“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 1:21).
FEW of us have had to suffer such loss and trial like that of our friend Naomi. These are the words of an afflicted soul, a soul who like Job has suffered and has nothing left. She went out a wife and a mother and she comes home a widow and childless. She went out pleasant and came back bitter. The trials came in waves and billows and just would not give her a chance to stop and breathe. What is worse are all the questions. You are a child of God, you love Christ, but where is the favor of God? Where is His mercy? Where are the tokens of his love?
It is not the trial, so much, it is over. It is time to pick up the collateral damage and pieces of a broken life. As she does it, she finds unsatiable emptiness. She is empty. There are some even now, where you feel just like her, there is nothing left that brings a sense of relief. There is no spark of joy and your body is sickly and weak. She has reached the point where life has lost it’s meaning. She feels like a failure. All she knows to do is go home.
Do not be too harsh upon our sister Naomi. Pain is a language all its own and sometimes we should learn to be fluent in it. Doctors would give pain killers to anyone who was in extreme physical pain, but what numbs the pain of the heart, the agony of the soul and mind? We should be patient with those who are going through difficult times and are at the point of giving up.
What a crushing blow this was but it is THE LORD that brought her home empty. God is in charge. She can deal with that, but now she is empty. Empty! Oh my friends have you felt this recently? Has everything exploded and then imploded. The tears won’t stop. You are around people, but you feel isolated. You are angry that no one helps. When you are alone, you wonder where everyone has gone? The joy has gone out of life. I grieve with you! Everything reads “E” -whether it is your job, family, church and health and you are empty.
“Naomi heard that, “the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.” (Ruth 1:6). She was hungry. She was not just hungry but starving. When this happens there is sense of powerlessness to control circumstances and we desperately try to put a lid on Pandora’s box. This may annoy and even anger some of you: but the emptiness has been placed there by THE LORD! It is that hunger that drives you even now back to Christ. This does not mean that you have backslid, but everyday we must be reminded that Christ is our sole resource and so need drives us to him! You are empty for a reason. It is in your makeup, after you are born again that you become a person that only God can satisfy! This explains this disappointment, heartbreak and misery! You soul is parched and dry and your stomach is full of pain for God alone!
You think this trial will never end? The old Puritan Richard Sibbes says, “Is it not an unreasonable speech for a man at midnight to say, “It will never be day?” So it is an unreasonable thing for a man that is in trouble to say, “O Lord, I shall never get free of this; it will always be thus with me.” Glory follows afflictions, not as the day follows the night but as the spring follows the winter; for the winter prepares the earth for the spring, so do afflictions sanctified prepare the soul for glory.” No afflicton is without purpose and trusting that God has “sanctifed to us our deepest distress” meaning that once the trial is over and it will end, the song you will sing is,
“If God should let me there review the winding paths of earth I knew, it would be proven clear and true : “Jesus led me all the way. “Jesus led me all the way, led me step by step each day. I will tell the saints and angels as I lay my burdens down, “Jesus led me all the way.”
Naomi began to move in the direction of the city of Bethlehem or Beyth Lechem which is called “the house of bread or food.” Is not your heart deeply touched by this idea? Naomi who calls herself Mara or “bitter” and feels the chastisement of the Lord has come home empty and yet He already has provided a way to secure her future and family by learning that she can be fed in the house of bread! Ah yes, dear Christian there is a place where God feeds his own precious people, even when there is famine all around us, God says, “there will I nourish thee.” (Gen. 45:11).
I am sure you realize that Elimelech and Naomi had no business living in a pagan country and allowing her sons to marry pagan wives. Let me say for the record: those who have failed and those who see those that have failed returning to the Lord and the church: let the past go! Tragedy is not as bad as the bad advice and criticism of fellow Christians. We should see others and be warned and merciful for as Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” (1 Cor 15: 10).
It was written that, “…All the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?” And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.” (Ruth 1:19-20). As strange as this may sound there is nothing more precious than a person who has returned fresh from God’s chastising hand. Call her pleasant, she feels bitter right now but call her pleasant. Weep with them, mourn with them as if it were your own sins and trouble for you shall see them restored for God’s glory and all our benefits! While it is true that she and her family at one time, “despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word.” (Ps. 106:24). She will be full once again and her sweetness will return! She will see her lines fall in pleasant places (Ps 16: 6).
I beg you, treat these wandering sheep as if they never left, for in God’s heart he has placed a hook in their jaw (Ezek. 38:4) and hedged up their way with thorns (Hosea 2:6) and he has detoured them from the troughs of the pigs (Luke 15:5) back home to be treated sons and daughters! God promises that in “returning and rest shall ye be saved” (Isa. 30:15) meaning they show evidence that they belong to God in coming back. They have had it with trusting the world and now they rest at home where they belong in God’s care. Let us with God give them the ring of honor and robe of fellowship and receive them as Christ has to the glory of God.
Hear his promise today! “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jer. 31:25). That is good news to some reading today and yes, God does speak through his written Word in our time! Let your emptiness drive you home to your Father who awaits and will rush to your rescue and help, as a Father who loves his most precious child. He who made you empty, will fill you with fulness of joy.
© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care
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