As I approached Naomi, I could feel her joy. It was radiating from the smile on her face to the spring in her step. “Oh, you don’t want to hear all that,” she replied when I asked her to share her story. I assured her that I did not want her to relive her grief, but that I thought her story would help so many women who were struggling with grief and bitterness.
“Well then, of course I want to help anyone come out of that darkness. And I had fallen into the deepest pit. There was a time when I thought I would never know what joy or contentment felt like again. NO! Sorrow should never shackle anyone like it did me,” she said as she opened the door to her past.”
“I was a young bride, full of hopes and dreams when I married Elimelech. Then the troubles in Bethlehem became unbearable. The famine—there was simply no food. My husband had heard that there was grain in Moab and he felt we had no other choice. That was when my naive dreams turned to dust. Maybe that was the beginning, leaving Bethlehem, but we were desperate. Our two sons had nothing to eat. No man can watch his family starve and do nothing, can he?”
“It just went from bad to worse. Elimelech died there in Moab. My two sons eventually married Moabite women, which burdened me because they were not of our blood. This was against God’s law, but what could I do?” she held out her hands. “I am only a woman and they were men with their own lives to live. When Ruth and Orpha came to live with us, I just decided to bear with them. God is my witness that I did not shun them or mistreat them. But these things were heavy on my heart.”
“We stayed there ten years, and then both of my sons died. At this point, I had lost everything: my home, my husband, my sons—my hope. I had no reason to live. We were scrounging for food in Moab, worse than it had been in Bethlehem. Then one day I heard God had released Judah from the famine. I felt God was punishing me in Moab, so the only thing I could think of was to go back home, to leave that awful place where my only memories were the deaths of my men.”
“I told Ruth and Naomi to go back to their families. What could I do for them? Nothing! I had nothing. In my sorrow they were a burden to me. I didn’t care if I lived or died; I wanted to die, but I could not bear to see them suffer any more. They both cried and begged me to stay or to take them with me. I pushed them away, and Orpha finally left.”
“And Ruth? Ruth was glued to me. She simply refused. She put her foot down and announced that wherever I was going, she was going too. Oh that dear child! My own suffering covered me, blinded me, so that I did not see God. I blamed Him!” Shivering a little she added, “I trudged back to Bethlehem in such bitterness that I told my friends my name was ‘Bitterness’!”
“But God was not punishing me; he rescued me. Our God will restore our hope if we allow Him to. How was I to know that Boaz was there waiting, that he was our Kinsman Redeemer? That he would fall in love with Ruth, and take us in—give me a family again? When I put my hope in this life, my mind was closed to what the Lord could do.”
“Mourning is normal you know, but bitterness is a trap. It is dangerous! Praise God, I learned to trust Him again,” she said with a big smile. “You know what? I am glad you wanted to hear my story, because as empty and deep as that chasm of suffering was…that is how high he has heaped his blessing on my life now.”
Find a study to go with this story on the Women Speak page.