Song of Songs 8.6-7
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love
all the wealth of one’s house,
it would be utterly scorned.
A marriage begins with an exchange of tokens. Our relationship of God begins with covenant promises. These are the seal over our heart. And God’s promise is: You shall be my people, and I shall be your God.
Just as marriage takes work, a parent-child relationship needs nurture, so too the relationship between self and God requires commitment. Passion can give way to daily chores. The relationship can sustain bruises as a hope goes unfulfilled, a church lets someone down or actively hurts them, a time of grief can change the experience of loving and being loved, an injustice can force a shift in perspective that has to be reckoned with.
How do we get through the hard times of faith when they arrive?
Perhaps we have to lean on the basics, holding with the patterns and practices of reading, praying, singing, activism and service that sustained us before, until they sustain us again.
Conversely, this may be a time to rest, and to put down some habits or responsibilities to make time for mending.
Trust is important, but building it up takes time, honesty, and consistency on all sides. It is okay to hold still or step cautiously in your discipleship if trust feels gone or fragile.
And some relationships, some walks with God, need time in therapy. You may already have a good pastoral conversation partner who can let you voice trouble, feelings, and pain and enable your own listening to yourself and God by their listening. There are also spiritual directors in every region and online.
God will not abandon someone because their faith is tested or trust is broken. However overwhelmed we may feel, God’s love is not extinguished. It is as strong as death. Love withstands the grave. And if to us it seems uncertain for a time, it remains a heart-sealed certainty for God, who promises: “I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49.15-16).
As you prepare to pray, reflect on this hymn verse*:
When love is tried as loved-ones change,
hold still to hope though all seems strange,
till ease returns and love grows wise
through listening ears and opened eyes.
How I must try you, God,
as I change, become strange,
shift priorities, switch focus.
Still your passion for me remains constant.
I know your promise –
that love bears all things … endures all things –
help me depend on this,
in all things.
*When love is found, Brian Wren © 1983, Hope Publishing.