Aug. 28, 2009
“And when they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred about them, and said, ‘Is this Naomi?’”
Ruth 1: 19
“How to Deal With Bitterness”
What does bitterness look like? Part III
“Hopeless and lifeless go together.”
Is there a time in my life when I could see the despair I was feeling on the inside written on the outside of my face?
Have despair and hopelessness, caused by bitterness in my heart, taken away my energy and strength?
“There’s nothing that so blocks the spirit as gloom and despondency and downheartedness.”
“It is an amazing thing for a soul that believed herself to be advanced in the way of perfection, when she sees herself thus go to pieces all at once.”
She left Bethlehem, a married woman. Attached to a prominent family of the Ephrathites in Bethlehem. With her husband and two sons, she could never have imagined her status in ten years would fall so low.
Known by family and friends as the “pleasant” one, Naomi’s reputation for being a joyful woman certainly matched the meaning of her name.
However, having spent ten years in a foreign country, life had not dealt Naomi a good hand. And now, as she arrived back in Bethlehem, it wasn’t with a prosperous husband and two grown sons and their families. Naomi came back, as she described, “empty.” A widow with a foreign daughter-in-law who also had no husband and no children.
As we read in our text for today, Ruth 1: 19, there was an interesting reaction to Naomi’s return.
First, the Bible says the people in the city were, “moved about them.” In the Hebrew the word “moved” means, “in an uproar or agitated.” I find this a rather interesting response. The Bible doesn’t say the people of the city were joyful, so it makes you wonder, “Why would the response be agitation rather than affirmation?”
A possible answer may be found in the next phrase when the people of the city, who knew Naomi, asked this pointed question. “Is this Naomi?” Or as the Hebrew word can be translated, “Is this really the person we used to know and call Naomi?”
We need to remember that while ten years change all of us, it appears in this case the transformation was extremely apparent, even shocking. The bitterness Naomi later expressed verbally was evidently apparent to her friends for she wore her despair on her face. Her countenance reflected her sorrow and pain.
Rather than enter Bethlehem light-hearted and joyful, Naomi returned, an old, widowed, bitter woman. And if you happen to think my words are a harsh description, don’t forget, this was the way Naomi described herself.
The grief in her life had finally turned to the acidic toxin of bitterness that not only ate at her soul but had drained her physical strength and etched her face with lines of sorrow.
What does bitterness look like? It is that heavy burden that bends our backs. It is that unrelenting despair that blankets every moment of our days.
If this is the pathway you find yourself on today, if those who know you, say, “Is this our Betty?”, when they see your sorrowful appearance, I want to leave you with a hopeful message.
The Apostle Paul, in Romans 8: 22-24 reminds us that “We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together…waiting for the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope.” God has given us the promise of a better day. A hope-filled day. Author and theologian Helder Camara penned these beautiful words that should bring joy to our hearts and faces when he reminds us, “Bitterness and distress are in the depths of all things. This is the groaning of which the Apostle Paul speaks. But in us creation rests from its anguish, when our hearts rest in God.”
“It is impossible for that (woman) to despair who remembers that (her) Helper is omnipotent!”
“No need for fear
Or deep despair
Seekers of God
Receive his care.
No need for fear
Or deep despair
We are at home
And God is there.”
Prayer of St. Teresa of Avila
“In heav’nly love abiding,
no change my heart shall fear;
and safe is such confiding,
for nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
my heart may low be laid,
but God is round about me,
and can I be dismayed?
Wherever He may guide me,
no want shall turn me back;
my Shepherd is beside me,
and nothing can I lack.
His wisdom ever waketh,
His sight is never dim,
He knows the way He taketh,
and I will walk with Him.
Green pastures are before me,
which yet I have not seen;
bright skies will soon be o’er me,
where the dark clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure,
my path to life is free,
my Saviour has my treasure,
and He will walk with me.”
Anna Laetitia Waring
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