There are two big things I struggle with at Cambridge. The first thing is anxiety. Being in an environment where everyone is working hard (seemingly harder than you) and there is so little time to do everything you want to do, it is easy to doubt myself about whether I am working hard enough, whether I am spending enough time with my friends or whether I am spending enough time alone with God every day. Linked to this, the second thing is my response when things go well, and when things don’t.
The first key lesson I took from Hosea is highlighted towards the end of the book (Hosea 11). Whilst Israel has been ungrateful and not acknowledged God, God’s love remained constant throughout. The emotion conveyed using the language and metaphors emphasises God’s deep longing for us to come back to him. Indeed, this was the purpose of the punishment he brought on Israel throughout the preceding chapters: to show them that it was better and how much they needed their relationship with God. Only God could bring them everything that they really needed, that any manmade God could not provide. We can trust God’s provision because we can look at what God has done for us: the Israelites could look back at how God has been with them at and since the Exodus; we can look to the cross. It is therefore so surprising that I find myself constantly doubting God’s love and goodness. To worry about how things will be is equivalent to saying either I don’t think God is capable or I don’t think God cares about me.
The second key lesson I took was the importance of my heart in the response I give to God. I find myself exceedingly proud and exceedingly unthankful when things go my way, yet when things don’t, I lament and don’t reflect on myself but merely question Him. Indeed, I might even pray for God to help me and do my bidding but do I really trust in Him fully? In Hosea 6 the Israelites return to the Lord but to their surprise God is not satisfied. The explanation for this can be seen in God’s response: he does not merely want a conditional “love” that takes advantage but does not acknowledge, but he wants Israel’s heart. This is evident throughout Hosea: he wants to bless Israel and to be their God but more intimately, for Israel to call Him “husband” (Hosea 2). When I face tough circumstances, I often go back to God – but here I was challenged whether I went back to Him with the right attitude or not. As Hosea 14 describes, we should go back with reverence, recognising our absolute need for His grace and our own inadequacy. And as described earlier, we can trust that He will forgive and heal us. With this in mind, when things do seem to go well, this heart attitude should be reflected in our thankfulness and praise to God. Again, this is not something I commonly do, reflecting the state of my heart.
Overall, then, Hosea has been a big encouragement to me in both of these ways. It is interesting to see the similarities between myself and Israel. This will be a lesson I take forward to help me change.