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Author:  Beverly Hahn
 
Have you had a friend who is so broken down in life, has had so many bad breaks that she is bitter?  Naomi was like that in Ruth 1.  She had done what was expected of her, submitted to her husband and had gone to a different land. She had children and saw that they were married to carry on the family line, yet everything turned out wrong.  Her husband’s name means “God of the king or power.”  I’m thinking he was a strong personality, and although possibly doing what he thought was best for his family, may have been too strong for Naomi’s opinion to matter.  She followed her husband to Moab because that foreign land had bread, and had two sons who obviously were sick in some way when they were born. Her sons’ names, Mahlon and Chilion meant sick, afflicted, wounded and consumption, failing.   Then her husband dies.  She is with these two young, frail men, with no means of support.  She has done the right thing by them too, and probably had some influence on their marriages, but before the grandbabies are born, both her sons die. So Naomi decides to return to her home country. Now she doesn’t want to weigh down her two beautiful daughters in law, who obviously loved her so Naomi has asked them to leave and not return with her.
 
It had all turned out so wrong!  So wrong in fact, that she says God afflicted her.  The Lord, she says, has dealt very bitterly with me and I’m returning home empty.  She has no hope anymore that Almighty God was good.  When she returns, the Bible says that all the city was moved. Moved means “make an uproar or agitate greatly.”  In my opinion, they’re all glad to see her.  They were asking, “Is this Naomi?”  In Bev’s vernacular, they’re saying, “Woo! Woo!  Our good and pleasant friend is back in town!  This is wonderful!”  The whole city gathers around her.  Then Naomi drops the bomb.  “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara…” which means bitter.  
 
Now her friends are concerned.  The Bible doesn’t say what they did to help, but one thing was for sure, they weren’t going to call their friend Mara.  Naomi isn’t called Mara throughout the whole book of Ruth.  In fact, at end of Chapter 4, the women and her neighbors are rejoicing with Naomi at the birth of her grandchild. I think they’ve been there all along.  No one was going to pin that name on their friend.
 
When a friend comes to you broken, doubting God’s goodness because she’s done everything right and everything has turned out wrong, don’t join her in calling her Mara.  Actually, she’s depending on you to keep calling her Naomi, to encourage her back to pleasantness and beauty, which is what Naomi means.  Let her know no one is casting blame, that you love her even though some time has passed since she’s been home.  Throw a party!  Cause a stir! Bake a cake!  Send her a text!  Welcome your friend and neighbor back to the land of God’s love and goodness.    
 
Or perhaps you’re in this place of Naomi, bitter at a life that hasn’t turned out right.  Now’s the time to return home to your people!  Turn to an encouraging sister or brother.  Unload if you must.  That’s what your people are for.  You have a home country of love and encouragement to return to.

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