After Naomi’s husband and sons had died, she and Ruth returned to Bethlehem. Her friends recognized Naomi and welcomed her, but in Ruth 1:20-21 (KJV) we see this:

“And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

Mara means bitter, so Naomi was saying,“ Call me Bitter.” As a pastor, I see people who carry the burden of bitterness, those who allow their disappointments or dashed dreams to bring resentment. Those kinds of lives can destroy families.

We all experience frustration and failure. But how should we handle these situations? Let’s identify three key elements from Ruth to see how we must defeat bitterness when it roots in our hearts.

  1. God uses the famines of life to bring blessings. God used the famine in Bethlehem to bring great victory in the lives of Naomi and Ruth. How many Christians do you know who no longer attend church or fellowship with other believers? Our nation is full of them. They have allowed bitterness to override the victory God wants to bring. If you are holding bitterness in your heart today, I pray that you will allow God to lead you from that situation of spiritual famine.
  2. God can use our wrongs for His glory. Amid famine, Naomi and her family went to Moab to connect with people they should not have been with. Nevertheless, God brought the future king of Israel from this action. In fact, after Boaz and Ruth had their son, Obed, Naomi’s friends said this great thing to her (Ruth 4:15):

    “And he (Obed) shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age….”

    One more thought: Cling to friends who will build you up. And if you have bitter friends like Naomi, gently and prayerfully call them back to God.

  3. God’s plan is always greater. God will take what breaks your heart and use it to do the unexpected. Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV) tells us that our God

    “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”

    We all get to places in life where we must get past our pain to see how God will do exceedingly abundantly more to strengthen us, in Him. Don’t put limits on God, my friends, because He can take you from your heartache into places you can never imagine.

Your friend in Christ,