The Story of Ruth holds many lessons for us: leaving all that is familiar to follow God, His provision for us when we are faithful, Ruth meeting Boaz and it is our first real glimpse of what it means to have a Kinsman Redeemer. But one person who often gets overlooked in this story is Naomi. She goes through quite a bit of tragedy in the space of five verses. I think maybe that's why we miss it. Her story seems so short and seems to be simply the introduction to the story of Ruth. By verse 14 we are singing Ruth's praises for her loyalty and commitment and away we go. verses 20-21 grabbed me this time. "Do not call me Naomi (which means pleasant); call me Mara (bitter) for the almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?"
What strikes me here is that Naomi has no idea the good that is going to come out of her tragedy. There was a famine that caused her husband to take his family to a foreign land to search for food. Her husband died. Her sons married women not from their own people. Then her sons died. If all these things hadn't happened; Ruth would not have been redeemed by Boaz, Obed would not have been born and Obed would not have become the grandfather of David, who would become the iconic King of Israel, man after God's own heart and through this line the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was born.
Our tragedies, bumps, bruises, sorrows, pains, all come with lessons...usually for our benefit, but not ours alone. In this case Naomi went through a LOT of tragedy and it appears as though the purpose was not even primarily for her to learn a lesson, though I imagine she learned about trusting God and His ways, her tragedy was for the purpose of getting someone else (Ruth) where she needed to be to fulfill her role in God's plan for humanity.
Sometimes we can't seem to find a purpose behind our suffering, trials, struggles, but there is always hope. How often do we focus on our immediate circumstances - God has dealt bitterly with me! We despair - not even a hope; yet God is at work. What Naomi didn't see was King David, and then the Messiah because of her trials....sometimes we don't see the good that comes from our trials. But the truth is that our hope is the same hope that came out of Naomi's trials....the Redemption of it all through Jesus Christ - her's quite literally.
There is a song, Blessings, that plays on the radio that says "What if your blessings come through raindrops. What if Your healing comes through tears. What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?...What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy? What if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights...are your mercies in disguise."
The truth is that when we stop trying to tell God what is good and right and start Trusting Him, our lives often take unexpected twists and turns...sometimes those very painful ones are the very things that teach us to rely upon the One who will never fail you nor leave you...and that is the very best lesson of all...walking closely with Him.