Ruth Chapter 1: Identity Amnesia

We are beginning a new devotional series over the next 4 weeks through the book of Ruth. We will be reading one chapter each week. Since our passages will be bigger, you will need your Bible. The main idea in this series is identity. We will see how the three main characters - Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz - all change their perspectives on who they are through God's goodness. This first week will focus on Naomi.

Read Ruth 1.

In this passage, Naomi (whose name means pleasant, beautiful, or gentle) changes her name to Mara (which means bitter). Because of her grief, she doesn’t feel like the same person. She believes her identity is now shaped by her tragedy. She’s experiencing what writer Paul David Tripp calls “identity amnesia”. He says this:

“Identity Amnesia is powerful and potentially destructive. Here's the critical issue: you either define yourself vertically, or you'll end up defining yourself horizontally. Horizontal identity is this: I am my success, my relationships, my righteousness, or my possessions. You might be asking, ‘What does it mean to define myself vertically?’ Hear this - vertical identity is always rooted in worship. In fact, the Bible tells us that a true understanding of anything starts with acknowledging God.”

Loss can confuse or unhinge our sense of self. Naomi found her identity in being a wife and mother. And with the loss of her husband and children, she now finds identity in their absence, in the emptiness and bitterness of her life.

Many of us are like Naomi. We define ourselves by our circumstances, trauma, depression, or lack. Others of us define ourselves by achievements, success, acceptance from others, or what we own. None of these things are going to last forever, and none of them will satisfy.

We are not defined by how we feel. We are not defined by what we do. We are not defined by what has been to us. In the coming weeks, we will learn with Naomi that our defining trait is how deeply and truly God loves us. Jesus is ever-faithful and unchanging. He is with us and in us. He redeems and transforms the bitterness in our lives. We are not defined by what has happened to us. We are beloved children of God.

Reflection Questions:
  • What difficult life circumstances are potentially shaping your identity?
  • What personal, professional, or ministry successes are potentially shaping your identity? How can you root your identity deeper in Christ?
  • How will knowing God more help cure identity amnesia?