2020 is in the rearview mirror. Yet, its impact lumbers forward. What 2021 will be remains to be seen.
In some ways the story of Naomi might resonant with the tenor of our experiences in 2020. Her story descended from pleasantness to dwelling in bitterness. Yet that was not the end of her story, nor need it be our story’s ending.
We remember what happened to Naomi. The natural disaster of a famine drove her family from Bethlehem to a foreign land where her two sons married.
While living in Moab tragedy struck. First her husband died. Then her two sons also died. With their deaths her hope of economic stability died. She was isolated, left alone with two daughters-in-law.
Learning that the LORD was providing food back home, Naomi decided to return. She had left Bethlehem full, but now years later she returned empty-handed (Ruth 1:21).
The women of Bethlehem excitedly welcomed her home. Naomi, whose name means pleasant, told them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara (bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20). Naomi had gone from knowing the pleasantness of being full to dwelling in a house of bitterness.
Yet that was not the end of her story. One daughter-in-law, Ruth, had returned with Naomi. Ruth married a worthy man called Boaz, who possessed means. Boaz accepted responsibility for Naomi.
When Ruth and Boaz had a son,
The village women said to Naomi, ‘May the LORD be praised because he has not left you without a guardian today! May he become famous in Israel! He will encourage you and provide for you when you are old, for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, has given him birth. She is better to you than seven sons!’” (Ruth 4:14-15).
It was this baby boy, Obed, who became the grandfather of king David.
This ending does not negate her suffering nor diminish it. Disappointment and tragedy can tear at us. She may have felt like the Lord was distant, but God is faithful. Even in distress there can be hope, if we choose it. Remember Jeremiah?
When things looked darkest and as Jerusalem’s ruins smoldered, Jeremiah could cry out, “‘The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lam. 3:22-24).
Likewise from an unjust imprisonment, Paul could write, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. …. The Lord is close by; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:4,5,6-7).
In 2021, where will we choose to dwell? Will we choose to live in the house of bitterness or pleasant hope? The choice really is ours.