family. What love was expressed between them as they wept and agonized over their dilemma! In the end, Orpah decided to return home, but Ruth clung to her mother-in-law and vowed never to leave her. Together, they journeyed back to Bethlehem, Naomi’s home town. As Naomi’s friends watched the pair approaching, they said, “Can this be Naomi?”[i] After many years away and showing the strain of such grief and loss, it is entirely believable that these friends had some difficulty recognizing Naomi.
Her wounded state is evident from her response, “Don’t call me Naomi…Call me Mara, because the Lord 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.”[ii]
Naomi means “pleasant”, “lovely”, or “delightful”. She obviously no longer viewed herself in this light. Instead she asked her friends to call her Mara which means “bitter”.
Scripture doesn’t say how her friends immediately treated her after that, but at the end of the book, we know they remained faithful to her. I am so thankful to God for the friends who surround me, pray for me, and support me in all circumstances.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up.” And Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times…” Of course, our most faithful and loyal friend is Jesus Christ. He Himself said, “…I have called you friends, for everything that I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.”[iii] The ultimate gift of His friendship was laying down His own life for you and me so that we could receive forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life with Him in Heaven!
Well, once again time has flown by and I will just have to continue Naomi’s story next week. Meanwhile, I will be sure to invest valuable time with my best Friend and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and also with the earthly friends He has provided for me.
|Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends!|
Until next Sunday,