The Lament of Naomi, the Lives In-Between

No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.
— Ruth 1:13b
She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?
— Ruth 1:20-21

Reading these verses through the first time left me wondering how Naomi could be so shortsighted. Most of this comes from the ignorance that this season of my life has me in. It has been a sweet couple of months of adventure and trust, for which we are thankful. However, it has also been hard to empathize with Naomi when it feels as if she’s just being a little too melodramatic.

What colored these verses, however, was not my lack of empathy, but the people that the Lord specifically placed in my life during this week of reading chapter one of Ruth.

My dear co-worker right now is watching her mother die slowly in front of her, as her father struggles to watch the wife of his youth forget who he is. As we prayed together, she shared words like Naomi’s, words that caused me to take a step back as I tried to grapple with the tension of her faith as well as the reality of her situation as she shared her heart of frustration that God couldn’t just come and fix it, even end it, already.

Another friend of mine finds herself battling the awful systems we have set in place for those in foster care here in America. Her family has raised these two boys for three grueling years through infancy and some terrible toddler years only for mom to show up and claim them as her own. A court case will proclaim either the adoption into their family or the termination of their guardianship in a month, and she mourns with deep pangs as they pour out their savings to a lawyer that won’t dictate the decision at the end of the day.

She [Naomi] feels anguish precisely because she believes God is in control.
— Paul E. Miller, A Loving Life

We cry out with eternity written on our hearts because we know this isn’t the way it is supposed to be.

The gap between hope and reality is the desert. Naomi’s lament is the prayer of the desert, the agony of living in the tension between hope and reality.
— Paul E. Miller, A Loving Life

One of my brothers has also found himself in that desert, wondering when the striving will cease. Encouraging him to lament was something he had never thought to do. It doesn’t seem correct, not right to shake our fists at our Holy God, the Almighty One, and demand deliverance. Yet, mourning loss and grieving the many deaths, losses, and “whys” of this world actually don’t allow us to breeze by the season that He has placed us in, but keep our eyes fixated not just on the problem, but the only One that can come and heal what has been damaged and destroyed.

Let us call out to our God, for we know He saves. One day, all of these deaths will be resurrected because God Himself, Jesus, was raised to life from death. Holy Saturday is for all who suffer and feel like God’s promises aren’t adding up. Take heart, you who are in the desert. Lament in faith. Lament boldly.