In ages past, sexual intimacy might have been looked down upon or rarely discussed but this is no longer the case today. In fact, our society has made sex into an idol. All forms of popular culture tell us life is not worth living without a sexual relationship.
Regrettably, the church often promotes this view as well, just in a more “sanitized” form. Marriage, while rightly esteemed, is often lifted up as the preeminent goal in life. Perhaps a church inordinately focuses on married adults with children. Or, maybe those content to remain single are constantly asked about their “love lives.” Even believers can be guilty of seeing marital intimacy — emotional, physical, and spiritual — as the source of life’s meaning.
Such pressure can cause many problems. Dating couples may grow close too quickly and become physically intimate or have a break-up that is harder than it would have been had things not proceeded so rapidly. Singles may despair of their self-worth or rush into unwise relationships. Married people might commit adultery or get a “no-fault” divorce when they learn, much to their chagrin, that their spouse is imperfect and cannot possibly meet all of their needs.
Were we to heed the Song of Solomon’s wisdom, we might not have such problems. The Shulammite woman exhorts the “daughters of Jerusalem” not to “awaken love until it pleases” many times in the Song (2:7; 3:5; 8:4). In other words, both men and women must let love arise on its own and not rush into it or force it to happen. When it is time, self-sacrificial love will arise naturally. It is not forcible.
Not awakening love before it pleases does not mean we wait around for it to happen; men and women can pursue each other. It does mean that we dare not rush into love until we are ready to handle it responsibly. Solomon’s song portrays the ideal marriage in many ways, but even it knows of the unmet longings and intense pain found even in the best relationships (3:1–3; 5:6–8). Wise married people keep this in mind and are less tempted to throw in the towel when feelings of love change over time or on those days when one spouse fails to honor and cherish the other.
Perhaps you are single today and think you somehow have less worth because you are not married. That is a false belief, for the Lord loves you more than you could ever know. Perhaps you are married today but face strong difficulties in your marriage and are tempted to give up. In this sin-filled world, even the best relationships will be strained at times. If your marriage is struggling, please do not hesitate to find pastoral counseling for you and your spouse.