“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.” – Ruth 1:20 NIV
Life’s circumstances brought Naomi to a place of feeling rejected, unloved, and hopeless. Full of sorrow and weary from her journey, she no longer felt seen. She tried to change her name from Naomi, which means “sweet/pleasant” to Mara, which means “bitter.” To change her name meant to change her identity. In the darkness, she felt forsaken.
Ever been there?
I have. Had I read Ruth several months ago, maybe I, too, would have suggested a name change. Much like Naomi, I felt like God had turned away from me.
I remember wondering, HOW DID I GET HERE???
I was blessed to marry a godly man. God carried us through so much.This included infertility issues and the high-risk pregnancy that gave us our beautiful daughter in 2010. Then around 14 months later, I gave birth to a son. In May of 2014, we learned that our third child no longer had a heartbeat. We were devastated, but God sustained us beautifully.
A few months later, we learned we were pregnant again and in April of 2015, we gave birth to another precious baby boy.
The next few years were a whirlwind of raising babies. We had some pretty major marriage problems that included almost becoming separated in the summer of 2018. I had a boatload of mom guilt. Other transitions left me jaded about life in general.
I tried to appear like I had it all together, especially at church, but I was actually dying on the inside.
By the fall of 2019, I realized I had some major issues. I didn’t fully trust anyone. I struggled with inferiority and a horrible body image. I grappled with how to love the Lord with all my being. I would read my Bible daily and pray, but something was missing. Then I just started feeling “off.”
Completing daily tasks became difficult. Finding joy was impossible. I believed every lie that came through my mind: I was the world’s worst mom, wife, friend, homemaker, and on and on.
As a result of believing the lies, and in an attempt to feel some type of control, I started having eating disorder behaviors that I had not had for years. Things went from bad to worse, and I soon wanted to give up on life.
Thankfully, my amazing husband and a bold, brave army of friends refused to let me give up. They prayed and encouraged and convinced me to get the help I desperately needed.
At the end of January 2020, I entered into an eating disorder treatment facility. I didn’t even think I was really that sick. I was convinced that I would be home within a week. Insurance believed otherwise and kept me there for 5 weeks. I got out of residential treatment for 2 ½ weeks and wound up going back for another 9 weeks. I missed holidays and special events with my family. While everyone was quarantining with their families, I could only Facetime with my family once a day. I was so angry at God. My relationship with Him became barely a relationship at all. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I had faith anymore.
What I love about the Book of Ruth is that even though Naomi tried to change her name, she was referred to by her true identity throughout the entire book. She saw herself one way, but God always knew the truth.
At the end of Ruth, we see God’s work of redemption and restoration in Naomi’s life. Her friends remind her of God’s goodness:
“Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer….He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age” Ruth 4:14-15, NIV.
Naomi became a nanny to Obed, the son of Ruth. She raised the man who fathered Jesse. The Jesse who fathered David. From that lineage came Jesus.
She was redeemed. Her life renewed. Her identity proven. Her hope restored.
Once I returned home from residential treatment, I began to get back in touch with my faith. Slowly, as I looked within God’s Word, I found so much truth. All the lies I had believed were debunked. I am surrounded by His greatness. He is the Rock of my strength. The Wiper of my tears. The Remover of my disgrace. I find encouragement as I seek His face. As I allow myself to listen to the “Author and Finisher” of my faith (Hebrews 12:2, NKJV), I realize that like Naomi, He has “not left me without” anything.
Because I am a follower of Christ, I am God’s temple. A place in which His presence specially resides. The Spirit of God lives in me. Therefore, I am holy. Whole. Not defective. Restored. I am not my past. Not my mistakes. Not my flaws. Not my guilt. I am free in Him because of Him. Praise God forever!
Jennifer is married to Jared and the mother to Addi, Brogan, and Gideon. One of Jennifer’s greatest passions is speaking and writing about the goodness of God, His abundant grace and His redemptive love. Connect with Jennifer: www.unwastedgrace.com and on Instagram @jenniferturner.622.
We thank you for sharing your Testimony in this month’s publication of Titus-two.com.
You are loved to Heaven and Back, Jennifer ~~
LindaRJohnson, TitusTwo Visionary