This question was sent in by Larry:
Yesterday, I was listening/singing to the song, ‘I Will Glory in my Redeemer’ [by Steve and Vikki Cook]…I was struck especially by these words:
I will glory in my Redeemer, My life He bought, my love He owns.
I have no longings for another, I’m satisfied in him alone.
What is the place of lyrics like these in our songs?…Do you ever struggle with feeling like you are lying to God when you say things like these, even if in your heart you have a desire that they would be true? Is it hypocritical to sing them knowing that they are not a true reflection of your heart?
Thanks for a great question, Larry. I’ve heard people struggle with this a number of times.
Let me begin with an analogy. I’ve been married to Julie for thirty years. I have no longings for another, and I’m truly satisfied in her alone. But there are times when my mind or heart drifts. I don’t love her as passionately at one moment as I do another. I get distracted. I find myself drawn to find fulfillment in other things. I imagine I will have that struggle until the day I die.
Is it wrong, then, for me to tell her that I have no longings for another? Or should I always express my commitment with a caveat, a misgiving, a disclaimer? Should I tell her on this coming Valentine’s Day, “Julie, I want to love you alone, but I’m not quite there yet. I sure hope I’ll do better in the coming year?”
I hope the answer is obvious. My expressions of commitment to my wife both express and strengthen my love for her. They remind me of our vows, my desire to be faithful, and the superior joy I find in loving her alone.
Our relationship with God is similar. The Psalms contain numerous examples of expressed commitment which seems hyperbolic if not downright hypocritical. For instance, Asaph says in Psalm 73: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Ps. 73:25). David says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1). Really? Except when he saw Bathsheba…More professions of faithfulness and desire are found in Ps. 16:2; 52:9; 75:9; 119:33.
These expressions help us align our hearts with what God has done in us through the Gospel. We have been made new creations, and have turned from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9). They remind us of our need for God’s grace and his faithful promises. The only reason we can even say these things is because God has produced new life in us through his Spirit. They bring great delight and satisfaction to our souls as we remember that nothing can satisfy us like God himself, no one else is worthy of our obedience, and we exist for none other than God. In A Guide to Prayer, Isaac Watts said, “We can never be too frequent or too solemn in the general surrender of our souls to God and binding our souls by a vow to be the Lord’s forever: to love him above all things, to fear him, to hope in him, to walk in his ways in a course of holy obedience, and to wait for his mercy unto eternal life” (p. 28). Amen!
Those are the benefits. Here are two concerns. First, if we are singing words of commitment while engaging in unrepentant sin, hoping to impress others or “fool” God through our spirituality, we’re deceived. God wants us to repent so that we can sing those words with joy and faith. Second, expressions of unwavering commitment should be mixed with regular requests for God’s grace to fulfill them. Otherwise we can fall into an “over-realized eschatology,” thinking that our struggle against sin is already over. No, we haven’t arrived yet. But we can be sure that God has written his law upon our hearts (Jer. 31:33), and our love for him is something he himself has placed in us through the Gospel. So let us sing with profound gratefulness and amazement, “I have no longings for another; I’m satisfied in him alone.”