STUDY | Spend the week studying Song of Solomon 5:2–6:13. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | Living like Jesus in marriage means choosing to love and serve in all circumstances.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
Change is natural to any relationship. Circumstances change. People change. And our experience of love changes. In marriage, you go through three major phases:
When you’re in the honeymoon phase, life is blissful and sweet. Then reality sets in. You both realize that marriage is hard. When two sinners with different personalities join together, things get complicated. You face complex issues, and answers and solutions aren’t so simple. Many couples stop here and remain in the reality phase. They either accept things as they are (“that’s just the way it is”) or they give up (e.g., divorce, emotional detachment).
God wants more for your marriage. That’s why He calls you to enter the third phase—commitment. This stage calls us to work through differences, wage war on sin, make important decisions, and resolve conflict in a healthy way, together.
Good marriages don’t magically happen. They’re hard work. When love is a battlefield, you and your spouse must be on the same side. You must choose to love and serve.
Q: What are some significant changes you’ve seen in yourself in the past 2–3 years?
Q: What does it feel like to go from the honeymoon phase to the reality phase in a relationship?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
FRUSTRATED AND LOVESICK
Last time we saw this couple they were treading the heights of total love. Having consummated their marriage, they were experiencing the honeymoon phase. When we pick up the story in chapter 5, we see that something isn’t right. What it is, we’re not entirely sure. Whatever it is, we see them enter the reality phase and a distance separates them. She’s frustrated. The young man comes to his wife’s door, but she doesn’t let him in. She changes her mind, but he’s already gone, so she goes searching for him. She’s “sick with love,” and the pain of the distance between them is almost unbearable for her.
Read: Read Song of Solomon 5:2–6:13. How would you describe the tension in this passage?
Q: How does being lovesick affect the way you think and act?
THE GARDEN OF LOVE
Where does she find her husband? In his garden. The woman wonders if love really is in full bloom (6:11). Doubt and tension fill the air. How does they respond? The bride responds with praise of her husband. The husband reciprocates with a romantic song about his wife and her beauty. It’s a back-and-forth declaration of their love for one another. They’ve entered the third phase of marriage, commitment.
Q: What do you learn from this couple about how to handle tension well?
Q: How do you communicate commitment to your spouse? If single, how do you communicate it to those closest to you?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
EMBRACING THE DIFFERENCES, ADDRESSING THE SINFUL
Total love is one of the hardest things to do in life. This kind of love involves self-sacrifice and a commitment to your spouse’s good. So why is that so hard? It’s hard for two reasons:
1. You’re different.
2. You’re sinful.
First, there are many differences between two people in a relationship. Things like family background, personality, and gender make you see and interact with the world and each other in your own, unique way. Consider how it’s a good thing that you’re different. Instead of fighting the differences, learn to embrace them.
Second, each of you brings your sin into a marriage. Your flesh is basically selfish. Marriage is hard, because you have to fight your natural tendency toward selfishness. When selfishness goes unchecked, it can lead to things like coldness, apathy, bitterness, anger, distancing, disappointment, lack of harmony, and overall unhappiness.
Sin keeps us from enjoying God’s best. God knows this and works within marriage to address your sin and refine you with His love, grace, and forgiveness. Only when He does this can you enjoy God’s best in a marriage.
Q: What does it look like to embrace the differences between you and your spouse?
Q: In what ways does your selfishness come out in your relationships?
Of course, you want to avoid pitfalls, but what positive steps can you take? After looking at some “Don’ts,” here are some “Dos” to consider:
- Do seek outside counsel. Asking for help from godly Christian friends can lend perspective, but be careful. Make sure they are godly and are willing to say hard things to you that you may not want to hear. Also, it is not wise to ask someone of the opposite sex for advice about your marriage. Sometimes our friends can see the situation more clearly and be more objective. Be open to the hearing the things you may need to change. The goal is to repair the crack in your marriage and encourage your relationship, not to have someone jump on your band wagon by joining you in bashing your spouse. Ask them to pray with you and for your marriage. If the conflict between you and your spouse isn’t being resolved, don’t hesitate to attend a marriage enrichment seminar or see a professional. Marriage counseling can be invaluable to your relationship.
- Do develop positive thoughts about your spouse. Admittedly, in the heat of conflict, this can be difficult. Take time to step away from the situation and remind yourself of the good and worthy things about your mate, even if they are unrelated to the conflict. Is he a good provider? Does she keep your home running smoothly? Is your spouse a good parent? Generous with their time? Do they make you laugh? What drew you to them in the beginning? It’s harder to stay angry with someone you are actively thinking good things about.
- Do work on forgiveness. Sometimes forgiveness is a one-and-done. Other times, it can be a process. As believers, we have all received forgiveness and are commanded to forgive others (1 John 1:9; Colossians 3:13). It is an act of the will, initially and primarily between you and God. Forgiving means acknowledging the hurt and releasing the hurt into God’s hands. It means taking that person off your hook and putting them onto God’s hook. Then God can heal the pain of the offense. Forgiveness is about your relationship with God, first and foremost.
Q: Which pitfall are you most likely to fall into?
Q: Think of a statement you can tell yourself to help avoid these pitfalls the next time you enter conflict. Share it.
TOTAL LOVE IN ACTION
God brings two people together in marriage to address sin, bring repentance, and make them more like Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had to decide whether to go to the cross (Matthew 26:36–39). He chose the hard path of suffering for our ultimate good. He chose to love and serve. This was total love in action. We must learn to live out His example with the ones we love the most.
Q: What’s the biggest area where you can grow in your relationship? Ask your spouse what he or she thinks it is.
Q: What are specific ways you can seek a good marriage in community? Why would this be beneficial?
Ask God to make you more like Jesus in the way you love and serve your significant other. Ask Him to reveal specific ways you can express commitment and work through differences, tension, conflict, and sin together.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
- Read Galatians 5:13–25 and reflect on specific ways you can bear the fruit of the Spirit in your marriage.
- Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
The poetic language in Song of Solomon often uses vignettes to underscore a particular emotion. Her being beaten by watchmen could refer to the woman’s fears and anxieties or the pain she feels by their separation.1
How She Sees Him
The images of gold, jewels, marble, columns, and cedars show that the wife sees great value, beauty, and strength in her husband.2 Not only is he her beloved, he is also her friend. Key ingredients to a great marriage are romance and friendship.
Entering the Garden
“Elsewhere in the Song [of Solomon], to browse among lilies and to enter gardens is to enjoy lovemaking with one’s beloved.”3 All the tension experienced in the previous verses dissipates in their reunion.
1. Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1219.
2. D. A. Carson, ed., NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 1293.
3. George M. Schwab, “Song of Songs,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III, Garland David E., vol. 6 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 412.