When my daughter was six, she was boy-crazy, and this revelation will cause heart palpitations for any father.
One week, she came to us and announced her life plan, and that plan centred around another little boy in her Sunday School class. He sat by her once so in her mind this was an expression of his undying and eternal love. When she declared her marriage plans around the dining room table, my middle son tried to burst her bubble, “He doesn’t even like you.” Nonplussed, my daughter confidently replied, “He will, I’ll change his mind.”
Have you ever had your life planned out and had it not turn out? Or maybe you have uttered the disbelieving words, “This is not how it was supposed to happen?”
Naomi’s life was complete – or so she thought. She was married, and had two sons. Life was hard, but when is it not? Soon her boys were married and the family was growing. But God in his sovereignty allowed her life to be turned upside down. Her husband passed away and that was followed by her two sons.
It was a tragedy. As Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem, the townspeople gathered around, excited that one of their own had come back. In disbelief – it had been many years – they asked, “Is this Naomi?”
And in response, Naomi told them she had had undergone a name change – to Mara.
Mara is closely related to another Hebrew word, Marah which means bitter tasting. When the Children of Israel were on their desert journey, one of their stops was at a well where the water was bitter to the tongue. “And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.” – Exodus 15:23
And this is what Naomi is saying, “I have been embittered.” What’s worse is her reasoning; she blames God for what happened. “...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?” – Ruth 2:20a-21
Notice in her statement, it was all God’s fault. She had no idea that God was moving and was about to do something amazing. She could just see the present and what she lost.
Friends, this is a dangerous place to be in. When we focus on the immediate to the exclusion of God’s greater plan we risk allowing ourselves to be man-centred. This is a selfish way to look at things, and become upset when God dares mess up our plans.
May we recognize God’s sovereignty, and though it can be difficult, to trust him when things seem dark.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” – Romans 8:28-29
Ryan King is pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Westville.