How to Have Hope in the Midst of Heartbreak

Psalm 6:1–7

O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
    nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
    heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
    But you, O Lord—how long?                                                                                                              Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
    save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
    in Sheol who will give you praise?                                                                                                            I am weary with my moaning;
    every night I flood my bed with tears;
    I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
    it grows weak because of all my foes.

This is a Psalm of ‘Lament’. Lament is different to sorrow. ‘Sadness’ in the Bible is usually linked to circumstantial factors, but ‘lament’ is the language of sorrow that is deeply personal. Listen to the language of sorrow, recorded in the book of Lamentations, as Jerusalem laments her downfall.

Lamentations 1:1–3

How lonely sits the city
    that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become,
    she who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
    has become a slave.                                                                                                                               She weeps bitterly in the night,
    with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
    she has none to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her;
    they have become her enemies.                                                                                                           Judah has gone into exile because of affliction
    and hard servitude;
she dwells now among the nations,
    but finds no resting place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her
    in the midst of her distress.

Have you been there? In that lonely room during the dark night of the soul? In a world that worships the "feel good pick-me-up", Christians have bought into the lie of profit-driven posters and bumper-stickers — on none of which will you ever read about ‘bitter tears in the night’ or ‘weary moaning’.

But if you have lived any portion of life, you know the sorrow that leads to lament, even though you may not have had the language to express it. When you fall into that dark pit of despair, when your sin has piled up against you, when God seems distant, or worse—close but quiet—no amount of chanting ‘Jeremiah 29:11’ as though it were some secret spiritual mantra will deliver you.

In your despair, ‘lament’ is a good and proper response, but it isn’t where God wants you to remain. Even in lament, there is hope in the midst of heartbreak. Psalm 6 doesn’t end at verse 7:

Psalm 6:6–10 

I am weary with my moaning;
    every night I flood my bed with tears;
    I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
    it grows weak because of all my foes.                                                                                                                     Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
    for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.                                                                                                         The Lord has heard my plea;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
    they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

…and Lamentations chapter 1 soon becomes Lamentations chapter 3.

Lamentations 3:16–24 

He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
    and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace;
    I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
    so has my hope from the Lord.”                                                                                                                         Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:                                                                                                                                             The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;                                                                                                                               they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

So as Hosea begins, we see that despite the heartbreak, hope remains.

A Marriage With Meaning

The Lord was about to speak through Hosea by speaking to Hosea. It is important to notice not only what God asked Hosea to do, but why he asks him. Hosea’s broken marriage and abandoned affections demonstrated the ‘free love’ that the nation practiced with her neighbors and false gods. This would be a marriage with meaning. Hosea’s heartbreak was intended to be the stage on which God’s theatre of imminent judgment and ultimate hope would be performed.

Gomer: A Wife of Promiscuity

Gomer, within her time and culture, would have been a daughter of shame. When God said, “Marry a girl with a reputation”, Hosea knew who to go find. Nothing that was about to unfold would have come as a shock to anyone. Gomer was free with her love, free with her affections, and free with her ‘self’.

Gomer was an echo of Israel. Rather than seek security with God, Israel pursued relationships with those around her, thinking her political alliances would secure her safety. rather than find satisfaction in God, Israel chased after the gods of the nations around her, thinking that they would provide for her needs. As Gomer sold herself cheaply, so did Israel.

Jezreel: A Son of Judgement

The first of Gomer’s children was soon born. Each child named by the Hosea under the instruction of God. Each child a picture of what will be born of treating God with disdain. The eldest son, Jezreel, named after a valley of slaughter where God’s judgement was poured out on wickedness.

Jezreel was a reminder of the wickedness of God’s people and their blood-thirsty violence, even when trying to obey the command of God.

When Gomer’s first son was born, it was both a reminder of the nation’s sin, as well as of the judgement that was coming. The very place that Israel thought they were strongest was the very place that God would humble them (Hos 1:4-5) Lo-ruhamah: a daughter unpitied. The literal meaning of her name is: ‘No Mercy.’

What God was saying was, that he was known as a God ‘rich in mercy’, his mercy was about to dry up. His compassion was coming to an end. The northern kingdom of Israel was soon to be no more. Israel was all but completely destroyed—the bowl of God’s wrath was full and on the verge of spilling over the land. The constant abandonment of the people from God’s ways comes with severe consequence—utter destruction.

Lo-ammi: a son unclaimed. The literal meaning of his name is: ‘Not My People.’ The abandonment of God for idols brings the devastating judgement of God: “Depart from me, I don’t know you. You are not mine, and I am not yours.” What an absolute tragedy this is.

Hope From Heartbreak

As Hosea makes a life with a wife who will not honour their vows, he walks under the scorn of public shame, with three children whose names shout, “Judgement is here. There will be no mercy. You are abandoned.” 

No wonder we should fall to our knees with songs of lament. Our lives are no different to Israel’s. We are a people of fickle affections and wandering eyes. James says that with our mouth we “bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way” (James 3:10). 

Yet! Chapter 1:10 begins with ‘yet’. Praise God for his relenting love found in the yet’s and but’s of the Bible! From them we hear the hope that springs from heartbreak.

A People Accepted

From the place of utter destruction and desolation comes an image of uncountable blessing. And where ‘Lo-ammi (not my people) stood, they would hear, “You are sons and daughters of the Living God!” 

A People Reconciled

Where religious and political violence reigned, and brother was divided against brother, sister against sister, a new nation would rise under one King. Hostilities would end and peace would rule. Paul tells us in Ephesians that this has been fulfilled in Christ:

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:12–16)

Sinners reconciled to God, and reconciled to each other, under one King—the Lord Jesus Christ.

A People Loved

Here is the hope that rises out of heartbreak. In Christ, those who were once called, “Lo-ammi, not my people”, are now embraced in the arms of the Father and called, “My people.” Those once called, “Lo-ruhamah, no mercy”, are now dressed in the robes of acceptance and called, “Compassion—you have received mercy.” Listen to the worshipful tones of Peter’s letter to us:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9–10)

This is a story that allows the sighs of your lament to be turned to joyful songs of faithfulness. If you have lost hope. If all seems dark now and the path forward lost, then this is my prayer for you. I pray that you will see the light of Jesus' face, that his grace would enrich your lament and transform it into joy.

Being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:11–14)


This content originally published here under the title Hosea: Hope in the Midst of Heartbreak. Used with permission. 

Photo of Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas

My name is Chris Thomas. I’m a fortunate husband, a father of three and Dad to five. I’m an advocate of foster care as an expression of the gospel. I’m a pastor at Raymond Terrace Community Church, a regional church based in the Hunter Valley, Australia. I mostly write about the gospel and how it informs both work and rest.
 

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