When Naomi returned to her own country from Moab with her daughter-in-law Ruth, her old town was a buzz. "Can this be Naomi?" the women said. They hadn't seen her for over ten years. They never expected to see her again and she probably never expected to see them again either.
Naomi had left with a husband and two sons during a time of famine in Israel. Having gone out for a better life in a neighboring country, she returned bitterly disappointed. Her husband and sons had died; she was in poverty and had nothing except her daughter-in-law Ruth who loved her deeply and would not leave her. However, she had heard that "the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread." (Ruth 1:6) So she returned.
The name Naomi means "Pleasant, delightful, lovely." But when the woman of Bethlehem called out "Is this Naomi?" she was quick to correct them. "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, (which means bitter) for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me." (Ruth 1:20) Who could blame her? Life dealt her some bitter blows and Naomi's spirit was crushed. If you identify with her, read on.
Faith to return home
Naomi's small act of faith in returning home did not go unnoticed by her God. He saw what had happened to her (yes, he even allowed it), but he never lost track of his loving purpose for her life. Naomi saw in the natural that blessing and fulfillment were no longer an option. Hope had died with her husband and sons; there had not even been grandchildren. Even so, God had restoration in mind and he didn't care how bleak things looked in the natural.
It was through Ruth that God began to weave restoration back into Naomi's life. Ruth gleaned the barley harvest in the field of a wealthy man named Boaz who was a close relative of Naomi's dead husband. Ruth found favor and the two women were able to eat and survive. Still, God had more in mind than survival.
When Naomi finally recognized that Boaz provided real hope she believed it was for Ruth. She said; "My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?" (Ruth 3:1) According to the customs of the time, as a close relative, Boaz could marry Ruth and take possession of their family land. Ruth followed Naomi's instructions on approaching the matter properly. Boaz was receptive and honored. The two did marry and he, Ruth and Naomi all experienced restoration they could not have dreamed of. (If you have never read the book of Ruth, go do so now. It is only 4 brief chapters and is a very beautiful story.)
Naomi's real name
In the end, Naomi got her real name back. She was no longer "Mara" - bitter; she was delighted. Boaz and Ruth had a child; Naomi had a grandson. Here's what the women of the town said to Naomi about the little boy; "And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him." (Ruth 4:15)
So it was. Naomi helped to raise that son. In fact, it was said of her; "There is a son born to Naomi." (Ruth 4:17) He was counted as her own son. His name was Obed and he was the grandfather of King David and part of the lineage of Jesus Christ. The last years of Naomi's life were full and rich - who could have predicted it?
Have you ever felt deep inside yourself, "Call me Mara"? Maybe you haven't said it out loud but maybe you have -- or something like it. Looking at your life realistically, are there events that are a done deal? No way to reverse in the natural? No way to get past? If so, you can identify with Naomi's hopelessness and her bitter despair. And now I am proposing that you identify with her restoration.
The first thing I want you to consider is that Naomi was not a woman of great faith who "believed God" for better things. She was pretty realistic in assessing her life. She was resigned to disappointment. She blamed God for her condition, even bad mouthing him to the town's women. She considered that he is sovereign and could have had the sojourn to Moab turn out differently. She didn't have great expectations that God would somehow turn things around. BUT HE DID ANYHOW.
Restoration for you
Therefore, if you haven't exactly been a "super person" spiritually, you are not precluded from receiving restoration. Jeremiah 29:11 says; "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." God is always for you, always working for your success and restoration. He cares about what happens to you. There is nothing that has already happened to you that he cannot redeem. Nothing.
Here's what God says about all that seems unrecoverable in your life; "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." (Luke 18:27) I don't know how he does it but he does it. Naomi lived her life pragmatically, making practical decisions based on her best ability. Yet God was behind every one, guiding her in the midst of them the whole way.
Have you been called "Mara"? Do you see yourself that way? There is restoration for you. It is not too late. God has planned it and he will do it. Your name may yet change one more time.