“I slept but my heart was awake.”
Songs of Solomon 5 v 2
In Songs of Solomon we have a glorious story of Christ wooing his bride, the church and as ‘the Love of Christ’ by Richard Sibbes will show you it deals with all aspects of the Christian life in its up and downs. In Chapter 5v2 we have a picture of a Complacent Christian: a Christian who sleeps, a Christian who is lethargic, a Christian who has grown lazy and apathetic in the fight of faith. I have been this Christian before and no doubt, knowing my weakness, I will be this Christian again. It is not a good place to be; in fact, and I don’t say this lightly, the most frustrating and, in hindsight, joyless times of my life where when I was in this sleepy state.
It is a deadly state to be in because you never realize at the time what a deadly state you are in. As the second part of the verse says: your heart is awake, you are still a Christian, you still love God, you still pray, still do Christian stuff, still acknowledge Christ as your Saviour, and you’ve probably fooled a lot of others and yourself that you’re doing fine. But you’re not; you can’t be for you have fallen into a spiritual sleep. The source of this sleep is always in sin, some worldly vanity that has distracted you and dulled your senses to the things of God. You begin to coast in your Christianity, neither giving it up nor putting much effort in. Your earnest desire is not to seek God out but be comfortable in life. Prayer and Bible reading become less important, spending time with God less necessary, church can become more social than spiritual, and you don’t realize it.
I don’t like suffering, I’m fairly sure this isn’t an uncommon view, indeed, pleasant suffering is an oxymoron. In fact, suffering sucks, whatever it might be whether physical, mental, emotional – there is nothing nice about being in pain, grief, sorrow or anguish. And there are those of you out there who are going through hard times and I’m not here to tell you that you should go around with a huge big happy smile on your face, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t cry (for as the shortest verse in the Bible says: Jesus wept) and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t come before God and pour out your grief, pain, loss and trouble to him for such complaints he cannot helped but be moved by for the compassion and love of God is steadfast. This world we live in carries on it the curse of sin and this is made known with every ache of pain, every grief, every sorrow, every heavy beat of the heart, all point to the fallen nature of this earth and the men and women on it. And let’s face facts: it might not be alright, in this life at least there’s no guarantee that everything will turn out fine. It is through ‘great tribulation’ that we’ll make it to heaven as Jesus said. And it might seem cruel of me to talk about the joy of suffering when you you know is pain.
How then can there be joy in suffering? How can we both accept suffering for the pain it is and yet have joy? The first thing to stress is that this is not natural; this is not a human thing for the only joy a man could naturally find in suffering would be a false comfort. Outside of Christianity, outside of Jesus Christ, there is little comfort for those suffering other than the ‘sweet oblivion’ of death which is a terrible lie.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1 v 2-4
We have not known Thee as we ought,
Nor learned Thy wisdom, grace and power;
The things of earth have filled our thought,
And trifles of the passing hour.
Lord, give us light Thy truth to see,
And make us wise in knowing Thee.
We have not feared Thee as we ought,
Nor bowed beneath Thine awful eye,
Nor guarded deed and word and thought,
Remembering that God was nigh.
Lord, give us faith to know Thee near,
And grant the grace of holy fear.
We have not loved Thee as we ought,
Nor cared that we are loved by Thee;
Thy presence we have coldly sought,
And feebly longed Thy face to see.
Lord, give a pure and loving heart
To feel and know the love Thou art.
We have not served Thee as we ought,
Alas, the duties left undone,
The work with little fervor wrought,
The battles lost or scarcely won!
Lord, give the zeal, and give the might,
For Thee to toil, for Thee to fight.
When shall we know Thee as we ought,
And fear and love and serve aright?
When shall we, out of trial brought,
Be perfect in the land of light?
Lord, may we day by day prepare
To see Thy face and serve Thee there.