As a working pastor, I've walked painful pathways with newly widowed spouses and with parents grieving the death of their own children. Additionally, there is my own grief to bear.
My Uncle Ron, who was a brother to me, died. Wretched cancer claimed his 62-year-old life. I don't listen to his music or focus too much on thoughts of him, it is unbearable. Grief is grievous.
In the Bible, we see an example of a grieving widow named Naomi. She, her husband Elimelech, and their two sons moved out of the Promised Land to the land of Moab because there was a famine (Ruth 1:1-2). While in Moab, Naomi lost her husband and both of her sons. (Ruth 1:3,5). To make matters worse, in that historical culture, women beyond marrying age depended on the men of the family to care for them. They could not simply get a job. Naomi's grief must have been overwhelming and unbearable.
Naomi's grief and despair led her to bitterness. She became angry with God. To her friends, she demanded, "Do not call me Naomi (i.e. pleasant); call me Mara (i.e. bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me" (1:20).
This is a common temptation when we are grieving. When we are dealing with struggles of any kind, Satan tempts us to be angry. At first, we don't intend to direct our anger at God, we think we're angry at a person or circumstances. But, when we remember that God is in control of all things, including death and every other struggle we face, we become just like Naomi; angry at God.
Naomi failed to see God's unceasing goodness in her life. She was blinded by her grief. Anger opened the door and invited bitterness into her heart. Anger, bitterness, depression and many other negative emotions often attend grief and feed unbelief. Satan tempts us and then convinces us that our anger (or any sin for that matter) is justified because God took something or someone away from us. We become blinded to God's love and goodness just like Naomi.
Having lost everything and being separated from God, His Promised Land, and her people, Naomi was in a very difficult situation. She allowed her circumstances to make her bitter. Naomi was a saved child of God, and she did not need to succumb to the temptations that ultimately made her Mara, that is, "bitter."
The Bible teaches that believers have power over such temptations and that our thoughts are under our control. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Phil 4:8). When walking the painful path of letdowns and losses in life, we can look to God in faith and trust, believing that He will faithfully care for us as He has promised.
Even though Naomi was bitter and angry at God, God did not abandon her. We see His kindness towards her in many ways, especially through Boaz. God used Boaz to save Naomi, Ruth and the family line. Boaz points us to Jesus, our Everlasting Redeemer, both in his kindness toward these women and in his family tree. Ruth and Boaz have a son, who in time has a special grandson, King David. More importantly, Jesus Christ was born into this world through the line of David. We find Ruth and Boaz mentioned in Jesus' genealogy in Matthew 1:5-6.
Though Naomi was blinded by grief and could not see God's goodness, we clearly see God's goodness and grace on display in Naomi's story. Not only did God care for Naomi through her time of grief, but her story became a pivotal piece of redemptive history.
When grief leads us to anger, bitterness, worry and anxiety, we need to remember God's goodness. Let grief lead you to God and His grace in Jesus.
Many have healed from their grief through the counsel and support of the GriefShare Ministry. GriefShare is a 13-week video series and support group for those grieving the loss of a loved one.
Chris Cookston is the pastor at Prineville Community Church. He can be reached at 541-447-6315.
Prineville Community Church is beginning a new session of GriefShare on Monday, Sept. 14 at 1 p.m. at Prineville Community Church, 520 NE Elm St. The course is free and the cost of the workbook is $17. Call us at 541-447-6315 to register. You can learn more about GriefShare at https://www.griefshare.org/
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