Our mutually familiar backgrounds proved to be a great foundation for an excellent marriage. Our shared experiences furnished an ability for good communication and understanding. On a profound level, we got each other, and still do to this day.
When God sent Hosea to prophecy to his people, he prepared him in a most unconventional way. He didn't send him to study at seminary or into some kind of prophet-internship program. Instead God told Hosea to find a woman prone to unfaithfulness and marry her. "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord," he commanded. Hosea's painful relationship with Gomer would furnish a visible picture to Israel of God's grace: choosing a nation that would ultimately prove unfaithful to him. Knowing it would bring heartbreak in the long run. Doing it anyway.
That much is plainly spelled out in Scripture. But I believe there was an even deeper, unspoken purpose in God's unusual requirement. Hosea, through his personal suffering, would learn first-hand about God. Through the pain of his own rejected love, he would gain insight into God's heartbreak over his people. That insight would inject a passion into his message delivery not otherwise possible.
The Navigators, an international Christian ministry, have a motto appropriate for every believer: "to know Christ and to make him known." The latter can only follow the former. We cannot make someone accurately known without personal knowledge. Some of that insight cannot be gained through anything but shared experience.
We follow a suffering Savior. One way we can know him is through experiencing a bit of what he did on earth: insight that can only be gained through pain. Our heartache, our hurt, gives us a glimpse into his. In turn, that new intimacy and insight into God's heart ignites a passion for him. The more we love him, the more effective message bearers we become.
Has God called you into painful circumstances lately? Grief over the death of a loved one, rejection from a spouse, hearing the word cancer, watching your children suffer; the list could go on and on. Our first response is often to demand: Why? Surely God would not allow this into the life of someone he loves!
The Bible shows us God's love is precisely why he brings suffering into our lives. God is all about the relationship. Suffering is one tool that effectively draws us into to his open arms.
"Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for my glory... you are my witnesses," declares the Lord... "so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He...and there is no Savior beside Me." In the hard and sometimes unexplainable, God is at work to reveal himself to us and through us, his glory-bearers.
Someday, as the last tears are wiped from our eyes, we will understand the suffering that was a part of our lives. Standing in his glory, we will be grateful to have been used to reveal a small portion of it on earth. So worth it.
"That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings..." Philippians 3:10