I've been doing a Bible study on the book of Ruth with a couple of friends. Kudos to Kelly Minter! Really love the book (and the RECIPES!).
...on to the point...
There is one particular scripture that God keeps bringing to mind. Ruth 1:21a says " I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty."
I don't know what you know about the book of Ruth, so I'll start at the very beginning. At the beginning, there is a family of four of God's chosen people, Israelites. Elimelech is the dad, Naomi is the mom, and they had two sons, Mahlon, and Kilion. They were living in Bethlehem (in Israel) during the time when judges ruled. This is important because we know from the book of Judges (17:6), that when the judges ruled, everyone did as they saw fit. In other words, a lot of God's chosen had turned their backs on Him (again). So God had allowed/caused (Choose your own adventure!) a famine in the land. Naomi and the boys were hunnnngry.
As a result of this famine, they made a command decision. I don't know how this decision goes down. There is probably a lot more research I could do to find out, but you probably don't care all that much. I am curious though. Did Naomi suggest the move? Was Elimelech behind the whole thing? Did one of the kids hatch the plan? I don't know. No matter how it came about, it is significant because they chose to move to Moab.
Moab was the child that Lot's daughter bore after getting her father drunk. So, let's just say this was not a blessed lineage. There's plenty of scripture explaining the fact that the Moabites and Israelites were enemies. God specifically commanded the Israelites not to marry the Moabites in 1 Kings. Ruh roh. So, Naomi and crew, two of whom are young men of marrying age, decide to move to Moab. This can't be good.
It seems that this decision was based on the physical. They were hungry. They wanted food. This was not a spiritual decision. If they'd consulted God's plan or ways about this choice, and chosen to follow His plan, odds are good they wouldn't have gone to Moab in the first place. They went nonetheless.
While in Moab, Mahlon and Kilion do, in fact, marry Moabite women. Then Elimelech, Mahlon, and Kilion all die. Uh. What.?.
So here's Naomi the Israelite, living in Moab, with two Moabite daughters-in-law, and her husband and BOTH of her sons have now died. How horribly devastating this must have been for her! How lonely she must have felt. How sad. How heartbroken. Can you imagine being Naomi? It makes my heart hurt just to think about it.
Naomi decides to go back to Bethlehem. In Ruth 1:6, "she heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there." This story is just such a beautiful picture of God's redemption and constant seeking after us. It was hunger that motivated Naomi's family to leave Bethlehem... and to some degree, it is hunger that calls her home. His desire is for us. He wants us to return to Him, even after we have disobeyed and turned our backs on Him.
In short, Naomi and Ruth arrive back in Bethlehem. The people are surprised to see her. It's been awhile. They say, "Can this be Naomi?" Naomi responds by saying "Don't call me Naomi, 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." She is devastated. She doesn't even want to be known by her name any longer. Naomi means pleasant. She wants to be called bitter. I can only imagine.
The thing that has really stuck with me, and that I find interesting is that little statement, "I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty." You tell me. Was she full when she went away? Physically, no. There was a famine. The physical was the motivator and decision maker. I'm sure she felt very empty when she left, when she made a command decision to disobey God's law and go live amongst the Moabites, to allow her sons to marry Moabite women. I'm sure she was devastated then.... sad, upset, scared, maybe even angry at God for the famine?. It is interesting how hindsight has changed her perspective. She sees now that she was full then.
I've seen this same principle in my own life many times, and I'm sure I'll see it again. I feel a range of negative emotion regarding a situation, and I sometimes believe the lie that I am empty. I allow the physical world to deceive me into believing I am anything less than completely and utterly full, and I make poor decisions. It is only later that I'm able to see how very full I really was.
So this is my reminder to you (and me) today. If you have Jesus, you are full. You go out full, and you come home full. Don't believe the lie that you are anything less. Don't be deceived by the physical. Be motivated by the spiritual.
John 6:35 "Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."