Text: Song of Songs 5:1-16, Psalm 128:1-6, Colossians 3:12-17
Love makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel vulnerable and exposed, like the whole world can read my innermost thoughts. Love catches me off guard, it clouds my decision-making, it questions my motives. Love causes me to frantically build walls, and then love tears them all down. Love feels risky. I’m uncomfortable with risk.
In chapter 5 of Song of Songs, our young couple is newly married and experiencing all the highs that come with that emotional milestone. But, as is true with human love, the highs are accompanied with lows, the pendulum of emotion often swinging dramatically between the two.
Many scholars believe this passage to be the description of a dream. So while Shulamith may not literally be searching the street for her love or beaten by the city guards, her vivid description helps us understand her emotional state. Her deep love for Solomon makes her feel euphoria, that “intoxication” with love promoted by the narrator in 5:1, as well as desperation, the lovesickness that comes with these overwhelming feelings (5:8).
The part that intrigues me most about this passage is what Shulamith does with this range of emotion. She does not camp out in either extreme, but rather chooses to confirm, once again, her love for her beloved. Even amid her emotional struggle, she recounts her bridegroom’s attributes, summing them up in one telling declaration: “This is my love, and this is my friend” (5:16). She returns to and affirms their love, despite the vulnerability it demands.
Is this picture of the “work” of love—this constant turning and returning when emotions run awry—what we expect when we think of love and happiness? I’m not sure it is. Take Psalm 128, for example. Too often when I come to Scripture, I want to sit in a safe place like verse 2: “You will be happy, and it will go well for you.” Great! Let’s stay here, yeah? But the psalmist makes it clear that true happiness is not a destination, a place where we arrive and set up camp. Instead, he exclaims, “How happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways!” (v.1).
Happiness involves a posture of fearing and following God. He is the God who teaches us that love is active, not passive; the God who made the ultimate demonstration of His love by laying down His life for ours (Romans 5:8).
This world is passing away, and even those vows exchanged between a couple hopelessly in love, like our bride and groom in Song of Songs, aren’t certain (Matthew 24:35). Promises of love and the realities of relationship involve emotional and circumstantial trials, with bright highs and dark lows. Only the vows made by God Himself are certain to last.
The good news is, God did make vows to us. Those vows are called a covenant, and Christ is our down payment of its fulfillment (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). We can love one another because He loved us first (1 John 4:19).
God’s love for you and me is more than a feeling; it is a choice. He planned, from the beginning of time, to rescue us from sin and darkness, from false loves and shame. Even in our most intimate of relationships, we rely on Christ’s perfect love to enable us to love—today, and tomorrow, and all the days after that. Thanks be to God.