Sunday, September 21, 2014

Naomi and Ruth: The Bitter and the Sweet

What is your reaction to difficult situations?

“Don’t call me Naomi ["pleasant"], she told them. “Call me Mara ["bitter"], because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

Naomi's reaction was to get bitter. It was hard to blame her. She had buried her husband and both her sons, so it is no wonder she was disheartened and felt stricken by God.

Ruth, however, had a different reaction. Ruth steadfastly clung to her mother-in-law, making the difficult journey to a strange land. When they arrived, she volunteered to follow the harvesters in the fields of local farmers who she hoped would take pity on her. She proved herself to be hard-working and courageous, since the harvest fields was a dangerous place for a young foreign woman.

When Boaz, the wealthy land-owner, noticed Ruth in his field, he commended her faithfulness to her mother-in-law and her trust in God. When he offered his protection and provision to Ruth, she responded with gratitude and obedience.

Like Naomi, Ruth had suffered a great loss. Not only did Ruth lose her husband, but she left her family and country behind to follow Naomi. Their reactions were different: Naomi was bitter, but Ruth was sweet.

Anger is contagious. When we live with a bitter person, we too can become bitter. Or we can make the choice, like Ruth did, to trust God, serve others, and be thankful.  

Women greatly influence the atmosphere of the home. No matter what circumstance we find ourselves in, our attitude is our choice, and that choice affects everyone we live with. We don't have to allow the mood and demeanor of others to dictate our actions. And when we choose to be calm, to have faith, to be thankful for the good in the situation, our home has peace.

It is hard to do this in our own strength! But God is faithful and His Spirit gives us power. In our study group this week, one of the women shared a story of an uproar in her home, but instead of reacting with anger, she looked up to God who gave her the power to stay calm. God helped her control her attitude and eliminate the turmoil.

Difficult situations reveal our character. I know I often don't like what is revealed in mine! But thanks be to God, we have the choice, and God is willing to help us to be sweet and not bitter, influencing those around us for good.  

So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah [about 30 pounds]. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough. Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”

Father, make me like Ruth, grateful, hardworking, and full of faith in You. Help me to influence others for good!

Read the rest of the story in Ruth 1:19-2:23

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