“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. But the more I called to him, the farther he moved from me, offering sacrifices to the images of Baal and burning incense to idols. I myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of him. I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him. “But since my people refuse to return to me, they will return to Egypt and will be forced to serve Assyria. (NLT)
If you want to avoid pain in life, steer clear of love. Love and pain might seem an alien association, but they do tend to go together. Whenever we come close to someone, we encounter not only their admirable traits, but their human imperfections. Whenever we become vulnerable we risk being trampled on. Whenever we value someone, we are aware that at some time we might lose them.
This might sound terribly discouraging. Do we then avoid love? But that leads into another darker and lonelier pain. And we were made for relationship in any case. God our maker is himself in the relationship business. He loves, and as a result knows the pain of love.
Our text illustrates it. God loves his people who in turn reject him. And when they continue to defy him, he honours their choice. He realises they are getting themselves in deep water but has to let them go. And of course Jesus is the supreme example of the mingling together of deep love and deep pain.
We, like God, know the pain of seeing those we love make unwise decisions and yet go on loving them in the midst of pain. Love is not shallow sentimentality, nor is it tyrannical control. Our imperfect love is always centred on other imperfect people. Living a life of love means we drink deeply of sorrow and hopefully drink even deeper of sheer delight.