“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.
The greatest commandment: ‘'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' (Luke 10v27) becomes a secondary issue. In a sleepy state your heart partly loves God but not fully. Yet still your heart is awake, for in God’s graciousness the heart of one of his children will never completely sleep. You are still Christ’s and he calls to you:
“My beloved is knocking: “Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one.”
Songs of Solomon 5 v 2
Notice the gentleness of his call, the mercy therein, though your heart sleep yet Christ calls you his sister, dove and flawless one. Christ knocks, he does not barge down the door in anger but with such patience and love he knocks and calls. He calls through the truth you’ll hear, the conviction of your conscience that you are not what you should be, the providences that afflict you, the troubles that fall on you, he calls to you and asks that you open your heart to him. And because you are his you recognise his voice and know that it is your beloved that calls.
“I have taken off my robe— must I put it on again? I have washed my feet— must I soil them again?”
Songs of Solomon 5 v 3
Yet though you hear his voice and recognise it as Christ’s the excuses come. I’m ready to go to sleep, don’t disturb me, I don’t want to get up, it’s too much effort to let Christ in, who knows what he’ll do? What if my cosy, comfortable life is disturbed? In your sleepy state you don’t recognise the joy and peace that Christ would bring and you think he brings only trouble and hard work. The Complacent Christian goes out of his way to seek comfort but he seeks it in the refuge of a trouble free life rather than in the comfort of Jesus Christ. For Jesus lived a life of great hardship and we are called to live like him. In your sleepiness you resent being woken and make excuses longing to go back to sleep, you think life will be easier and your happiness more certain if you remain asleep.
“My beloved thrust his hand through the latch-opening; my heart began to pound for him. I arose to open for my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with flowing myrrh, on the handles of the bolt.”
Songs of Solomon 5 v 4 – 5
The clearest sign of the Complacent Christian is that in the depths of his heart though he might love the comfortable life he is not satisfied with it, he is miserable for he feels the loss of Christ, he knows he should be seeking him out and yet the flesh still wins out and still he sleeps. But Christ is not so easily put off and he will have his way with his sheep. As the above verses show he will win you back to him, your heart will pound for him and you will realize what you have missed, you will realize your urgent need to welcome Christ in to your heart again, and so you’ll wake up and get up and you’ll see that Christ came not to hurt you or do bad to you but to have sweeter communion with you. Often this happens after some hardship or difficultly which makes you realize the vanity of this world and the folly of straying from God and allowing sin to send you to sleep. It is in pain, of whatever type, that Christ becomes most valued. It is in loss that we realize that though we lose everything yet we have Christ. And so you wake, you rise and you open the door.
“I opened for my beloved, but my beloved had left; he was gone. My heart sank at his departure. I looked for him but did not find him. I called him but he did not answer.”
Songs of Solomon 5 v 6
And he isn’t there; he has gone. With a new hunger for Christ and a new desire to experience his felt presence we throw open the doors of our heart only to find silence. When the heart feels the absence of Christ it bitterly regrets it sleepiness. And the previously Complacent Christian acknowledges that the silence is only what he deserved, only what his sins merited, in fact, it is a good deal less than that. He knows that God is still there for God will never be faithless but his felt presence is gone and the heart of the sleepy Christian keens for it. It is lesson that often has to be learned – it is only in the absence of Christ that Christ becomes valued above all things. Many things a man can lose and overcome but to lose any sense of the love and care of Christ, that it is the hardest burden to bear. But through it Christ wins him closer still and when Christ returns, as Christ will, greater will be the joy! The darker the night of the soul the brighter the dawn that awaits.
This does not always happen, sometimes the Christian wakes and find Christ right there with him; when afflictions come and his heart awakes then rather than the absence of Christ he sees and knows the fullness and all sufficiency of Christ. That to lose anything but be closer to Christ is to have lost nothing. Both lessons are good for the soul for in their own ways they teach that for a Christian then Jesus Christ must have first place in his heart. For it is in Christ alone that our hope is found, all others things of this world may fail, all might be lost, but Christ will never forsake his own, he will always find and return his lost sheep, he will always knock and call, he will see us all safely home.
“My beloved is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand.”
Songs of Solomon 5 v 10
How does this story end? The Complacent Christian is woken up, stirred afresh to seek God and has a new and deeper affection for Jesus Christ calling him the: ‘outstanding among ten thousand’. Such is the abundant goodness of God that he will teach his children to hold Christ as they ought. Such is the blessing of being in a covenant relationship with God that all things he will use for your good and as a great hymn says he’ll: ‘sanctify to us our deepest distress’. Such is what it is to be children of our Father God, his tender care is ever on us, he works to do us good, to kill off our lusts, wean us from this vain world, prevent us falling into temptation and fix our hearts on heavenly things.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Hebrews 12 v 11
If you think that you are a Complacent Christian then heed the call of Jesus Christ and open your heart to him, your comfortable life may be lost but you will gain closer fellowship with your dear Saviour, Jesus Christ.