Breaking Free from Bitterness
The Book of Ruth is the story of Ruth, a Moabite princess, who marries the son a wealthy Jew who has taken his family to Moab to avoid a devastating famine in Israel. Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, experience terrible tragedy when Ruth’s husband, her husband’s only brother, and her father-in-law die suddenly. Naomi is left alone with two childless daughters-in-law neither of whom is Jewish.
Naomi urges Ruth and Orpah, Ruth’s sister-in-law, to remain in Moab so she can return to Israel and put the pieces of her broken life back together. Orpah decides to remain in Moab, but Ruth, in a stunning gesture of devotion, decides she will return with Naomi, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).
When Naomi returns to Bethlehem, she is greeted by the other women to which she replies, “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).
Naomi is bitter with the circumstances of her life and with God who allowed these things to occur. However, in the midst of her bitterness she extends kindness to Ruth who reciprocates in the same way. Rabbi Levi Meier, Ph.D, Jewish Chaplain of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, has written a book entitled, Second Chances: Transforming Bitterness to Hope and the Story of Ruth. Meier writes, “Kindness as a response to pain, suffering and tragedy is one of the overriding themes of the Book of Ruth.”
Meir reveals that individual acts of kindness have repercussions well beyond themselves, as when Ruth accepts the generous offer of Boaz (whom she will later marry) to follow his harvesters and glean the grain that they leave behind. “She leaves some food uneaten, intending to take it home to share with Naomi,” Meier writes. “In this way, Ruth takes advantage of a way to repair the past—she demonstrates how different she is from her selfish Moabite forebears, who wanted to sell bread and water to the Israelites wandering through the desert.”
Ruth is ultimately rewarded for her great kindness by becoming a progenitor of King David, from whom the Bible states, the Messiah will come. Meier concludes that the way to transform bitterness into hope is through personal acts of generosity and kindness—a lesson on bitterness gleaned from a Moabite princess, told by a Jewish Rabbi, and now shared with a Christian audience. God is good!
*Much of this synopsis was borrowed from
David Brandes and the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
Breaking Free from Bitterness:
Bitterness Begins When Someone Hurts You:
- Sometimes It’s a Large Wound
- Sometimes It’s Smaller Wounds Over Time
- Many of these You Dismiss or Deal With.
- Others You Make an Effort to Forgive.
- Others Take Root and Grow into Bitterness.
What Does Bitterness Look Like?
Thoughts of Revenge, Hatred, Avoidance, Outbursts of Anger, Gossip
Bitterness Will Destroy You:
Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, Spiritually, Socially
How Can I Overcome Bitterness:
- Admit Your Bitter Attitude
- Repent of this and Related Sins
- Give God Your Burden
- Forgive the Offender
- Turn Outward in Your Focus