Monday, March 15, 2021

Better Than Bitterness

I have a little secret. It's my five year anniversary of writing a monthly column called Widows Path for Plain Values magazine! My first article came out in April of 2016. The deadline is always the month before, so that's why I think March counts as my fifth year. 😉 It's harder to keep up with than Daylight Savings Time! (Did you change your clock yesterday?)

Here is my latest article. I'm sorry it looks kind of plain, (it's so pretty in the magazine with their artwork), but most of all I love how it looks forward to Easter from a place you probably wouldn't expect. If you'd like to find out about the magazine, please visit their website

Have a good week. I know there will be good days and bad, but give them all to God and He will see you (and me) through. 💗 ferree

Better Than Bitterness

The sun was shining brightly but the freezing air made tiny ice crystals on my teared-up eyelashes. I was with family, gathered around the coffin of a loved one at their graveside. It was early January, and 2021 was not giving any reprieve from the pandemic. After almost three weeks in the hospital, this loving and godly man had passed away. 

After fifty years of marriage, loneliness will be one of, if not the, toughest challenges of his widow’s life. But from what I know of her and her relationship with God, she will be OK—eventually. I say that because I know she knows how to choose what’s better than bitterness.

Bitterness is like hazardous waste for the soul. Lysa TerKeurst, of Proverbs 31 Ministries said, “Bitterness isn’t just a feeling. It is like a liquid acid seeping into every part of us and corrupting all it touches.”

One of my favorite Bible characters almost got through her widowhood without bitterness—almost; but not quite. Naomi struggled with the toxins of bitterness at almost every turn of her widowhood.  Her story can show us safeguards from the acid of bitterness.

Better: She Survived—Somehow

Naomi suffered A LOT! She lost her house, hometown, and family in Bethlehem when her husband decided to move to Moab in Ruth 1:1-3. Then, after all the upheaval of getting them to the land of Moab, her husband died! Naomi and her two sons were trapped. It was so hard to return to Bethlehem on her own that she might as well have lived on the moon! However, she chose the better part, not bitterness. It wasn’t much, but she chose to survive. Some people don’t understand how difficult it can be to just to take that next breath when you’re widowed. But since she had sons to support, that’s what she did.

She could have easily been bitter. Can you imagine the loneliness and racism she experienced? Moabites weren’t too fond of Israelites. There were no welfare programs for foreigners. Women had no opportunities or legal rights. Whatever business plan her husband had in mind for them to run in Moab, Naomi and the boys would have to pull it off and make a living.

Better: She Loved What Was Left of Her Family

She probably fought off bitterness over and over. Within the next ten years her sons married Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth. Have any of your children married outside of the faith? Have you paid an expensive Middle Eastern bride’s dowry for them to do so? Naomi had these particular opportunities to be bitter. In another blow, both of Naomi’s sons die! Yet, I believe that once again Naomi chose the better part. She loved her Orpah and Ruth. The evidence is that these girls loved her and do not leave her. Had she been a bitter person, wouldn’t those daughters-in-law have left her right after the funerals? No one would want to stay with a bitter mother-in-law.

The Bitter Breakdown

Eventually, Naomi returns to Bethlehem with Ruth. It’s an epic and fascinating journey. Once she gets to Bethlehem though, she finally gives in to full-blown bitterness. She cries out to the villagers who are gawking in astonishment at her return, “Call me “Mara!” which means “Bitterness!” (Ruth 1:20). She’s also dramatic and vocal. She tells them she went away full but God has brought her back empty (even though Ruth is standing right next to her). In a loud voice she blames God for all her affliction.

If Naomi returned to South Carolina instead of Bethlehem, all of us gathered around her would probably do exactly what the villagers in Bethlehem did: we would disobey her, too. No one ever called her “Mara.” When someone is suffering we do not reinforce their bitterness. We might say, “Well, bless her heart,” and bring her a casserole. Those would not necessarily be the right things to do, but at least they are a starting point.  

But what about God? How did He respond to Naomi’s bitterness?

Naomi’s feelings of bitterness were not God’s reality. God’s love for her had not failed. He did not waiver or take His eyes off of her for a moment. God warns us to not let bitterness take root, but He has a remedy for this toxic acid.

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14). With tender compassion and mercy, God knew she needed rest. Naomi’s journey back to Bethlehem had been at least fifty miles, all on foot. She had walked for at least five days through a mountainous wilderness, slept under the stars, and carried everything she owned, including food, fresh water and all the cares of her world. When she walked into Bethlehem she was physically, emotionally, and spiritually spent and exhausted.

Better: She Gets Some Rest

God is far more patient with us than we are with each other. If you read the rest of the story, you won’t hear much of Naomi. I believe she’s resting. But she works behind the scenes, match-making a good marriage for Ruth. God is gently working in her heart, replacing bitterness with hope. We even see her begin to be thankful and praise Him. The acid bite of bitterness is neutralized by the power of rest and gratitude.

Better: She Receives God’s Gift

Naomi’s story doesn’t end there though. Near the end of the book, we read, “Naomi has a son.”  He was actually Ruth and Boaz’s baby, but Scripture endows him to Naomi as her kinsman-redeemer. Her response is very important. She could have chosen to be bitter, but note what she does. What would we do if given a baby to care at age fifty or sixty?

We always have that choice to wallow in self-pity. Naomi could have sulked because this baby wasn’t from her own son, or because her husband wasn’t there to be the grandpa, right? Yes, dear reader, I know those are real and bitter temptations; I’ve experienced them, too. But, instead, we can follow Naomi’s example: open our arms and receive God’s good gift.

It will be Easter in only a few weeks, a time when we think about another redeemer and gift: God’s Son, Jesus, our heavenly Redeemer who died to pay for our sins. Will you open your arms to receive His gift?  

Bitterness: it’s an awful acid that eats at our soul. God knows and understands we are sometimes too weak to resist it; but our weakness is not His reality. He loves you. Receive the gift of redemption He provides. It’s so much better than the hazardous acids of bitterness.  💗


  1. Thank you again, dear friend, for a blessed post! The timing was good, too, since I've just started re-reading "Postcards From the Widow's Path". In fact, I received a note from a recently widowed friend who had finally decided to pick up the book and start reading it."It's the best" was her report. Looks like I'll be ordering some more! In just the last couple of days, we've heard of two men who have lost their wives (non-Covid related). Wonder if there's a "Postcards from the Widower's Path" for them now.
    May the good Lord bless and encourage you in all your doings & writings! He's using you still "no matter what"

  2. Dear Roberta, Thank you for your kind comment today, Seems like life is full of "no matter whats". I'm so sorry to hear about your two new widower friends. Keep praying for them and keep them surrounded with good friends. <3. God bless you in these dark sad times.


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