“Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorched.” ~ Song of Songs 8:7
This beautiful verse from The Song sums up perfectly the power of love, as demonstrated in this book that is a recipe for godly romantic love. Chapters seven and eight, the last two, recapture the themes hit in earlier parts such as security; unconditional love, in spite of conflict; friendship in love; romance and godly sex (and also new material— for example, in Chapter 7 Beloved, the woman, initiating sex). I encourage you to explore them. Although I planned to here, I really felt God pulling me to use this last series entry to highlight the need for us to have a “Song of Songs” view of love no matter what our circumstance.
In our world it’s easy to view The Song as an unattainable, fairy tale romance. Although throughout the book conflict, doubt and fear in relationships are addressed (see Chapters 2, 3, 5-6 and 8), at the end of it all love rooted in God, strong and powerful, is The Protagonist that conquerors all (see 8:6, the verse right before the one quoted above –“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame”).
Yet such valiant love seems rare in our context. In our relationships we often see infidelity, abuse and divorce more than unconditional love that blossoms into lifelong marriage, as portrayed in The Song.
There also are those sobering statistics that add to the seeming unlikelihood of love in our age: the growing number of single adults, men and women; particularly professional women – and, more specifically, professional black women.
Or at times we may choose to forgo love God’s way for “practical” reasons: career; age; finances; geography.
Hope’s the Slogan
No matter what our situation, if we are followers of Christ we are called to approach even romantic love in today’s world with hope – just as we are all other aspects of our faith. In Romans 5: 1-5 the Apostle Paul describes hope as an end goal of our growth as Christians. Verse 5 says, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” The hope we have in Christ is not about our present circumstance, but the confidence that we have to approach any situation in life with expectancy because we have the ultimate security: eternal life with Jesus.
While God calls some of us to a life of singleness for some period – or for life, He also calls many of us to marriage. But God’s way of fulfilling His purpose for each of us will not be accomplished based on where we personally think we should be given our circumstances. In following Him He won’t call us to singlehood simply because we might feel disillusioned about love, or think marriage is impractical for us. He also doesn’t decide marriage for us just because we we’re sick of being “alone,” or we think it’s the “right time” for it. In His sovereignty, He has purposes far greater than anything we can see with human specs.
Whether or not God calls us to marriage, His special purpose for it on this earth still begs us to consider it with hope. He uses it in so many ways: to fulfill His promises to the devoted through generations; to raise leaders who are fearless for Him. He employs it to give us a picture of His sacrificial love for us—and to teach us how to adopt it . And it is a means of giving us support and companionship. As we see through Song of Songs, it is meant to be enduring, blissful and breathtaking. No matter how far our society strays from His ideal for it, God needs His people in it His way – for His ultimate glory.
I believe God is always calling us to counter our culture – especially in the area of love: in dating, waiting and marriage. And it starts with infusing hope into our very thinking. We must begin by trusting that if God calls us to marriage, He can work it out regardless of how it seems at present. This faith requires us to divorce ourselves from the dismal reality of love in our world. Hebrews 11: 1 defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
No matter what we may think, God is fully aware of our circumstances: our “biological clocks”; how much time we have on this earth; how many years our parents have to be grandparents; how demanding our occupations or graduate programs are; how much money we have in our bank accounts; the ratio of eligible men to women; how many people around us are in relationships or married. Yet somehow, we use those and other reasons to try to take love out of His hands.
God can do anything despite our unbelief, but the reality is that He not only calls us to belief, but He also rewards us for it. If we do not have faith that He can accomplish marriage, how will we have faith that He can sustain us in marriage, or even be entrusted with it for His glory?
At the same time, hoping in love ultimately is not about getting married – it is about being fully open to God’s purposes in our lives, single or married. Wherever we are at the moment, God has put us there to teach us something. And we are to be confident in that place and pursue the growth that He always calls His people to. I love how the apostle Paul says it in 1 Timothy 6: 6-7 – “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” As an old poem says, only what is done for Christ, through Christ, will last. That is to be our ultimate pursuit – including in love.
We don’t get to a place of hope with contentment in the area of love overnight, nor do we stay there without constant effort. And God doesn’t expect us to start, and stay, there from day one. But we must be willing to take that journey. Too many of us are in a place of despondency, disillusionment or indifference to love. Yet Songs of Songs is clear: God delights in giving romantic love; it is a gift lovingly wrapped by Him.
Imagine how adopting a romantic love “revolution”, beginning with our thinking– would change our world –for generations to come! We would move from a love erosion to a reconstruction! It is possible through Christ – but whether it occurs, we are to do our part by pursuing His will and trusting that He will accomplish His purpose in our own lives, and througout the earth. And we must be reminded that as we pursue Him, He gives us the grace, courage and strength to walk in whatever He wills for love in our own lives: singleness, marriage – or some combination.
Epilogue: On The Song
I cherish the story of love that is Song of Songs. Exploring the book personally has added to my understanding of love, and pray that, if you dive into it, it will do the same for you. It has all the elements of a fairy tale romance – yet it’s rooted in reality, too. It is God’s vision for romantic love, imprinted in His Word, that He does accomplish. And the narrative is meant to encourage us. Romans 15:4 sums the hope that His Word is supposed to give us in our love journeys. It is so great I think it requires a look in several versions. Ponder each translation:
4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. (NKJV)
4For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (NIV)
4For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (NASB)
4 Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. (NLT)
Let’s champion romantic love God’s way – regardless of our circumstances. We are His ambassadors, in all of life, even love. And in our world He needs us hopeful, so let’s stand that way.