“I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty …” Ruth 1:21, NASB
“Sorry to see you’re moving,” I commented to a neighbor as I strode past his driveway.
“Well, it’s time to move on. I’m getting remarried, and all my memories are here of my former wife—whom I buried last year,” he replied straightforwardly yet not without feeling.
His response, which indicated heartrending loss but also an active choice to move forward, truly impressed me. It struck me so differently than Naomi’s words: Not full … but empty. Two people—millenium apart—experienced the same type of loss but responded so diversely.
Naomi lived in Bethlehem. Because famine ravaged the land, she traveled 50 miles with her family to stay in Moab. Lamentably her husband, Elimilech, and their two sons died while they dwelled in this heathen place. Then Naomi, filled with incalculable grief, returned home alone.
But hey, wait a minute, Naomi wasn’t alone! Hard as she tried to be alone, her daughter-in-law, Ruth, Would. Not. Leave.
Relentlessly Ruth stuck to Naomi’s side like lint on a favorite sweater. Though Naomi instructed Ruth FOUR times to return to her homeland—reasoning that Ruth’s future was headed nowhere if she stayed with her—Ruth remained. Passionately she declared “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16). Naomi truly would have been alone if Ruth had listened to her counsel, yet Ruth resolutely refused that option. She loved Naomi.
So why didn’t Naomi acknowledge Ruth’s presence when she reconnected with the women of Bethlehem? Why didn’t she value God’s precious provision of Ruth?
Naomi was bitter. Likely she did appreciate Ruth in some capacity, but overwhelmingly, loss skewed her perspective. Limiting her comprehension of God’s faithfulness, Naomi chose to concentrate on what she didn’t have versus what she did have.
Yes, she’d suffered. Yes, she carried a tremendous load. And yes, the future looked bleak. But God intended blessing for Naomi. Unfortunately she locked in on the negative and overlooked the positive God already had provided: Ruth.
To our detriment, we sometimes do the same. Viewing life’s challenges, hurts, or disappointments through self-seeking lenses, we categorize our experiences as empty—when in all reality—something good exists. Even when positives coexist with negatives, we focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right. We insist on mentally clinging to the pain rather than gratefully receiving the blessing.
Just as Naomi wasn’t really alone, neither are we. The Lord faithfully stands at our side:
“The Lord stood with me, and strengthened me …” 2 Tim. 4:17
“He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.'” Heb. 13:5
Friend, what losses are you stubbornly clinging to? What bitterness clouds your vision, preventing you from seeing the silver lining? God not only intends future blessing for you—He’s already provided something good in your current circumstance.
Loving Father in heaven,
You are more than enough—always faithful, forever satisfying to my soul. Yet too many times I look at life negatively, and I confess this sinful tendency. Thank You for Your patience with me as I slowly mature spiritually. Please consistently change my perspective, enabling me to gratefully grasp the good You provide in every situation. In Jesus’ comforting name, Amen.