When Love Hurts
We chatted over empty Starbucks cups, but her voice sounded emptier. There was a sadness that hung thick around her neck, and she wouldn’t look up. I hesitated to fill in the blanks. I wanted to give her voice some space if it wanted to come. When the silence finally broke, her tears washed down her face in a confession:
“Love is the most stupid thing ever. No one told me about this. Who would want this? This pain isn’t worth the happiness it once brought me. I hate myself, I hate my life, I hate him, I hate them. And I’m not sorry for feeling this way. It’s true and I don’t care. I’m just done, Kaysie. I didn’t ask for any of this. I just wanted to be happy…is that too much to ask?”
A few hours later found me in a second encounter sitting in a room smelling of hair dye as snips of my hair scattered around me. She talks to herself in the mirror. There are pictures of her children taped to the wall in front of me, smiling big with missing teeth. I listen to her life and the lives of those who sit here in this chair, each story braided into the next. She pauses for a moment in an attempt to honor a story about her friend, Amanda, since her husband has terminal cancer.
“Amanda told me yesterday that hospice was called in, and it could be any day now. Poor lady. But I think she’s already been talking to another guy on the side. Of course, she’s trying to keep that a secret. I think she’s worried about what other people will think. She asked if I thought it was wrong, and I told her flat out, “Honey, I can’t judge your life! There isn’t a manual on love! Just do whatever makes you happy, girl...” I’m no expert on love, that’s for sure.”
I shifted in my seat a little bit; the story of Hosea pulsing in my ears. I pondered quietly to myself: In a world so confident in its definition of love, there seem to be a lot of disappointed, broken hearts out there. We keep getting the equations wrong. If love equals our happiness, then who do we truly love but ourselves? Maybe we’ve missed something?
While there may not be a “manual” on love, there is an Example.
And we get to meet this Example here in the book of Hosea over the next seven weeks. If you’ve downloaded the study guide and stepped into Week One, you understand that the love stories in this book are far from the makings of a fairy tale. From page one, we see a perfect, sovereign Lover who has been forsaken and betrayed by a blinded, selfish bride. But He doesn’t walk away just because love hurts or happiness escapes -- no, He sends a messenger named Hosea to his conceited bride, Israel, a message covered in skin and bone, a message soaked in compassion because judgement is coming if she doesn’t listen.
The image of this wounded Lover pierced me so deep, I couldn’t help but see everyone through this lens of radical love. Every face, every story I encountered somehow filtered through these pages and I saw such a contrast in what we describe as “love” and what God demonstrates to us as love. I worked through the homework this week and was astounded again and again. (In fact, if you do nothing else in this study but make a list on what you learn about God within this book, it will be eye-opening, soul-exposing, and life-changing. I encourage you to really look close into the heart of God.)
As for me, I couldn’t believe how God was responding to such an ugly conflict. I mean, who extends such grace after being forsaken? Who chooses to send a message so alive and personal instead of striking earth with appropriate consequences without a moment’s notice? Who opens their heart up again to even more pain by offering forgiveness and hope to someone literally hell-bent on rejecting them over and over. Who is able to communicate such tender hope in reconciliation with a perfect blend of solemn consequences if refused?
Our God. He does all of these things and more.
For all of the conflict resolution materials out there, I’m amazed that we don’t linger over passages like Hosea’s message for a clear example of how a perfect God responds to the most irrational conflict ever recorded. It’s “irrational” in the fact that one party was completely perfect and above reproach, while the other was hopelessly reckless with the goodness shown. No other conflict can boast of this equation. And yet God gives us an Example for how to operate in the most painful of dysfunctions. I’ve read through Hosea over two dozen times, and each read brings something else about God’s character into the light. The book of Hosea has helped me discover what love truly looks like -- not the fluffy love of romance novels but the love that stays despite the pain and always moves toward restoration.
Our God is the perfect picture of true love, a love that is marked by sacrifice.
That sacrifice was ultimately seen during the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who was “the radiance of His [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature.” (Hebrews 1:3, NASB) Jesus continues to reveal to us the God of Hosea, a God who “shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, ESV)
Happiness didn’t move Jesus toward the cross -- love did.
All the coffee dates and hair salon chatter and relational conflicts would be invaded by heaven itself if we modeled a love like this. Because contrary to what the world tells you, love isn’t found in perfect stories with perfect people who are always happy. Love is best seen in the stories of the broken, stories marked with loss and betrayal and messy people, stories that exalt sacrifice over happiness. This is the soil in which true love grows.
Kaysie Strickland is definitely nothing fancy. Jesus found her in a mess and won her with His Words. She feels called to be a servant of the Word and His people through spending her life and words proclaiming the reckless restoration available in the gospel. She is married to her best friend on earth, drinks lots of coffee + tea, constantly rearranges the furniture in her house (God bless her husband), loves gardening and DIY projects, enjoys long conversations over coffee, and loves all the words. She and her husband are expecting their first little one in February! You can find her on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Blog