Scriptural Gem in Scriptural Gem

In Ruth 1:20-21 we read:“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 Lordhas afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” 

We all know the story of Naomi and Ruth and the verses above where Naomi refuses to be called by her given name and instead insists on being called 'Mara' (Bitter) and claims that God is to blame for that bitterness. However, it is in the original language that we find clarity on just how far she goes to make her point. Upon reading verses 20 and 21, it is apparent even in the translation that Naomi uses two distinct names for God, translated 'Almighty' (El Shaddai) and 'The Lord' (Jehovah) respectively. One would expect her to use the name 'Jehovah' throughout her statement but she intentionally switches to the name 'El Shaddai'. Why does she do this? Let's take a closer look at the meaning of 'El Shaddai' in the original Hebrew. This name has traditionally been translated as 'Almighty' but we need to get to the origin of the name to understand it. The Hebrew word 'Shadaim' means 'breasts' - see Genesis 49:25. The literal meaning of 'El Shaddai' is something like 'God of breasts' or 'all-sufficient God'. This carries with it images of nourishment, care, provision, comfort - those attributes which we would ascribe to a nursing mother.
 
Naomi is deliberately using this special name of God to make a statement. She is basically saying: "The so-called 'God of all provision' has not provided for me... The so-called 'God of all nourishment and comfort' has instead destroyed me... The so-called 'God of all fullness' has actually emptied me..."  These are harsh words and reveal the extent of her bitterness - bitterness not directed at people but toward God Himself. The question is, how did she get here and more importantly perhaps, how do we ourselves end up in this place?

First of all God certainly had not changed from the time she left Bethlehem to the time of her return. God does not change. His name was 'El Shaddai' when she left and 'El Shaddai' when she returned. The problem does not lie with God. The problem lies in the fact that she went away with her personal interpretation of the meaning of the name 'El Shaddai'. She attached her own definition to that name and that led to her having certain expectations from God... and when He did not deliver on those expectations, she became bitter. Sounds like us, doesn't it? When you hear the name 'God of all provision, sustenance, nourishment and care', what springs to mind for you? Food? Clothing? Shelter? Abundance of goods? Perhaps the problem is that each one of us goes away with our own interpretation of 'El Shaddai' and so God becomes a god of our own making who is supposed to act according to our expectation...

We need to ask God to introduce Himself to us again and show us who He is from His perspective. According to Naomi's definition of God's name, God gave her nothing that she needed, but according to God's definition of His name, He gave her everything she needed. Dear friends, let us ask God's forgiveness for attaching meanings to his names based on our own desires and then when He does not come through for us, for being bitter against Him. Let us allow Him to dictate what we need and when, He truly does know best.
 
It seems to me as if God was taking Naomi on a journey during which He stripped her of absolutely everything she relied on for provision in order that she might recognize that He Himself was to be both her provider and her provision. The child of a nursing mother is not fed with something outside of herself - she is both the provider of food and the food itself.
 
Dear Father we have our eye not on you, but on what we want from you. Forgive us Lord. Lift our gaze to your wonderful face and help us to entrust ourselves to you. Amen.