In the first chapter of Ruth we see the unfolding of the afflictions of Naomi and her two daughters in law over a ten year span of time.
Naomi's husband Elimelech decides to sojourn in Moab with his wife and two sons, and while there he dies, leaving her two sons. They marry two Moabite women, and stay there ten years, then they both die also, leaving all three women widows.
Deciding to return to Judah, Naomi tells the two daughter in laws to stay in Moab, and let her go alone. They both declare they will stay with her, but Naomi explains her plight in somber tone, with vivid detail expressing her solemn plight. With this, Oprah kisses Naomi and goes back to her people, But Ruth gives a reply that can only come from someone who has knit their soul to the other:
Rth 1:16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
Rth 1:17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
Someone who has suffered multiple losses can put themselves in these women's situation. They both had suffered the loss of husbands; and their intertwined relationships were doubly veiled in grief, and Naomi knew she was facing the rest of her years as a widow who would have to find a reason to live, or allow sorrow to bring her to the grave. It must have been with comfort mixed with sadness that she decided to let Ruth continue on with her, because in her heart she had resigned herself to her fate.
Rth 1:18 When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.
Instead we see a devotion, a love, and a soul totally commited to another. In these verses, I get a sense of how Ruth must have developed this love over the span of years when married to Naomi's son. I can imagine the bond of fellowship, trust, and affection that had grown between them, for her to make such an oath of sincere loyalty. Now, they were traveling a road of mutual affliction; both having lost their husbands, and no way to know what their futures held. Neither had any knowledge that Boaz was in Ruth's future, but Ruth was not willing to lose the relationship between them, even if it meant death.
When looking close at this, we can also get a glimpse of what Naomi's character must have been, and the value of her personhood, because evidently Ruth wasn't willing to lose that relationship no matter the cost.
Naomi's laments, truthful statements of her grief, sorrow, and even seeming to blame God didn't taint Ruth's devotion to her. There's no account in the story of Ruth losing her temper, judging, or any hint of condemnation. The two were able to comfort one another, because they were walking the same lonely walk, but God in His Providence had bonded them together for a reason far greater than either of them could have ever fathomed. I encourage all who read this to go to the book of Ruth and read the "rest of the story". But, this blog is for the purpose of those who may read this and are now going through their own valley of loss, and grief.
In the place you are now, it may seem like a pit so dark, so low, and deep that no chance of anything good coming from it exists. The plight of these two women as they turned their feet back to Judah, Naomi's homeland was one of uncertainty and desperation. Naomi didn't know what else to do, and chose to go back to the beginning, where she had come from. It proved to be the hand of God in her decision. It is this way at times for us as well. We don't always know God's plan for us. But, I have walked the same path as Naomi, and found God's hand on my life as He was on hers. I've learned over these years that God is faithful, and can be trusted, no matter how dark the situation. He tells us if we seek Him, we will find Him, if we seek Him with our whole heart. He does not lie.
In verse 21 Naomi says "I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?"
Yes, she was bitter of soul, and the world for the most part cannot abide someone in this condition-it's too honest. Most who are in the valley of loss and bitterness as she was, go into hiding for good reason. They soon find they are better off alone than to have to deal with the indifference and coldness of those who cannot, or have no desire to relate to them. But, we do not see any anger or condemnation from God, or Ruth.
So, in the last verse Naomi returns home with the Moabitess Ruth, and comes to Bethlehem in the beginning of the barley harvest.
Rth 1:22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.
From here the story becomes intriguing, and full of insights of the hand of God working in someone in affliction who may be in bitter grief, but whom God evidently finds worthy of attention and restoration. I'll end with once again encouraging you to go to the book of Ruth, and read the rest of this story, you'll be glad you did.