After what will probably go down as one of the worst months of my life, I was finally finding my way back to peace. My 9 year old daughter had suffered for a month with debilitating back pain and three straight weeks of nausea. The doctors proclaiming everything from cancer to MS, I watched her pain in helpless horror anticipating the absolute worst. Oh, and my marriage was crumbling. The man I expected to stand by me and be my pillar of strength in a crisis was instead distant, cold, and angry. Three X-Rays of my daughter’s spine had not identified the cause of her lingering pain. MRI number 1 brought horrible news. The appearance of tumors grouped around her spine in the exact location she complained of pain. Six doctors appointments and dozens of phone calls later, another MRI would be needed. My relationship with my husband grew increasingly grim as did my daughter’s diagnosis. Nothing was going right. I was lost beyond words, afraid, hurt and completely alone. I felt rejected. How could a loving God deal with me so harshly and allow so much pain? I lost myself in sorrow, fear and grief.
We see something similar in Ruth and Naomi’s story. There had been several years of famine in Israel. In an effort to find food and a better life for their family Naomi, her husband, and sons left their homeland and headed to Moab. Moab would be where both Naomi’s boys would find and marry their wives and Moab would be where Naomi would suffer unbelievable life changing tragedy; the death of both her sons and her husband. Now childless and widowed, Naomi was left with the task of supporting and caring for her two daughters-in-law. Three widows who had endured unspeakable pain together living in Moab, without provisions, struggling to make it. Realizing this was going nowhere fast Naomi did the wise thing. She dusted herself off, picked herself up and headed home. At least at home people knew her, and could provide the needed support at the most devastating time of her life.
Upon arrival in Bethlehem, Naomi was greeted by family and friends excited to see her after many years and ready to receive her with love and gladness. This, however, was not the Naomi they knew and loved from years gone by. Naomi’s return home quickly turned from a joyful family reunion to a proclamation of Naomi’s hurt and brokenness. The crisis had taken its toll. How could a loving God allow so much pain? Naomi had become angry and embittered towards God. So much so that she no longer wanted to be called by her name but instead insisted chose to be labeled by her wound.
Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Ruth 1: 20-21
How could a loving God allow so much pain? Have you ever asked yourself that? Have you ever been so broken and so devastated with life that you no longer identified yourself with your God-given, mamma chosen name but rather through the eyes of the sorrow you experienced. Maybe for you it is not pain? Maybe it’s disappointment or frustration or fear? Living from the vantage point of a wound can have devastating impact. It is fertile ground for the enemy of our souls to wreak havoc in our lives by dominating our thoughts with what has been lost. If the enemy can convince you that this is how your life will always be or that you can never get over the pain, loss or failures of your past then he can cause your mind to spiral into depression, thoughts of suicide and worse.
So, what do you do when you realize that you have allowed your wounds to dominate your thoughts and “change your name”? The Bible’s remedy for pain might surprise you. We are told that that praise is for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). It can be difficult to worship God when life is crumbling around you. But remember, His ways are indeed higher than ours. Sometimes we have to just be obedient. Turn on the worship music and leave it on. If it takes all day for you to be able to sing a long then so be it. But praise breaks bondages and lifts yokes that cannot be explained in our human understanding. It just works. So do it!
Secondly, find a godly, loyal friend or two (see Blog on Loyal Sisterhood) whom you can trust and with whom you can talk, cry, pray, and allow to minister to you. There is no better way to capture the heart of God than when we intercede for one another.
Finally, meditate on The Word of God day and night. The Bible tells us to check every thought and hold it captive (2 Cor 10:5). In other words, make sure your thoughts line up with what God promises for your life. See the “Want More” section for some great verses that will carry you through seasons of loss, depression and hopelessness. In my case, MRI #2 showed no tumors. My daughter was miraculously healed. In the case of Naomi, out of great loss God sent a “redeemer” who would restore Naomi and Ruth. God used Naomi and Ruth’s tragedy to draw Naomi home for a divine connection with Boaz, God’s plan for their redemption and restoration. We may never know the “why” on this side of Glory for many of life’s struggles. But we do know the “Who” that promised that all things are working together for our good because we love Him and are called by His name. So, don’t allow tragedy, hurt or depression to rename you. You already have a name written in Glory.
Father you said in Your Word, that You are closest to the broken-hearted and save those who are crushed in spirit. So many of us have been broken by betrayal, loss, tragedy and the disappointments of life. Father, please walk with us and help us see your hand working even in the most difficult of situations. Please cover us in our broken places and bring healing, redemption and restoration as only You can. We love You and we need You. In Jesus Name, Amen