“But she replied to them, “Don’t call me ‘Naomi’! Call me ‘Mara’ because the Sovereign One has treated me very harshly. I left here full, but the LORD has caused me to return empty-handed. Why do you call me ‘Naomi,’ seeing that the LORD has opposed me, and the Sovereign One has caused me to suffer?””
“I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”
This verse from Psalms still gives me an inner joy I cannot adequately describe. Why, in the moments following a miscarriage, would I feel the most loved by my God, as I knelt and wept, reading this verse aloud? Like a rose, life is beautiful, but it can be filled with thorns and thistles which prick us with throbbing pain and sorrows. While no one sees trials or tribulations as a blessing at first, taking a step back might grant a more accurate understanding of what is really transpiring.
I can identify with Naomi in the verse from the book of Ruth, above. When one tragedy follows another, it is easy to feel forgotten. When confronted with loss, we have a choice. Though Naomi was blessed with a faithful daughter-in-law, she chose to focus on her loss. Though she had previously been blessed, she chose to focus on her current status. Don’t we all do that? We feel we deserve blessings but are angry, hurt and doubt God when those blessings are seemingly removed.
What hurt Naomi most was that she knew her God – that He knew all; He was sovereign. Yet she accused him of poor character – of being harsh and of being the source of her suffering. The reality is that her God was loving her through it all, through a selfless servant. God was for her – not against her. The pain blinded her understanding and the blessings were not in the form she wanted, so her perception and decision was that God did not care.
This God who numbers the hair on our heads and our every tear is not a God Who does not notice our suffering. He is the one Who bore it Himself, because He could not bear to be without us. He is the One Who cares so much for our character that He allows pain in, knowing that the beauty made in the crucible is far superior than the shallow goal of living a perfectly comfortable life.
I hurt to write these words, for so many are going through or have gone through horrific burdens and trials, and I desperately want you to know those sorrows are real, and never trivialized by God with a pat religious statement. Truly, I will never be the same as I was before the greatest sorrow of my life, but then, the compassion birthed through the catalyst of grief is far greater. He walked through suffering, as well. He knows what severe trials can do to us emotionally, physically and spiritually and wants to be the One we run to in those moments.
Whatever affliction that is allowed into our lives, it can never be compared with another person’s. The severity of hardships can range from uncomfortable to debilitating, but in the midst there is a grace supplied – do we perceive it? It might be a blessing hidden; someone like Ruth that God brings into our lives. She was a comfort to Naomi, though a foreigner and a Moabite, she ended up being grafted into Christ’s lineage and blessing Naomi abundantly. Or maybe God’s provision is Himself and His Word that we have to cling to with our whole being.
When our expectations are calibrated with the biblical humility of deserving nothing before a Holy God, we then are surprised we have any blessing at all. Even greater than a temporary happiness on earth is the all-consuming joy of knowing our Maker and knowing that we will enjoy fellowship in His presence for all eternity. Though life can be arduous we can choose delight in God instead of opting for regrets or bitterness. Avoiding the thorns is not the goal, but embracing the beauty within affliction is.
Oh, Lord, You notice us and are aware of every sorrow we bear. Thank You that You are the God who sees. Help us to find our joy completely in you and grant us faith and strength to walk in that joy when circumstances would seek to rob us of contentment in You. Be glorified in our sorrows and blessings.