“Don’t call me Naomi, she told them. Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter” Ruth 1:20
Last week I wrote a post about what the Bible says regarding bitterness and that it is wise, as Christians, to replace bitterness with gratefulness. In light of that post, today I want to focus on the characteristics of someone living a bitter life and how these characteristics impact their gratitude.
The passage I’ll use today is in the book of Ruth chapter one. Due to space, I won’t be able to tell the whole story but I do recommend you to read it when you have the chance.
The context here is that after the death of Naomi’s husband and two sons, she and her daughters- in-law decide to get out of Moab and head to Belen looking for food due to the famine on the earth. Frustrated and sorrowful, Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to go back to their land because she has nothing to give them. They are young and have a future ahead of them, but Naomi has nothing, according to her. One of the daughters-in-law, Orpah, decides to go back, but the other one, Ruth, decides to stay with Naomi and follow her.
After reading the story, I realized Naomi fits perfectly the description of someone that knows the Lord and yet lives in bitterness – to the point that she changes her name to “bitter”. Naomi experienced justifiable feelings of pain and suffering, but sadly, she didn’t know how to handle those feelings through God’s filter. She couldn’t find gratitude amidst the pain.
Characteristics of a bitter person:
1) They never feel gratitude. They are quick to see the bad that has happened to them without stopping to think about the good they have in their lives. “I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.” vs.20
Naomi was quick to see everything she had and lost, but failed to recognize that Ruth had come back with her when she didn’t have to do it. She didn’t stop to express gratefulness.
2) They don’t want to accept the company or help others offer to them. “Then Naomi said to her two daughters in law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home.” vs. 8
Naomi was pushing away the only two people that wanted to be by her side in her hard moments. She didn’t show any gratitude regarding the help that was offered to her.
3) They don’t encourage others to follow God. “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me?” vs.11
Even though Naomi knew God, and had experienced His blessings in the past, due to the bitterness in her heart, she was incapable of radiating gratitude and encouraging others to follow God.
4) They consider themselves victims. “It is more bitter for me than you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me” vs.13
The people who consider themselves victims assume a position of pity, and they are also passive. They think they can’t take control of the situation. Everything that happens works against them and this enables them to develop an attitude of gratitude.
5) They base their identity on the circumstances and not the God they serve. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara” because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” vs. 20
Mara means bitter. Naomi decided to base her identity on what she was feeling, and even though she knew God was Almighty, she doubted His faithfulness towards her. When we doubt the faithfulness of someone towards us, it’s difficult for us to have a grateful attitude towards them.
As you see, these characteristics lead us to live bitter lives and hinder us from an abundant life of joy and gratefulness.
A twist to the story…
If you think you might be living a bitter life, I have awesome news for you. The Almighty loves hard situations so He could bring glory to Himself. The attitude of bitterness and ungratefulness wasn’t what described the end of Naomi’s story. God used circumstances and people around to remind her how much He loved her, and bring back her joy and gratitude.
In the end, her story was very different from the beginning: “The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer (…) for your daughter in law, who loves you, has given him birth (…) Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him” 4:14-16
I know it’s hard to take control of our lives sometimes and get out of that state of bitterness. However, it’s not something that needs to happen in one day. Start just with one step at a time in the right direction.
I challenge you today to think about a reason that is causing you to be bitter, and then, think about something good that came out of that situation, and be thankful for it. If we are intentional, we’ll always find reasons to grow an attitude of gratitude. Let’s trust God to write our story because at the end, it might have a different twist too.
About the author: Anyeline is a mom to one, lover of Jesus, and enjoys a great cup of coffee. She is originally from the Dominican Republic, but is now a proud U.S. citizen. When visiting our church, you can find her teaching our young adult women or helping out in children’s ministry. She always has a smile and a warm greeting for friends and strangers alike.