God is So Much More
by Debbie Holloway
For your Maker is your husband--the LORD Almighty is his name--the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth (Isaiah 54:5).
It is natural and good for us to turn to God for comfort when we are overwhelmed by life. Scripture, prayer, and meditation can help us through anxiety, loneliness, divorce, the death of a loved one, and depression. Divorce rates continue to skyrocket, and many women (including single mothers) struggle to fill the hole in their lives with promises of God’s faithfulness. Many women use Scripture to remind themselves that, like Hosea married Gomer, the LORD said:
“I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy” (Hosea 2:19).
As I have been pondering this notion of God acting as husband to an aging single, a neglected wife, a grieving widow, or a lonely divorcee, something interesting came to mind. Something that maybe changes the way we think about God as a husband figure.
Marriage today is not what it was for biblical authors. Today, in the Western world at least, marriage is a union based on commitment, love, and common interest. We marry someone who shares our worldview, so we can journey through life together. We marry someone to whom we are physically attracted, so that we can enjoy them to the fullest. We marry for romance; we marry for personal fulfillment. Mostly, we marry because we want to – not because we have to. Women who remain single are fully capable of earning a living, doing good works for the Kingdom, and enjoying life.
Women in the ancient near east had a much more complex understanding of marriage. Yes, in Genesis 2, the Song of Solomon, and other places, we see that God’s plan was for marriage to create emotional and physical fulfillment and pleasure. But marriage for ancient Israelite women was more than emotional and physical partnership. It was – literally – a lifesaver. A woman who married gained the chance to have her own home. A woman who married gained the chance to have sons (essentially the life-goal of any ancient near-eastern woman). A woman who married would be provided for, fed, and cared for. If anyone hurt her, she had a legal protector and a place to find safety in much greater measure than if she still lived in her father’s household (or, God forbid, had no father or family).
Kind of makes looking to God as “husband” to fulfill emotional needs seem…pretty shallow, doesn’t it? Check out this passage in Isaiah that really elaborates on the significance of the metaphor:
"Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband," says the LORD. "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. "Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband-- the LORD Almighty is his name-- the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth” (Isaiah 54:1-5, emphasis mine).
To ancient Israel, saying "God is your husband" meant that God was their redeemer, God was their savior from captivity, their savior from barrenness.
An important realization comes with this fuller understanding of the God-as-husband metaphor. We can realize that, while God is protector and ultimate satisfaction, he is not a cure-all for our momentary pain. God never promises that his relationship with us can –or should– eliminate every negative emotion that we feel. We must have grace for ourselves, and grace for each other, to mourn and work through pain, without guilt or shame for doing so.
Intersecting Faith and Life: Have you been trying to dismiss your own heartache (or the heartache of a friend) by saying, “The Lord is your husband!”? Take a moment to consider the full extent of what that means, and what it does not mean.