In the Book of Ruth, we see that after Naomi’s husband and sons had died, she and Ruth returned to Bethlehem, where Naomi was from.  Her friends recognized quickly 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.”  Naomi had lost her way, spiritually speaking.  I can tell you that in my role as pastor I see quite a few people who carry the burden of bitterness.  Many people allow their disappointments or dashed dreams to bring resentment toward others and they blame God or walk away from their fellowship with Him.  Bitterness is destructive and can devastate families, as well as churches.

Bitterness counters what God wants for us.  You see, God often uses the famines of life to bring about great blessings.  Many believers do not understand this truth.  How many Christians do you know who no longer study their Bibles, 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.

In fact, God can use wrongs (both against us and by us) for His glory, if we will have hearts of forgiveness and humility.

Here’s a great message from Ruth: Amid famine, Naomi and her family went to Moab to connect with people they should not have been with.  Nevertheless, God brought David, the future king of Israel, from this action.  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….”

We see here the importance of having friends that will build you up.  And if you have bitter friends like Naomi, gently and prayerfully call them back to God.

Remember, God’s plan is always greater then our own mistakes, my friends.  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 let bitterness defeat you or destroy your relationships with others.  God wants us to be wise representatives of Him, reflecting Him in all we do.  Bitterness will cut you off from others and from God, but trusting Him as you travel those dark and lonely roads of life will give you a heart of peace and fullness in Him.

I’ll close with a great statement from my friend Nancy Leigh DeMoss from her book “A Place of Quiet Rest.”  She said, “An evidence that our will has been broken is that we begin to thank God for that which once seemed so bitter, knowing that His will is good and that, in His time and in His way, He is able to make the most bitter waters sweet.”  It’s all about trusting Him!