When asked, who are the most influential women in the Bible? Naomi usually isn’t mentioned or even thought of. However, today I would like to go to the book of Ruth and take a look at Naomi with a positive perspective that although she had flaws, she in fact was an influential woman.

In the beginning of the book of Ruth we read about the death of three men: Naomi’s husband first and then her two sons.

Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

Ruth 1:5

Naomi then tells her daughters-in-law to go back to their own families saying, It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me! (Ruth 1:13)

This is where many of us are tempted to judge Naomi. Maybe we assume she is being a bitter old woman, allowing bitterness to take root in her heart. Perhaps we see that she is blaming God for her problems, so we dismiss her story. I want to challenge you to put yourself in her shoes for a moment. Where would you be mentally and emotionally if your husband and children died? I am a mom of two boys, and I cannot imagine the heartbreak of losing them. I would probably be asking God why, if I ever did lose my children.

If we read the text carefully, you’ll notice Naomi isn’t only angry with God, she is angry with herself. She is claiming that God is punishing her for some reason, an unspoken sin perhaps. Naomi believes God is disciplining her sin by taking away her husband and children. I think her judgment of God is wrong here, but I have compassion for the guilt and shame she carries as she grieves the loss of her husband and children.

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. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.

Ruth 1:20-21

If you continue to read the story of Ruth and Naomi, you will see that despite the grief Naomi is walking through, she continues to invest in her daughter-in-law Ruth. Naomi was tempted to isolate herself in her grief and yet she allowed Ruth to step in and stay with her. Ruth shows love and compassion towards Naomi and although Naomi is still hurting, she doesn’t respond to Ruth with anger and bitterness. She accepts the love that Ruth has for her.

This is where Naomi is a positive influence to the reader.

We will all experience grief at one time or another in our own life story, but we don’t have to walk through the grief alone. We can say yes to the comfort others bring, we can allow others to stay with us in the hard. Naomi was honest about her bitter feelings towards God and herself, and yet she did not allow that bitterness to hurt her relationship with Ruth. God was using Ruth as a tool to help Naomi and Naomi said yes to this blessing from God.

A mother never forgets her children. Naomi carried the loss of her husband and children for the rest of her life, but she did let go of the bitterness as she allowed God to heal her heart. God worked all things out for Naomi’s good and she accepted the blessings God gave to her. This shows us that although Naomi was bitter at first, she did not live in that bitterness, she lived in the grace of her Abba father, saying yes to his plan for her life. What a great example for all of us, especially when walking through grief.

At the very end of the story, Ruth marries Boaz and they have a son named Obed. But what is so interesting about this story is that the women in the village didn’t praise Ruth, they praised Naomi.   

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Ruth 4:14-17

Ruth chapter 1 says “Naomi was left”, but Ruth chapter 4 says; “Praise be to the Lord who this day has not left you.” What a beautiful story of redemption! God is so good! God had never left Naomi; He was with her through it all and the same God is with you too!

I see myself in Naomi’s story, I see my own grief and bitterness, but I also see that God is with me and that He is working all things out for my good. God is doing the same for you, especially if you are in a season of grief. Look at Naomi’s story, it is okay to grieve. But remember to say yes to the good things God has for you, accept his gift of Grace just like Naomi did. Naomi suffered through a great lose, but the gift God gave her influenced the generations after as she cared for and helped raise Obed – the grandfather of King David.

God has compassion for your loses, for your heartbreak and your brokenness. It is okay to grieve. But don’t allow your grief to stop you from saying yes to the gifts God has for you because God’s plan is so much bigger than anything we could ever ask for or imagine. Say yes to the redemption and grace God has for you just like Naomi did.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

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