Naomi had a husband. She had two sons. In her own words, she had a “full” life. There came a time, however, when there was a famine in their land and they felt led to go to Moab. While living in Moab, Naomi’s husband and her sons died and she was forced to return to her homeland.
And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” – Ruth 1:19
She was a shell of the woman she had been. She changed her name from Naomi (which meant pleasant) to Mara (which meant bitter) because she felt that the Lord had afflicted her greatly. No longer did she consider her life full as it once had been. Now, there was just emptiness.
I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. - Ruth 1:21
Not too long ago, our family made a trip to Moab, so to speak. We were in a good place and living a full life. Yet, there a came a point in time when we felt the Lord calling us to another place. In an act of obedience, we left everything to follow God. While in that place, however, we suffered great loss. We returned home just as shell-shocked as Naomi must have been. We had gone away full and the Lord brought us back empty. In many ways, we are still recovering emotionally, financially and spiritually from our time there. Much like the women’s response to Naomi, those who knew us were wondering what in the world had happened in that place.
I know so many of you are in empty places right now. I read your comments and emails. I hold your stories in my heart knowing the feeling of still remembering times of fullness and wondering how you got from where you were to where you are now. I know well the heartache of trying to understand what has happened and why God has allowed it.
What I would say to you is the same thing I say to myself when things are difficult. It’s the same thing I want to say to Naomi. This, my friends, is only chapter one. God was writing an amazing story of redemption in the life of Naomi and she couldn’t see it just yet. But there were four chapters to her story and she was only at the beginning. It doesn’t make it any easier. It doesn’t make it any less painful. But, if you could understand that there is more to the story, maybe it would give you the strength you need to hold on – to reach for the next chapter.
Those women who, in chapter one, could hardly recognize her? Well, in the end, they were singing a different tune.
Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer… – Ruth 4:14
Maybe, you stepped out in faith and it didn’t work out. Maybe, you did all of the right things and ended up suffering for it. Just maybe, you followed God into a foreign land and he brought you back empty. Have a good cry. Mourn your losses. But know this – it is only chapter one and the Lord has not left you.