On Sunday toward the close of my Mother’s Day message, I inserted an acrostic using the word ABLE to help crystallize four practical application principles for making the journey from a place of resentment in our spiritual lives to one of true blessed contentment. Naomi (means pleasant or sweet) suffered so greatly from a battle with bitterness over all the hard providences of Ruth chapter one that she requested a name change to Mara (means bitter) in keeping with her frame of mind. A root of bitterness springing up does cause trouble (Heb. 12:15).
I went over it fairly fast due to the time. Also, it wasn’t in the notes as I only came up with the idea early that morning. I thought I would review it here in the blog in case someone might have missed some or all of it.
A – admit your struggle. There is something of Mara/Naomi in all of us. This was a godly woman. She struggled as we all do. I personally find this encouraging. The Lord loved her enough to bring her through it graciously over time. It doesn’t do any good to deny feelings of resentment. Rather than run from the Lord, take those feelings to the Lord for His help.
B – believe the truth. Begin with the truth of the gospel. I love J. D. Greear’s gospel prayer that he unpacks in his book on the gospel. The first point goes like this: In Christ, there is nothing I could do to make You love me more; nothing I have done that makes You love me less. That last phrase is particularly applicable. Satan loves to accuse us when ingratitude and other sins take hold. When he does we must cling to the gospel and remember that our standing with God in Christ is not about our performance; it’s about His provision. We have become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).
Beyond that, believe the truth of exceedingly great and precious promises of God’s word that reveal His continual plotting for His glory and our good in every circumstance, even the difficult ones. Romans 8:31 stands out among them. If God is for us, who can be against us? Psalm 118:6 is a good one to wage the fight for joy against unbelief and resentment as well: The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
L – look for the sweet providences a midst the hard. I spent a good bit of the message demonstrating how Naomi’s bitterness blinded her to all the good things God was doing even in the midst of her struggles. Calling herself empty when she had such a treasure in the partnership of Ruth was only one but perhaps the most obvious. Ask the Lord to help your eyes to be open to signs of His goodness that you might not be noticing, like perhaps a good friend sticking with you through your trial. I failed to mention this on Sunday but one way to help cultivate that discipline is to write your thoughts down in a journal. That can tend to focus concentration on things in a marvelous way.
E – engage in thanksgiving. There is no room for bitterness in a thankful heart. If you practice the art of giving thanks for the many providence of your life, it tends to keep resentment at bay. And when you can’t find even one, as a believer you can always give thanks for the gospel and the fact that God has made you part of His greater story of redemption and that, in the words of John Piper, your life and mine in Him is not given over to trifles.
His words were on this matter were so good, I will quote them once more here:
The book of Ruth wants to teach us that God’s purpose for the life of his people is to connect us to something far greater than ourselves. God wants us to know that when we follow him, our lives always mean more than we think they do. For the Christian there is always a connection between the ordinary events of life and the stupendous work of God in history. Everything we do in obedience to God, no matter how small, is significant. It is part of a cosmic mosaic which God is painting to display the greatness of his power and wisdom to the world and to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10). The deep satisfaction of the Christian life is that it is not given over to trifles. Serving a widowed mother-in-law, gleaning in a field, falling in love, having a baby—for the Christian these things are all connected to eternity. They are part of something so much bigger than they seem.
Are you able to make the journey from bitter to blessed? Neither am I. But He is.