Call me Mara!

Ruth 1:20-21 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

Who loves to be in a state of pain, distress, grief or misery?

We are probably familiar with the story of Ruth in the bible. A young widow displaying loyalty out of her response to stay by the side of her mother-in-law who was also a widow after Elimelech and their sons died in the land of Moab. Our focus is most often set on Ruth and her faithfulness instead of the affliction that Naomi was suffering.

Ruth’s resolution and her good affection to Naomi are indeed worthy references of good teachings. Orpah was loth to part from Naomi, yet she did not love her well enough to leave Moab for her sake. Many of us have a value and affection for Christ, yet come short of salvation by Him because we will not forsake other things for Him. We love Him, yet leave Him because we do not love Him enough but love other things better. Ruth is an example of the grace of God, inclining the soul to choose the better part. Naomi could desire no more than the solemn declaration Ruth made. The power of resolution silences temptation. Those of us who go in religious ways without a steadfast mind, stand like a door half open which invites a thief but resolution shuts and bolts the door, resists the devil and forces him to flee.

What about Naomi? Were the cries on the calamities brought upon her heard?

Was Elimelech’s care to provide for his family to be blamed? Was his removal into the country of Moab, ended in the wasting of his family, justified? Does death continually remove those of every age and situation, and mar all our outward comforts so we cannot too strongly prefer those advantages which shall last forever? Is it folly to think of escaping the cross being laid in our way? Do we ought to take up the cross as it is laid before us? Can changing our place, mend it? Is earth made bitter to us, that heaven may be made dear? Is that why earthly trials or enjoyments seem to be of short continuance?

Naomi began to consider returning home, after the death of her two sons. Does it ought to reform what is amiss when death comes into a family? Naomi seems to have been a person of faith and piety. She dismissed her daughters-in-law with prayer, thus part in love, in God’s love. Naomi seemed to desire to bring her daughters-in-law to the faith and worship of the God of Israel but she would not have them to go upon her account. Those that take upon them a profession of religion only to oblige friends or for the sake of company, will probably be converts of small value. If they did come with her, she would have them make it their deliberate choice, to sit down first and count the cost, as it concerns those to do who make a profession of religion. More may desire “rest in the house of a husband,” or some worldly settlement or earthly satisfaction than the rest to which Christ invites our souls; therefore when tried, we will depart from Christ, though perhaps with some sorrow.

Naomi signifies “pleasant,” or “amiable;” Mara, “bitter,” or “bitterness.” She was now a woman of a sorrowful spirit. She had come home empty, poor, a widow and childless. But there seems to be a fullness for believers of which we never can be emptied; a good part which shall not be taken from those who have it. It may be out of my cynicism, I suspect, it is also this fullness that gives the ability to taste bitterness and feel sorrow but continue to live. The cup of affliction is a “bitter” cup, but she owned that the affliction came from God. It well becomes us to have our hearts humbled under humbling providences. It is not affliction itself, but affliction rightly borne, that does us good. Can we love God more than the gifts God bring? Can we, like Job, serve God even if He slays us? Can we, like Mary, say freely,”Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to Your Word.” (Luke 1:38)?

Through the story of Ruth and Naomi, I see that afflictions made great and surprising changes in a little time. May God, by His grace, fits us for all such changes.

“To come to the pleasure you have not, you must go by a way in which you enjoy not.” ~St John of the Cross


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