By Kimberly Cash-Tate
Naomi knew who she was. She was a wife and mother. She was from the nation of Israel, a follower of God, and she was blessed by God. Life wasn't easy-they had to leave their native Bethlehem and journey to foreign soil to escape famine-but with her family and her God, she could weather the storm.
But then her husband died. And a few years later, both of her sons died. The storm, now fierce and raging, ravaged her soul, told her everything had changed. She was no longer a wife and mother. And while she still had a relationship with God, she was no longer in His favor, certainly no longer blessed, "for the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me," she said (Ruth 1:13).
The storm convinced her that her very identity had changed. Her name, Naomi, meant "pleasant." But when she returned to Bethlehem without her husband and sons, she told the women, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara [which means ‘bitter'], for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?" (Ruth 1:20-21).
Can you identify? Has a storm so shaken your life that it changed your perspective of who you are? Of what's true? Did the storm tell you that you were out of God's favor, no longer blessed?
Naomi thought God's hand was against her, but she would learn that He was still with her, blessing her. Though she returned widowed and poor, God provided for her needs. Her daughter-in-law Ruth, who had come with her to Bethlehem, found such favor while gleaning the fields that they did not want for food (Ruth 2:17-18; 3:17). And Ruth herself was a special blessing from God. Though Naomi had lost two sons, Ruth loved her and was better to her than seven sons (Ruth 4:15). And when Ruth married again and bore a son, it was Naomi who enjoyed the blessing of nursing him as her own (Ruth 4:16).
Maybe you're in a storm right now. Maybe you and your spouse are on the brink of divorce, and the grief is akin to losing someone through death. Your storm may be a painful illness, unanswered prayers, unfounded accusations, or a past that keeps you bound. Maybe, like Naomi, you know the enormous pain of losing a husband or child. Whatever your storm may be, Naomi's story speaks to us.
It's during these times-through the storms-when we especially need to cling to who we are as followers of Christ-and who He is. He's our Good Shepherd who leads us by the still waters (Psalm 23). He's the One who says to the storm, "Hush, be still" (Mark 4:39). He doesn't leave or forsake us in the storm; His arms are open, beckoning us to run to Him, our refuge and our strength, our rock and our redeemer.
In the storm, God says, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God... (Isaiah 43:1-2).
Heavenly Father, You are worthy of all praise, for You are my strength, my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. Even in the storm, You are there, working all things together for good for those who love you, who are called according to Your purpose. Help me, Father, to run to You during the storm, to lean on You and to trust You. Lift my focus from the storm to You in heaven above. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Kimberly Cash Tate is the author of More Christian than African American. She is also founder and president of Colored in Christ International, Inc., a nonprofit ministry. www.kimberlycashtate.com