Ruth 1:19-20 – Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “ Is this Naomi?” But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” NKJV
In my last post, I wrote about the children of Israel stopping at a place called Marah. Today I want to continue my discussion of the sin of bitterness. I sensed a need to “update” this “series” from my first year of blogging.
Naomi and her husband went to the land of Moab with their sons to avoid the famine in Bethlehem. After they got to Moab, her husband died. Her two sons had married Moabite women and after a time, her sons died. Around this time, Naomi hears that there is food in Bethlehem, and she decides to return to the land that she had come from. Her daughters-in-law wanted to go with her; but in the end, Ruth was the only one to travel with her to Bethlehem.
It’s been at least 10 years since Naomi and her family departed from Bethlehem, maybe longer. For some reason, the women of Bethlehem ask “Is this Naomi?” It could have been the shock of seeing her again, or of seeing her alone, or she could have changed in some way. Whatever the reason, they were unsure that it was her.
Naomi immediately tells the women that they are not to call her Naomi, which means pleasant, but they are to call her Mara which means bitter. She continues to explain why she wants to change her name:
• The Lord has dealt very bitterly with me, she said!
• I went out full (with a husband and two sons).
• And the Lord has brought me home again empty; which wasn’t completely true, because she had a daughter in Ruth!
I’m not judging Naomi, but it’s pretty obvious here that she is making it plain that she is bitter and has a right to be bitter. She is so bitter, that she believes the Lord has dealt very bitterly with her. I can only imagine the devastating heartache that would accompany the loss of both a husband and your children. So I get that she is hurting! What I don’t understand is why she feels she has a right to be bitter!
In Naomi telling the women, “Call me Mara” she sounds as if being bitter is a badge of honor. It is not! Then she goes on to list all of her issues as if she has earned the right to be bitter. She has not! God wasn’t responsible for the things that caused her bitterness, and He isn’t responsible for any bitterness that we may harbor in our heart.
The Bible doesn’t elaborate on how her husband and sons perished, but whatever caused their deaths, she laid the blame at God’s door, and that’s not where it belongs!
In Jeremiah 4:18, God shares insight into bitterness:
“It’s the way you’ve lived that’s brought all this on you. The bitter taste is from your evil life. That’s what’s piercing your heart.” Jeremiah 4:18 MSG
In other words, God is saying that the bitterness isn’t from His hand. He wasn’t piercing Naomi’s heart, life was! He isn’t piercing your heart, life is! Maybe not your life, but maybe the life of a loved one lived without God, and your heart is pierced. It’s not His fault! Things happen to the just and the unjust! When stuff happens to the just, we are not to react like the unjust. The unjust have no hope for they are without God; but we have the promise of deliverance, from the Great Deliverer!
Peter, in addressing Simon the diviner realized that he was a bitter man and said this:
For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” Acts 8:23 NKJV
Bitterness is poison to the soul. It is deadly and capable of causing many physical issues in your life. It’s not worth holding on to!
In the book of Hebrews, it is written:
“Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;” Hebrews 12:15 NKJV
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to be careful unless we allow a root of bitterness to spring up and bring trouble in our lives and cause many people to be defiled. When we are bitter we have a tendency of defiling ourselves and others. Our bitterness becomes the lens in which life and relationships are processed.
When I got married, several divorced women told me that all men were dogs. Others told me to watch out for the seven year itch. These things were said by women who had become embittered towards the institution of marriage and men. Probably with great cause! These words could have defiled me and my marriage had I listened to them! But I didn’t! I considered my source!
But if you have bitter, envy, and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. James 3:14 NKJV
James is letting us know that there is nothing to boast about when we are bitter. As a matter of fact when we boast, we lie against the truth! Our situations, our pain, and eventually our bitterness makes us feel like we have a right to feel the way we feel, and say the things we say, which results in us lying against the truth of God’s word!
In my opinion, bitterness short-circuits a heart of gratefulness. Naomi was still alive! Ruth had come with her to help provide for her and to take care of her. They had made it back to Bethlehem without any trouble. She had much to be thankful for. But she wasn’t concerned about anything except the fact that she had loss so much! Ruth was also a widow and we don’t get any vibes that she was bitter. Naomi’s bitterness was so deep that she could only see her pain and her losses, and was blind to the goodness of God. Rightly she said that she should be called bitter because she was a very bitter woman.
But Naomi had a loving Father. One who doesn’t easily offend. One who knows we are imperfect beings. One who understands. And even though she couldn’t see Him working things out to bless her, He was doing exactly that! And thankfully, if you are born again, your Heavenly Father is wanting you free of bitterness because the poison is destroying the blessings He is bringing in your life!
Life is tough! For some it seems to be down right unbearable. But, it is not an excuse for bitterness, or a need to boast in it! Bitterness says I will never do this, or I will never do that, because of what happened to me! Bitterness says that no one has the right to tell me how to feel until they have walked in my shoes! Bitterness says I will never trust another person as long as I live! All these emotional statements stem from a root of bitterness!
Stop boasting in your bitterness! Get rid of it! A willing and repentant heart is all God needs to start the process of healing! Instead of blaming Him, try trusting Him! Instead of living with bitterness, try living without it! Let it go! It’s only making you sick! Wonderful Jesus!