Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” Ruth 1:8-13 NIV
Naomi is a woman that is filled with loss and grief. She has lost her husband and her two sons, and she has no way to support herself or her daughters-in-law. Even worse, Naomi believes that she will soon lose the only people she has left - her daughters-in-law.
Even though Naomi is broken and alone, she tells her daughters-in-law to return home to their families. I am sure Naomi wanted to cling to the women for so many reasons. She would have wanted to remain near the women to have companionship. The women would also have been the last living connections to her dead sons. Naomi must have known that without her daughters-in-law, she would be completely alone. Most importantly, Naomi would have desperately wanted her daughters-in-law to remain near because she loved them. However, despite her deep love for the women, Naomi believes in the depths of her soul that her life is over. Naomi laments that God has turned against her, and she is convinced that Ruth and Orpah will suffer more if they remain with her.
As tragic as the loss and pain are for Naomi, I think the most tragic part of her story is that she not only believes God has deserted her, but she believes that she has nothing left to give. Naomi has convinced herself that the only people in the world that she has left will be better off without her. This is the ultimate loss of hope - to believe that you have no purpose on this Earth, and to think that your life has no meaning.
A few years ago, at one of the darkest points of my life, I began to push people away. I was so broken and in such deep despair that I believed that God did not care. I could not comprehend how a loving God could allow the events that led to my terrible pain. Even worse, I often told myself that my family and friends would be happier without me. I believed that I was alone, abandoned, and unloved. Because I believed God had turned against me, I could not see a future where I had a purpose. I once told a friend, "I destroy everything that I touch."
I think Naomi must have felt this way. She loved Ruth and Orpah, and because she loved them, she thought they would be better off far from her. In the ultimate act of sacrifice, she told them to leave her.
However, no matter how strongly Naomi believed that her life was over, Ruth had other plans. Ruth knew that Naomi had nothing left to give. Ruth also knew that it would be easier to leave Naomi and return to her home. However, Ruth loved Naomi, and love compels us to do things that are not always in our self-interest. Love compels us to think of others before we think of ourselves. Love compels us to be loyal.
Have you ever felt such despair that you, like Naomi, believe "It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”? Have you convinced yourself that you have no purpose? If you have lost all hope, remember that your story is still unfolding. As long as you draw breath, God still has work to do in you and through you. You are a gift to the world.
Jesus, remind me that I still have a purpose and that my life has meaning. Show me that I am a gift, and open my eyes to see the ways that I can serve you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.