For those that don’t know, I have been widowed almost 5 years, since August 2004. Due to the nature of the relationship with my late husband and his chronic illness for 5 years before he passed, it feels like I have been without a husband for much longer than 5 years. While I do desire to be married again, I do understand the need for learning contentment in whatever state we find ourselves in. Honestly, that does become a challenge at times, especially lately as I have witnessed many unions around me. Nonetheless, I look to God as my source and know that my spiritual walk cannot suffer because of deferred hope.
Of course, I am not alone. I have heard many women who have either been in my position as a single mother or currently are single and have to go it alone, including parenting and bring up the reference of God as their husband, that He has to fill the void of the missing spouse. In fact, I remember prayers that were offered up on my behalf when my husband passed away, for God to be a husband to me. While I do understand the need to look to God for fulfillment, I do have a problem with this particular reference.
I believe marriage is a most special relationship, designed by God for a man and woman to share the most intimate of earthly relationships – emotionally, spiritually and physically. When God created man, he indicated that it is not good for man to be alone, so he created woman. Now, I do believe that that also has a broader application to humanity in general in that men and women are needed to balance out this thing we call life. But there is also an intimacy shared between husband and wife that I believe are unique to that marital relationship. Consider what Ephesians 5:31 says (cf Genesis 2:24-25), that a man leaves his folks, cleaves to his wife and two become one. This is a mystery, the text says, that is analogous to Christ and His church as stated in Ephesians 5:32. But I don’t think this supports in anyway drawing the analogy of God as husband. And let’s be honest, there are certain aspects of the marital relationship that God cannot fill.
Contrarily, there are characteristics about God and His relationship to His creation that are unique to Him. He is above all else and there is none like Him. He is holy, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable, and depends on nothing or no one. Yet, He exercises communicable attributes with His creation: love, wrath, justice and has identified specific relational aspects towards us including,
God as Father
God as Provider
God as Protector
God as Healer
These are characteristics of God that I can look to Him and expect for Him to be. And this is applicable to those He considers His own whether they are married or single. While I can derive these benefits from earthly relationships, only God alone can be truly counted on and fulfill His role according to these attributes, purely and truly. I believe He does desire a particular intimacy with His children, made possible courtesy of the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. Through faith and trust in what Christ accomplished, we have direct access and can enjoy His presence of God via God the Holy Spirit. There is sheer delight in this communion. The Westminster Shorter Catechism sums it up aptly. What is the chief end of man? It is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. And enjoy Him we should simply for who He is. But it is not a substitute for a husband. And particularly in His role as Father, I have a hard time drawing an equal role of husband.
But you might be thinking of particular passages that cites God as husband. Yes, the Bible does draw a comparison to God as husband but it is not in the context of a substitution for a marital relationship. Rather, it is always in the context of a covenant relationship between God and His people, namely Israel. This can be seen in Jeremiah 31:32 and also the book of Hosea, where Hosea’s unfaithful wife is likened to an adulterous Israel. The identification of God as husband is not used to show that God serves as a substitute spouse but to draw out the significance of covenant and the picture of what breaking that covenant looks like.
So to use these verses as justification for God as a substitute husband I think misses the point. I understand fully the lure to consider God as such, especially since our tendency is to look to earthly mates to fill internal voids that only God can fill. And let’s face it, there are some who might consider it spiritually immature to have such desires, that one should be so contented that they could possibly do without human companionship. No, God does not appreciate idolatry, something that our earthly relationships can quickly become as we place a higher value and affection on them than our heavenly ones. But I do believe such desires cannot be dismissed and swept under the God as husband rug. Furthermore, I think it is both unwise and Biblically infeasible to consider God husband as a substitute for a spouse. Each relationship has a special place and should not be confused with each other.
It is not easy being alone and desiring an earthly relationship, especially the most intimate form designed by God Himself. The waiting gets wary, the isolation can be numbing and the desires can be overwhelming. In these times, it is prudent and fruitful to place an increasing dependence and delight in God the Father, for who He, what He has done and what He has called us to be. I can call and count on God to be many things but I will reserve the title husband for an earthly one, should that request ever be fulfilled. Hopefully. God willing.