by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman
My husband has many wonderful qualities. But the night I began to fall in love with him, something bigger captured my heart. It was on a walk around the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool one cool fall evening. Strolling arm in arm, we shared our amazingly common experiences growing up in the Plymouth Brethren assemblies. We laughed over our camp stories, so similar in substance though experienced in different places. He may have been from Virginia, and I from New England, but it was like we had known each other our whole lives. And something clicked.
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 1:2 NASB). Hosea’s painful marriage would furnish a visible picture to Israel of God’s grace in His choice of 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 command. 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 explainable, 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
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
Join the conversation: What has God taken you through that enabled a more complete knowledge of Him?