“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1, esv).
Hosea 6:1 includes an intriguing phrase: God “has torn us, that he may heal us.” The word torn describes how a predator grabs its prey, shreds the animal with its sharp teeth, and consumes it. It’s the same word Jacob used when his malevolent sons brought back Joseph’s coat of many colors, shredded and dipped in blood. “A fierce animal has devoured him,” Jacob said. “Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces” (Genesis 37:33). Torn is a severe word—and it’s rather unsettling to read that God tears us.
Who “has torn us”? God! Make no mistake. God is, in ways beyond our comprehension, behind the hurt in your life. When your life feels torn in two, God has not abandoned you. He doesn’t callously move away from you; He compassionately moves toward you.
Why? Why does God approve pain’s intrusion into your life? Like an electron magnet, God draws your heart back to His. Whatever the particular point of pain, the circumstance you most want to change, the unwanted source of shock and sadness that you beg God to reverse or resolve—God has a purpose for that pain. And the pain will not subside until its purpose has been completed in you. What’s more, when God has finished His work in that part of your life, He’ll move on to His next project in you. God’s love is not a pampering love; it’s a perfecting love. Through pain, God calls you back, further, and deeper into Him.
The closing verses of Hosea 5 paint a picture of God’s ravaging work: “For I will be like a lion. . . . I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue . . . until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me” (Hosea 5:14–15). Like a lion, God uses those painful circumstances in our lives and waits until we acknowledge and seek Him. By faith, can you see the Great Lion in your life? Can you see past the struggling marriage, difficult work environment, stubborn child, or physical sickness to the Lion by your side?
Pain is never the end — we move through pain to purpose. “He has torn us, that he may heal us.” We want the healing without the tearing, and if that were possible, God would want that for us too. God wants to heal our finances, our failures, and our families, and He tears us to heal us. “He has struck us down, and he will bind us up.”
Don’t misunderstand God or judge Him harshly. He is the Lion that tears—so that he may heal. He strikes us down—so that He can bind us up. God always uses pain to bring us to a better place. Surgeons don’t lament the pain of a procedure. They wound to heal, rebreaking a bone to set it or cutting through tissue to remove a tumor. In the same way, God inflicts precise pain to draw our hearts closer to Him.
God’s role in our suffering is always for our good. Even Job could attest, “Despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal” (Job 5:17–18). God loves you so much that He would rather see you anywhere else than living in rebellion against Him. God would rather see you in a hospital bed or bankrupt, broken, or hurting than separated from Him.
Will you let life’s pain bring you to God’s purpose? Will the Lion have to tear that silly, self-indulgent, sordid something out of your life? Or will you move quickly through the pain to His purpose for you?
Lord God, help me to see more clearly who You are. You are a mighty Lion, willing to tear me—because You love me and want what’s best for me. Help me to look past the pain in my life to Your purpose for it. Use the pain to draw me closer to You and to make me more like Your Son, Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, in whose name I pray, amen.