Love hurts. Last night I sat and listened to a young woman, a friend of Jill, my wife, tell the devastating story of her recent breakup with her boyfriend. I listened, then prayed that God would heal her wounds and give her miraculous hope. It will take a miracle. But God does miracles.
Getting close to anyone is dangerous. Loving brings the risk of disappointment. As I sat and listened and prayed, I found myself impacted by her grief and sharing her sorrow. Getting close to God can be dangerous too, not because we risk getting “dumped” – God never leaves us – but because intimacy means coming into contact with the virus of his passion. Often God’s passion is tinged with pain, the pain he knows from being
“dumped” himself. That virus of grief is contagious. I become infected with God’s passion when I sit and listen to his own sad stories of loves lost. God has a lot of those, even some with my name attached. But that is the cost of intimacy with anyone, even God. Get close, get some pain. Prayer, the vehicle for getting close to God ALWAYS has an emotional side. I’m not a naturally emotional person, but praying forces me there, like it or not.
In Six Prayers God Always Answers we relay the Old Testament story of Hosea, a man who learned by experience the agony and ecstasy of loving God.
Long ago, in the days of Israel’s divided kingdom, 750 years before the birth of Jesus, there lived a prudish, upright bachelor-hermit named Hosea. Hosea was known in Israel as a marginal mystic. He experienced trances and dreams and announced them to the world as the word of the Lord. Hosea was a prophet.
At the time, the religion of Canaan was a fertility cult that linked the land’s fruitfulness to the marital bliss of gods and goddesses. When the male god Baal and his female consort, Asherah, were intimate, the land produced crops. The worship of Baal and Asherah at local shrines became an ongoing orgy. Male and female prostitutes joined in erotic acts with worshippers to stimulate the gods and make the land fertile. By the time of Hosea, Canaanite worship had polluted Israel’s worship of YHWH.
With this cultural backdrop, God presented the prophet Hosea a special, though pitiable, assignment. “Go find a young Hebrew woman. Woo her. Love her. And marry her.”
For a bachelor like Hosea, those must have been exciting and terrifying words, especially as God continued, “But I warn you, if you love her, as you must, she will break your heart and leave you for another. Now go.”
Stepping outside the walls of his cloistered life he found and fell passionately in love with the young, promiscuous, and likely beautiful, party girl named Gomer. He won her hand, married her, and brought her back to the safety of his home. There they began a family together, raising three children.
Time passed. We’re not told how long. But eventually God’s dire warning came true. Gomer left Hosea and her children and returned to her wild ways. It broke Hosea’s heart.
Gomer was typical of the young women in her culture. She was a liberated worshipper of Asherah, religiously faithful to the fertility cult. But Under Hosea’s roof, she was restrained from her promiscuity. Ultimately, she was drawn back to what she had known.
God again approached Hosea. “Now you know,” he said. “You know how I feel. I loved my people. I was married to them and passionately enthralled by them. But they have forgotten me.”
So in chapter two of Hosea we see the Creator of the universe and Hosea, this poor, broken man, sitting on the equivalent of a modern-day front porch and having a long cry together. They understand each other’s pain–the bitterness of injustice.
Misery loves company… because it needs company.
As two jilted lovers dry their tears and wipe their noses, God turns to Hosea and says, “Go get her. Bring her back. And love her again.”
Hosea listens because this is what God is doing. He too has loved and been rejected, but his love never fails, and he chooses to give his heart away knowing he will be rejected again.
Hosea goes out into the street and finds Gomer. fees in bondage, having sold herself into temple prostitution. Hosea buys her freedom, though it costs him everything. For the balance of her bill he must barter away his own food.
He takes her home. Again.
Could it be that the injustices we experience, the anger and heartbrokenness we feel, bring us closer to God?
Question: Has your own broken-heart ever driven you closer to God?