Just a few words of a telephone conversation, overheard quite by accident, changed my life forever. Why? Because they were the words of my then husband to the woman with whom he was having an affair. Searing pain ravaged my heart that day. It was an emotional pain so deep that I felt it physically—first like the thrust of a hot poker, and then a throbbing, aching pain that seemed like it would never go away.
What I didn’t know that day was how much that experience would teach me about the heart of God. In the midst of my pain, God tenderly drew me into His Word. There He showed me that He understood the pain of having an unfaithful spouse.
Many of us balk at the idea of God feeling pain. Yet, listen to His words in Ezekiel 16 (portions from verses 8-30, ESV):
8 “…behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you,” declares the Lord God, “and you became mine….12 And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth…You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. 14 And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you,” declares the Lord God. 15 “But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his. 16 You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore. The like has never been, nor ever shall be. 17 You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore. 18 And you took your embroidered garments to cover them, and set my oil and my incense before them. 19 Also my bread that I gave you—I fed you with fine flour and oil and honey—you set before them for a pleasing aroma; and so it was,” declares the Lord God. 30 “ How sick is your heart,” declares the Lord God, “because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, 31 building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square.”
The Lord’s heart is broken over the unfaithfulness of His people.
He is saying, in effect, “I lavished my love on you. My love made you beautiful, and I gave you every good gift. And then you threw yourself into the arms of another lover. You used your beauty and all that I gave you to seduce someone else!” You can hear His heartbreak again in Jeremiah 2: 2, 5 (ESV): “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride…. What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?”
I found such comfort in seeing how the Lord understood the pain I was going through.
But then, with such tenderness and kindness, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, “You, too, are an unfaithful Bride. Consider all of the ways you have been unfaithful, all of the things that have drawn your heart away from me.” I was cut to the core. The pain I felt over my husband’s unfaithfulness was the pain God felt over all the things my heart loved more than Him. I cried out, “Oh, Lord, I’m so sorry!”
My heart was melted by the Lord’s response to His unfaithful people…to me.
He says to His unfaithful Bride in Joel 2:13 (ESV) “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love…” And in Hosea 2: 2 (ESV), “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” I could scarcely take it in. Even though I was the unfaithful one, the Lord was pursuing me! His love completely overwhelmed me.
And as if that weren’t enough, listen to what God says to His people just after pouring out His heartbreak in Ezekiel 16 over their unfaithfulness, “Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign LORD” (Ezekiel 16: 64, ESV). Wonder of wonders! I am the unfaithful one, and yet, not only does He pursue me and call me to return to Him, He makes atonement for all I’ve done.
All those years ago, I couldn’t have imagined that having an unfaithful husband could teach me so much about the Lord’s heart. His lavish, drenching love for me causes me to love Him ever more deeply. How beautiful are His words in Isaiah 54:5-6 (ESV):
5 “For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
6 For the Lord has called you
like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,”
says your God.
Is anyone else like me, an unfaithful Bride? May our hearts be drawn to our tender, kind, faithful Husband.