“She was unhappy with everything I tried to do for her,” he said. “Mother’s Day, a year ago, is a good example. At breakfast I gave her not one but two presents–ones I knew she wanted. At lunch the kids and I each read list of the things we appreciated about her. Later, we were going to surprise her with one of those giant, heart-shaped chocolate-chip cookies. But before we could give her the cookie,” he continued, “she pulled me aside and told me how disappointed she was with her Mother’s Day. I was shocked. I had done everything I could think of, from picking out the right gifts to expressing our love to planning surprises through out the day–and she’s not happy. No matter what I did, it wasn’t enough. Not only was it not enough, but I was criticized and shamed for not having done better. Yet better was always unobtainable. She never seemed able to receive or appreciate the love I gave. And it killed us. It killed our friendship, intimacy, everything. The divorce was final last week.” Solomon’s Song of Love, Dr. Craig Glickman
Selfishness sabotages marriages like HIV sabotages an immune system. Symptoms of the fall permeate into every area of our lives, especially in meaningful relationships and marriages. Love begins and grows with heartfelt respect and thankful-ness for one another, but ungratefulness sabotages love. Then if you throw in there sarcasm and criticism and unrealistic expectations, the door is wide open to unhealthy conflict that will eventually destroy the relationship.
And since it’s easier to blow out a small flickering flame than it is to blow out a full blown forest fire, it’s very wise for us learn to spot ungratefulness in our own lives and put it out before it turns into full blown malice….which can happen VERY quickly.
It is a myth that stable couples do not have frequent or intense conflict. Stable, happy couples have conflict as frequently as unstable couples. And they have intense conflict. Gottman argues that healthy conflict leads to marital happiness. What makes conflict healthy or unhealthy is not frequency or intensity but the nature of the conflict itself. Healthy couples learn to attack the problem not each other.
This is what we see here in the Song today. Up until this point in the Song, the story has been lights out, very hot and romantic, full of vitality and a picture of everyone’s dream relationship. Now, we finally get to see this newlywed couple get brought down to earth and live life like the rest of us.
We heard Shulammite last week talk about keeping the foxes out of the vineyard before they got married, but our time of pre-marriage will one day be a faint memory and we need to be vigilant at keeping them out of our vineyards daily as marriage is not hard, but impossible!
In the kind of stories we write today, this part of the song or story would be them moving into their new home they bought together, their white picket fence, their perfect pregnancy and a newborn baby who is Gerber quality and sleeps through night. But Solomon here is a realist and is loving us by going where he goes instead of painting an unrealistic picture of marriage.
In tonight’s passage, the princess appears tired and frantic, she’s in her morning robe and all of her friends are huddled around asking “What happened?” “Are you okay?” “What did Solomon do?” Much like all good girlfriends do. Let’s begin reading Song 5:2-8 together:
2 I slept, but my heart was awake. A sound! My beloved is knocking. “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one, for my head is wet with dew, my locks with the drops of the night.” 3 I had put off my garment; how could I put it on? I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them? 4 My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me. 5 I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt. 6 I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer. 7 The watchmen found me as they went about in the city; they beat me, they bruised me, they took away my veil, those watchmen of the walls. 8 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him I am sick with love.
Marital conflict can be very painful and complicated. There are so many things that go into everything we feel as humans. But here Solomon identifies the root cause of a lot of marital strife; namely, taking your spouse for granted. So small on the outside, but so profound when we look at what can happen when we continually do this.
Solomon does everything right. He came to her because he was restless to see her. He speaks wonderful and delightful words to her: “My sister…my darling companion…my dove…my perfect one!” And Shulammite responds with a lukewarm response: “Oh honey, can’t it wait. I don’t want to have to get out of bed and put my robe back on to answer the door. And besides, if I get up I will get my feet dirty again and have to wash them before I crawl back in bed. My face make-up is off, I’m not real pretty right now. I’m too tired…Oh and while you’re up, can you get me some Tylenol for my headache?” Shulammite here is full of excuses and refuses her husbands loving sexual advance.
To her credit, she quickly realizes that it wasn’t such a bad idea after all (even if he did come at the wrong time… his fault), she felt bad for refusing his loving request (her fault), and now Solomon ran away with his wounded heart and his man card shot and destroyed. (Aside from abusive and unhealthy instances, continual refusal of a spouses sexual advances is one of the most defeating things in a marriage). This is where we take a little time to address an issue that is needing to be addressed.
Aside from extreme and rare circumstances, refusing sexual intimacy with your spouse is sinful: 1 Cor. 7:3-5: 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 (a) Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement (b) for a limited time, (c) that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
This passage only gives three conditions for a married couple to abstain from regular sexual relations (and when I say “regular” men, your wife needs a rest…do not worship only sexual intimacy with her or there will be a lot of fasting from it!)
a. You can abstain from sex when there has been mutual consent.
b. When it is only for a short period of time
c. When the purpose is to devote oneself to prayer (don’t abuse this one), but this often is when there had been physical reasons or sinful reason why you need a break and come together to reconcile the sin done against you.
d. And I will add when certain medical conditions take place in which the husband and wife should agree on different ways to satisfy one another that does not defile the marriage bed.
Sometimes husbands probably want and talk about sex so often because he rarely gets it. Other times they remain strong and silent, and inside they are screaming. If you didn’t eat for 7 days, you’d be complaining too. Love him by making love sometimes.
But I gotta say a couple things to this. If one person enjoys it and the other person’s in pain, that’s not helpful. That’s not helpful. It may be acceptable. It may be permissible. It may be lawful. Maybe you can do something that’s not against the Bible or the law, but if it hurts your spouse, then don’t do it.
Another thing I need to address because statistically, about a third of us have been abused, either as children or adults: molestation/rape/neglect. If you were abused and you haven’t gotten help and worked through your abuse, you may have fear in your marriage. You may be cautious. You may be guarded. You may not feel safe and you will deny your spouse and become very selfish. You may not even be able to be with your spouse intimately. And this is sinful and destructive to marriages.
But you need to hear what I’m about to say: If you don’t grow through it and learn through it, you will end up abusing your own spouse, because you will take your defensiveness and your selfishness and your guardedness into your marriage and you will not only be abused, you’ll be an abuser…maybe not the way you were, but abuse is abuse in the physical, emotional and spiritual sense. We want to help you. We will help you find a good counselor. We can get you into Mending the Soul groups. Please get the help you need or you will be the person you never wanted to be.
Ok, now that we addressed that, let’s get back to the text. We read that Solomon left myrrh on the door which was a sign that he was there and loved her, and when she realized that, she ran out to go look for him and realized again what kind of husband she has and became grateful again. She realized that he is a patient and gentle man and that he truly loves her and cares for her.
What a picture of the transforming effect that patient, unselfish love has on a lover’s heart. His response accomplishes more than any anger or demands or complaints could ever accomplish. Actually, Solomon’s anger could have perpetuated the problem and hindered a quick reconciliation from this small flickering flame.
Anger can create outward responses that one wants to see, but the inward responses are repulsive. Only patient and kind love can induce love in return.
And the imagery here about her being beaten by the watchman is a sign of guilt and shame and Shulammite beating herself up for such a selfish decision. And so she turns to her friends to help her find him saying: I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him I am sick with love. And her friends, being a good example of friends, respond wisely:
9 What is your beloved more than another beloved, O most beautiful among women? What is your beloved more than another beloved, that you thus adjure us?
They ask a question to Shulammite that makes her think about how great of a man she has and sparks a fresh appreciation for her man, instead of participating in a husband bashing party so sadly happens too often. Ungratefulness…
To that question, she goes off: 10 My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand. 11 His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven. 12 His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in milk, sitting beside a full pool. 13 His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs. His lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh. 14 His arms are rods of gold, set with jewels. His body is polished ivory, bedecked with sapphires. 15 His legs are alabaster columns, set on bases of gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars. 16 His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
She is basically saying “Everything about him is extremely desirable to me!” The more she appreciated him the more she desired him. She marvels over his physical beauty, his strength and his character. Wives, it’s okay to let loose a little bit and let your hubby know what you like about him… and hubby’s try to give her something to like. Care for your body, your smells, check for food in your teeth, don’t just let gas go when your wife is trying to connect with you…please hold it bro!
And now the second question that Shulammites’ friends ask, leads her to another answer that she needed to be awakened to:
6:1 Where has your beloved gone, O most beautiful among women? Where has your beloved turned, that we may seek him with you?
She must go to him and not wait for him to return. She must confess to him her lack of appreciation and be reunited through repentance and rejoice in the joy of reconciliation together. She cannot control how he responds, but she must do her part. This is so huge in any relationship. This is how our relationship with Jesus is deepened, and it is how your relationships or marriage is going to be deepened.
So now we’re gonna stop here and transition the night to turn to James and see what wisdom he has to offer us in this area of conflict, which is inevitable in every relationship. Since it is, we need to know the source of most of our conflict, who it’s between, and how we can begin to resolve all this junk we are swimming in:
In James 4:1 he says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” Answer, the last part of verse 1: “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” My reaction and process of getting what I want becomes sinful, not necessarily what I want is sinful. You tracking with me?
Now look at vv. 2-7 and insert your name at the beginning of all these verse and parts of the verse that I’m going to read to you:
v. 2a: Jeff, You desire and do not have, so you murder.
v. 2b: Jeff, You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.
v. 2c: Jeff, you do not have, because you do not ask.
v. 3: Jeff, you ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
v. 4a: Jeff, you adulterer! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?
v. 4b: Therefore Jeff, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
v. 5: Or do you suppose Jeff, it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
v. 6: But Jeff, He gives you more grace. Therefore Jeff, it says, “GOD OPPOSES THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
v. 7: So Jeff, submit yourself therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
As we have walked through what it looks like to indict ourselves over why we have so much conflict, we have identified 5 levels of conflict …
Level 1: Inner Conflict with Self – James 4:1: Your passions are at war within you.
Romans 7:15, 23-25: 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Level 2: Conflict with Others – James 4:2: You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.
Matthew 6:21: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Level 3: Conflict with God – vertical conflict – James 4:4: Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?
Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Level 4: Conflict with the Holy Spirit – James 4:5: Or do you suppose Jeff, it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
1 Thess. 5: 19-21: 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
Level 5: Conflict with Satan – James 4:7: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Ephesians 6:13: Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Now let’s turn back to James and see how he thinks we need to move forward:
James 4:8-10: 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
HUMILITY AND SUBMISSION: Draw near to God; Repent of your sin and weep over it; Humble yourself before the Lord; then whether or not others exalt you, the Lord will! Humility and submission allows what I’m about to share with you to happen:
1. Assume responsibility for your own behavior instead of blaming your spouse. A result of the fall in Genesis was blame shifting that went on between Adam and Eve and continues still today. Instead, let you speech be tethered with grace: Ephesians 4:29: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
2. When you have been hurt or offended, instead of retaliation, offer a blessing to your spouse that could come in the form of showing mercy or forgiveness: 1 Peter 3:9: Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
3. Be completely transparent with your real feelings and expectations when you communicate to each other. In case we don’t know, humans are not very good at reading minds. Ephesians 4:25: Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. In other words, be friends. Let loose with your heart, dream together, laugh together, etc…
4. Be angry but do not sin in your anger. One of the biggest lies of the enemy is that you should never be angry. That is crap! There are legitimate things that should provoke anger such as injustice towards the oppressed and weak, hidden sin, abuse, etc…Anger is a God-given emotion but is not used to hurt or destroy people. It is meant to straighten things that are crooked and provoke repentance. Ephesians 4:26: Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
5. For believers, pray for your spouse, and trust the Holy Spirit to be the main change agent in him or her, not yourself. Some spouses feel that it is there job to be the moral police and they are jumping on everything that is wrong or even smells a little wrong and they pounce on their spouse. This is relational sabotage. Don’t do it. Repent of your self-righteousness and begin to trust the holy Spirit to work on the heart of your spouse if you truly feel that there is a big problem. Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Romans 2:4: Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
6. Husbands, love your wife as Christ loves the church. Men, don’t be stupid, and there are many stupid men. Please understand what it is to really love your wife like Christ loves the church. Don’t take from her in a way that is abusive, rather than giving of yourself to her so that she could give of herself to you. Sacrificially love her which means you die first. Ephesians 5:25: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
7. Wives, respect your husband. If you can’t respect him, figure out why, work on it, submit to Jesus and obey His word anyways, and you’l be amazed at what could happen. It may start turning around as you stop being selfish and holding on to “your rights”. Ephesians 5:33b: let the wife see that she respects her husband.