It’s been a rough two years, and there’s a good chance you’re feeling exhausted and quite possibly discouraged at the way your life is going. Things haven’t turned out the way you thought they would. You’re not sure where you’re headed. You may be more than a little hesitant to find out what the days ahead hold for you.
I get it. These are difficult days we’re living in, and it’s easy to grow weary, but I’ve got good news for you. Tough times have been around since the beginning of time, and the Bible is filled with women just like you who reached a point in their lives where they were worn out and weary.
We’re going to devote the entire month of January, looking at worn out and weary women in the Bible, and through their stories, we will find encouragement and strength. Because I’ll go ahead and let you in on a secret. Though these women may have been at the end of their rope, God was there holding out His arms, waiting to lift them to new heights. And He can do the same with you.
We’ll start with Naomi.
The name Naomi means, “my joy”. Naomi started out life full of hope and dreams. She married her sweetheart. They had two boys. Though it wasn’t always easy, she had her family, and her joy was complete.
Then famine hit the land.
Now, rather than weathering the famine where they were, in Bethlehem, God’s country, her husband decided life would be better if they moved to the nearby land of Moab.
I’m sure that Naomi had her hesitations. Leaving their homeland, their friends and family, their godly heritage, to settle in a pagan country could not have been easy. But at least Naomi had her husband and sons. She was blessed. She wouldn’t complain.
Then her husband died, and Naomi became a widow in a foreign land. But at least she still had her grown sons to take care of her.
Only instead of them devoting their attention to Naomi, her two sons each married Moabite women. Of course, Naomi would have preferred they’d taken Israelite brides, but at least they found good women among the pagan Moabites. Naomi settled in to wait for the upcoming pitter patter of little feet. Only none came. Instead, death overtook both of her sons.
The woman who’d started off full of hope and joy was worn out and
discouraged. When she heard that Bethlehem was no longer in a drought, she sought to return home. She needed to be back where she could feel God’s presence. Her daughters-in-law decided to join her.
The custom at the time was when a woman married, she left her family to live with her husband’s family. When their husbands died, Naomi’s daughters-in-law had the option of remaining with her in the hopes that she could provide them with another husband or else they could return to their families
Orpah and Ruth began the journey with Naomi, but she tried to discourage them. She reminded them that their home was in Moab, and she had nothing in Bethlehem to offer them. Orpah took her advice and returned to Moab. Ruth committed to stay with Naomi for life.
When Noami and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, the other women eagerly welcomed Naomi, but she would have none of it. She told them to stop calling her Naomi but to instead call her Mara, for the Lord had dealt bitterly with her.
Naomi had started life full of joy and hope. She’d loved God when life was good, but when heartache and disappointment came her way, she felt rejected by God, like he’d forgotten her and didn’t care about her.
Naomi’s problems didn’t magically disappear when she and Ruth returned to Bethlehem. We’re told that they arrived at the time of the barley harvest, which is a good thing because harvest meant food.
But though Naomi had a home to return to, she had no field to harvest. Ruth volunteered to support herself and Naomi by gleaning in the nearby field of Boaz, a wealthy relative of Naomi’s husband.
It was the custom at the time that when the farmers would harvest the crops, they would leave behind remnants to be gleaned by the poorest of poor. Ruth volunteered to submit herself to this type of work in order to provide for Naomi and herself.
We all know the story of how Ruth attracted the attention of Boaz and how he watched out for her by protecting her and making sure that she received plenty to eat and drink.
When Naomi realized where Ruth had been and how Boaz treated her, hope began to rise up within her. She recognized the hand of God at work in providing for them.
Naomi went on to do a little matchmaking to help bring together the couple, and soon Boaz and Ruth were married, and God blessed them with a son.
I love what the women tell Naomi in Ruth chapter 4.
“Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”
Naomi was blessed to became a nurse to her precious grandson. The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Naomi talked about God forsaking her, but that wasn’t exactly true. Naomi and her husband made a choice. Rather than trusting God to provide for them in Bethlehem, they thought they could outsmart Him by moving to a pagan land. They rejected God by assuming that the Moabites were being better provided for than the Israelites. God didn’t forsake them. They forsook Him.
While in Moab, Naomi lost a husband and two sons, but God took a bad situation and brought something beautiful out of it. In Moab was a precious young woman who was seeking truth. Though Naomi’s son should have married a good Hebrew girl, instead he married Ruth, a pagan girl in search of the true God.
Though Naomi grew bitter in Moab, still, Orpah and Ruth witnessed her faith and were impacted by it. Because of the testimony of Naomi’s faith, Ruth was willing to leave behind everything she knew and held dear in order to begin a new life with Naomi’s God.
Isaiah 40:29 tells us “He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.” (NKJV)
After years of living away from God, Naomi was weary and powerless, but God gave her strength by providing for her a daughter-in-law who loved her and was there for her. Together, they journeyed back to God.
Just when Naomi thought life was hopeless and spiraling downward, God lifted her up out of the trenches and gently placed her in a new life that was far better than anything she would have planned for herself. But she had to take the first step and head back to God’s country.
It may be that you’re feeling worn out and weary in the wilderness because of the choices that you made. Whether you left God on your own accord or followed along with someone else, you’re not where you’re supposed to be, and you’re feeling forsaken by God.
Here’s the good news. He never leaves us no matter how far we may wander away. And He can take us wherever we are and use us for His glory. He never gives up on us.
If you, like Naomi, are feeling bitter, I want to let you know that better days are ahead. Though we may see only darkness in our future, we serve the Lord of Light. Turn your eyes away from the dark and lift them up to the Light. He will lead you to where you need to be.
I challenge you to read the full story of Naomi. It’s found in the book of Ruth. The entire book of the Bible is only four chapters, so you can easily read all the details of Naomi’s life.
My goal for All God’s Women this year is not just to help introduce you to the stories of Bible women, but to teach you how to study these women more in depth. I’ve set up my website so that each 4-5 week Bible study includes daily assignments and resources to guide you into a deeper understanding of the Word.
Then, as you take notes and form questions, I encourage you to hop on over to the All God’s Women Bible study Facebook group and share your thoughts and questions with the rest of us so that we might have animated discussions that will enrich our lives and encourage us in our daily walk with the Lord.
Lord God, thank you for this story of Naomi that reminds us that though our lives may be dark at the moment, you have greater things in store for us. Thank you for understanding when we get angry or bitter. Thank you for your forgiveness and love when we lose our way. Lord, please be with those women who are struggling today, who are feeling rejected and discouraged. Send them blessings to remind them that they’re not alone. Reveal yourself to them in a mighty way, bringing them out of the darkness and into the light. Forgive us for losing faith and allowing our fears to overcome our good sense. Thank you for your constant mercy and grace. We love you. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Tune in next week when we look at another worn out and weary woman, the Prophet’s Widow. In the meantime, be sure to check out the Worn Out and Weary Bible Study where you can find daily assignments, activities, and discussion questions.
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