A New Name

from the Ruth reading plan

Ruth 1:19-22, Ruth 2:1-3, Job 27:2-6, Philippians 3:8-11

Many things can make us bitter against God. A job loss, a failed marriage, a church split, broken relationships, the death of a loved one, illness. When we experience these, we often think God should have fixed it. He should have helped.

He could have saved us but He didn’t. So we become bitter. We think ill of Him and speak ill of Him. We shake our fists and curse Him under our breath, and sometimes even reach the point of rejecting Him all together.

In Ruth 1, we see Naomi and Ruth experiencing loss to an extreme degree. They are left with no husbands, which, in that culture, meant no security and even no identity. They were on their own, destitute and lost. So Naomi declares her new name to be Mara, which means “bitter.” For, she says, “God made me bitter. He brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:21).

Like all good stories, though, this one has a twist. It is a twist on our understanding of “bitterness.” Mara doesn’t reject God. She doesn’t shake her fist. She responds more like what we see from Job; though God made her bitter, she did not lose her integrity, give up on following Him, or speak ill of Him. Her bitterness was one of pain and brokenness, but not one that lacked faith. She knew God was God and clung to Him regardless. We see this in her response to Ruth.

Ruth was, in many ways, a fruit of Mara’s pain. She was a reminder of loss. Yet Mara claimed her as a daughter. When Ruth sought her permission to go and find a means of livelihood, Mara blessed her on her way, saying, “Go, my daughter.” This small phrase shows both love and hope.

Mara loved Ruth and kept living life. Her bitterness did not steal her capacity for feeling, for faith, or for life. It was not the bitterness we so often picture. Such a response to suffering echoes Paul’s words in Philippians 3, where he says he “considers everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ” (3:8).

Suffering hurts. It brings bitterness to the soul, but that bitterness does not have to rob us of life or faith, even if it robs us of happiness. We can still love, we can still follow, we can still live.

And notice one more thing. When Mara (Naomi) responded to her suffering this way, something extraordinary happened; the door was opened for Ruth to meet her redeemer, Boaz. And, through meeting Boaz, the plot was set in place for the Redeemer of the world to be born – the Redeemer of whom we say we everything is loss compared to knowing Him.

Written By Barnabas Piper

Post Comments (20)

20 thoughts on "A New Name"

  1. Micah Ensor says:

    Man is emotional and irrational. It is hard not to get swept away in emotion and allow those emotions to push you off course. Man does however have an anchor to cling to. A true North to guide the way. Man has the capacity to work through these emotions in a very healthy way and that way is to rely on what you have found to be true. If you are diligent about seeking him in the good times- it will come much more natural to seek him in the bad times as well.

  2. Micah Ensor says:

    There is always hope- there is always a way out- redemption and restoration is ALWAYS an option and a possibility.

  3. Micah Ensor says:

    God is STILL with us during suffering and during our time of bitterness, during the time of questioning him and his motives, feeling angry and hurt- he stays with us, he sits in it with us, he is faithful, he offers hope.

  4. Micah Ensor says:

    I will cling to what I know- I will cling to WHO I know. I will seek him in The good times so that it will be more natural to be near him during the bad. I will look back at my life to see his fingerprints and how he has ALWAYS been there with me.

  5. Micah Ensor says:

    Fervently – I will beg for mercy, grace and intimacy!

  6. Ben says:

    God is okay with “bitterness” – albeit a bitterness I don’t quite understand. I can’t imagine being bitter and still having obedience & love to give.

  7. Ben says:

    I’m already thankful to be a part of God’s story. Right now is a challenging time in my rather easy life, and may it bring God glory. That brings me a simple, sweet happiness – sort of like finding a tiny, wild strawberry in the woods. I will respond by giving God thanks that he chose me to be part of His plan.

  8. Ben says:

    We are going to suffer. God is present though it… And that at the end is the grand triumph; it might not be ours – it certainly won’t be ours – it will be His, in His time. But our suffering – with faith – paves the way for that triumph.

  9. Ben says:

    Man is so much more inconsequential than I ever think he is, but with God’s strength, more resilient than I imagined. That I man can love through suffering/life’s lows shows a faith and strength that is amazing. I want that – minus the suffering. 😉

  10. Ben says:

    Wisdom to see the big picture. To understand how great God’s plan is. And to see this picture in my life and in the lives of others. That would be quite a blessing and a gift.

  11. Sean Thelen says:

    We are prone to become discouraged when situations in life go poorly. We have an opportunity to react in a variety of ways when faced with a challenge. The easiest way to handle it is to blame God instead of praising Him.

  12. Sean Thelen says:

    The challenges that we face often become part of a bigger story that brings God’s Kingdom closer.

  13. Sean Thelen says:

    When I feel sorrow, that does not mean God is not present in my suffering. Even if everything is taken from me, God has not changed. In my weakness, His strength is most evident.

  14. Sean Thelen says:

    I may take a moment to be sad about a situation, but I will choose to praise God in the midst of it.

  15. Sean Thelen says:

    I have made a commitment through this study to pray for my wife, so in light of any suffering we experience in our marriage, I will praise God for everything he does. When we suffer, we will praise God all the more because when we suffer, His Kingdom gets closer.

  16. Joel Ladd says:

    Mankind is moldable and shapable. Transitions, loss and all manner of difficulties are what God uses to change us!

  17. Joel Ladd says:

    Because of the Gospel, I am God’s son. Nothing can separate me from his love. I needn’t fear when trials hit, dreams fail, and life gets hard. God is with me every step of the way!

  18. Joel Ladd says:

    God intends for our suffering and hardships to help us. He wants to cut away the dross in our lives so that more of Christ can shine through. Don’t think that something strange is happening when hardships come, rather look to God and look for his hand in the circumstances.

  19. Lukas Fortunato says:

    With the gospel there is always hope. There is always redemption. When Jesus says “behold I am making all things new” That includes…all things! This is true in Naomi and Ruth’s story and I have seen it to be true in my life.

  20. Lukas Fortunato says:

    Father, how often do I feel like I’m trying to force it? Striving to be good enough. Striving to be accepted. To have a tribe. To be seen as a hard worker. To be seen as a good husband. Always with some fear that it ultimately won’t be good enough and end in failure. Thank you for the gospel. Thank you for your promise that you make all things new. Thank you that the gospel means hope. Let me rest in that Lord.

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