A month ago I read a desiringgod.org article called “Singleness is not a Problem to be Solved.” In it the author describes an email she got from a single woman detailing her desire to be married and her discouragement with her feelings of loneliness and longing to be loved unconditionally by a godly man. I found the article very encouraging because not only are these feelings true for many but the answer for them is abundantly and overwhelmingly satisfying! This article highlighted some of what the Lord has been teaching me in waiting on Him with my own desire to be married. In the article the author also quotes Elisabeth Elliot’s book, “Quest for Love True Stories of Passion and Purity,” as being pivotal in comforting her in waiting on the Lord and realizing that just like the apostle Paul said singleness really is in fact a gift (I Cor 7:7):
“If you are single today, the portion assigned to you for today is singleness. It is God’s gift. Singleness ought not to be viewed as a problem, nor marriage as a right. God in his wisdom and love grants either as a gift” – Elliot
While I don’t dread being single ,I certainly have moments where I’d like to not be. In these moments the Lord has shown me just how great the joy He gives is and how marriage and sex are far from being ultimate! Matters of the heart are fragile but the Lord has shown immense care and kind providence in guiding me to put this matter into His hands, not my own. So here are a few of the striking takeaways I’ve drawn from Elliot’s book, as well as other things I’ve read or learned in the past few months :
“Happiness is not found through finding a soul mate, but through finding satisfaction in a loving Savior who has called you his own and made you a beloved son or daughter of the King”
-Stacy Reaoch, desiringgod.org
Whether it was Meaning of Marriage, Mingling of Souls, Doing things Right in Matters of the Heart, or Quest for Love – all of these books – drew me to the ultimate love story – God’s unwavering pursuit of His people in the Bible ! I wanna get to know Him ! I am caught up in my Savior and how He pursues me and loves me with an everlasting love! I’m caught up in who He is and in awe of all He has done and promises to do! I want to seek & savor Him everyday whether I am single or not.
Psalm 16 is beautiful – I take comfort in the fact that the Lord will not abandon my soul, he is my portion and my cup; He holds my lot! …
“Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices, my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore”
– Psalm 16: 9-11
“If we imagine that happiness is to be found by furious pursuit, we will end up in a rage at the unsatisfying results. If, on the other hand, we set ourselves to pursue the wise and loving and holy will of our Heavenly Father, we will find that happiness comes – quietly, in unexpected ways, and surprisingly often, as the by-product of sacrifice”
– Elisabeth Elliot, Quest for Love (Ch. 21 The Discipline of Waiting)
2.) PRAY. This is our lifeline! It’s the way we communicate with God. You don’t go eons of time without talking to those in your intimate circles of friends and if you do go some time without talking you create intentional time to “catch up.” God is a personal, relational God. It is so important to focus on cultivating a relationship with Him. Oh and you cannot truly love anyone else if you don’t love the Lord. Furthermore, I have found that just like I can physically sense hunger, I long to speak with God. I feel malnourished if and when I don’t talk to Him consistently. A favorite, Proverbs 3:5-6 says,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
A right after this it goes on to say in verse 7-8,
“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”
WOAHHH!!!!! One of the ways I lean up off of busting my own chops to work things out with “wisdom, understanding” and just doing what I think I should do – especially when it comes to relationships – is PRAYER. I take it to my Abba Father & I leave it at His feet. I am human, and feelings of fear or uncertainty often well up again and again in my heart , but I immediately (or sometimes stubbornly) take it right back to Him and ask Him to help me whole-heartedly trust in Him. I write these prayers down & I face those days with a renewed sense of Him and I love to look back and see how He has answered these prayers to refresh my soul with healing and restoration that can only come from Him! Furthermore my times of prayer and seeking the Lord are so vital to putting off my old self, turning away from sin & finding joy in Him! He faithfully answers these prayers!
“He fulfills the desires of those who fear him” Psalm 145:19. As we learn to fear, honor, and reverence Him, our desires themselves are gradually corrected. Things for which we once burned with desire lose their appeal. We learn, in the words of a prayer written in AD 492, to love what He commands and to desire nothing that He does not promise. Earth’s best bliss will never fill our hearts…”
–Elisabeth Elliot, Quest for Love (Ch. 19 The Fear of Deprivation)
3.) Embrace the gift. When you’re married all the decisions you make must take into account another person, for you are joined to another. Right now I can take risks that I wouldn’t be able to take otherwise. I am free to divide my time however I like especially as it pertains to spending time with the Lord & spending time in community with others! I have nieces/nephews whom I wish to sew into their lives in these first and formative years of their life. There are young people in my church. There are plenty of opportunities to serve, friendships to develop, fervent prayers to be prayed, and meals to be shared. I am enjoying the ability to jump right in with joy and abandon in this season; and this also lays the foundation for when to say yes & when to say no (see next point).
4.) Don’t settle. The more Jesus is central in your life , the more keeping Him at the center of all will become your desire for these heart matters too. I found peace in submitting to the fact that I don’t just want a man, I desire a man who loves the Lord more than He loves me ! I desire a man who will:
“reciprocate [my] attraction but [also and most importantly] reciprocate [my] desire to honor Jesus in [our] relationship above all else. ”
–Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler
5.) Pray & commit with a steadfast heart.So say you’re smitten with a gentleman… He really loves the Lord, has a sense of humor; he is tall, dark & handsome… you know the drill. Seriously though – the Lord has laid someone on your heart and you just can’t shrug it off. Or even if it isn’t one specific person but rather the desire to be in a relationship that leads to marriage. TAKE IT TO THE LORD! And do so with a committed and steadfast heart. This one gets me! However, when I committed to doing it I literally felt a burden lifted off of my shoulders because my faith was strengthened by taking something so fragile and sensitive to the Lord. There are moments where I am frustrated with my thoughts and fears; those are moments I’m leaning on my own understanding not trusting in God having His hand over the matter even in ways I cannot yet see or understand. My mom has counseled me time and time again “Anna, pray and don’t be moved!” This is not easy but the Bible admonishes us ,
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways”
“Maturity is the acceptance of limitations. Every choice made in life rules out a thousand other possibilities. Love, in the last analysis, is a choice… A strong spiritual principle is to pray through things, think about them in the presence of God, and stick with the decision. Did God hear your prayer? Do you believe He wants you to do His will? Then ‘don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.’ Believing prayer must be the practice of a Christian’s whole life”
–Elisabeth Elliot, Quest for Love (Ch. 20 Guidance, Faith, Certainty)
I was convicted. If my loving and gracious Heavenly Father sent His only beloved Son to die for my sins, how much more would He care for these little details of my life. No matter what outcome I want to pray believing prayers, not prayers filled with doubt. I want my hearts position to the Lord to be one of faith and steadfastness. I don’t want to be like that wave in the sea; double minded… Trusting the Lord with your “love life” is more of a faith-walk than it is anything else! He provided atonement for my sins- conquered sin, death, and the grave- and I doubt the Lord’s ability to care for my heart in a fragile state/time/matter?!?! Do I know who He is!?… When I pray I don’t want to say “Lord if it is your will” or “Lord if…” – this is supposing reasoning on God’s behalf- we’re not called to do this! We must be still and know He is God – His ways are perfect- ALWAYS!
Pray asking that He would let His kingdom come and His will be done in your relationship with Him and in your relationships now. Pray that He would bring glory to His name through your relationship! His will could be marriage one day. But whatever His will is I am learning to be content with that because I know He will do what is best for His glory & for my good! I also take comfort in the fact that He is loving, gracious, and His providential care is there whether we can see it or not in these moments. We need only look to our Savior to be reminded of where our focus should lie!
6.) (last but certainly not least at all ) Fight for Holiness. Hey! Feel the love- yes it’s overwhelming at times- BUT DON’T LET YOURSELF GO (even in thought- yea that’s a tough one)…
Recently someone told me “holiness is boring to most people.” And one of the ways that people argue Christians are “no fun” is on matters of honoring God with our bodies. The “traditional” view nowadays is that sex is a basic need like food or water – this is hogwash #sorrynotsorry. The unfortunate rule that gets handed down time and time again all around us is that we should do “whatever feels good or right to us”. Once again this too is hogwash. The Lord desires that we derive our ultimate pleasure from Him and He designed sex to only be a foretaste or foreshadowing of our eternal union with Him; not something to be sought out extramaritally or in order to fulfill needs only He can. It’s a strong value that rubs people the wrong way because sex is something hardwired into our biology as good, pleasurable and desirable and many feel they’re somehow missing out if they don’t somehow indulge these desires. However, God designed sex and ALL physical intimacy, and it’s not to be used outside the confines for which He designed it! This is for our good! He wants us to be whole and has made this possible by uniting us to Christ. Holiness is a part of union with Christ.
I don’t think things can be made any more clear than the Bible makes it in I Corinthians 6:9-20… I especially love verse 12 & 19-20:
“‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything… You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
And then once again there’s the explicitly stated in I Thessalonians:
“For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. I Thessalonians 4:7
This pricked my heart because I saw that when we reject this, it’s not the “rule” or call on our lives that we’re rejecting but the one true and Holy God! Yes, we’re biologically sexual beings, but it is not helpful or truly freedom (although we have free will) when we give into sexual sin – in thought or deed. Furthermore we are rejecting God when we turn our back on His clearly stated will for holiness in our lives. That’s a BIG DEAL. I know many in the thick of relationships say well what’s the big deal “it was just a kiss” or “we didn’t go all the way but we got pretty close” This is the deal:
“Here is the battleground, and none more crucial, in the lives of young people who determine to be holy. There is an ‘Ancient Foe who seeks to work [them] woe. His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal” (Martin Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress.”) Until Jesus is Lord of the sex life He is not Lord of one’s life. Not only is every act meant to be subject to His holy will, but every thought must be brought into captivity to Christ. And this ‘captivity’ turns out to be not bondage, not repression, not misery, but JOY!”
–Elisabeth Elliot, Quest for Love (Ch. 23 Is Chastity Possible?)
The Lord desires to give us joy IN HIM! When we reject his rule for matters we’re saying we reject Him and that our rule is better… He is a Holy God! Now, I’m not saying that people who are dating should wear straight jackets around each other but boundaries should be set in advance that keep the focus on glorifying Christ! And this starts with seeking His Word and what He has to say about holiness so that the enemy will have no place in such matters!
When I stopped looking at how “difficult” or impossible holiness seems within this context and focused on Christ & the sufficiency of His work on the cross I saw just how true pleasure comes from doing His will. He died and rose again, He sent the Holy Spirit to enable us to obey Him – with joy! Go figure! Like wow! Things I once followed hard after, away from the Lord, were lifted! Following our own foolish ways sounds a lot like SLAVERY to me. Being in Him and abiding in Him is true FREEDOM. Because of Christ’s death, sin no longer has dominon over me! (Romans 6; John 15:5). Don’t settle in matters of holiness. There is a clear call for our lives to do quite the opposite and there is grace for us to do so! Don’t think God looks down on you if your past isn’t marked by purity (of heart, mind or body) or when you fail either… Jesus’ blood covers ALL SIN! – not just the ones we love to hate but the sins we hate to love too! Christ’s death unites us with Him + therefore God sees Christ’s righteousness (thank you Lord!) when He looks at us! We can rest in this & joyfully fight for holiness because Christ lived a holy and blameless life in our place! We can with faith turn from sin knowing the Holy Spirit is present to enable us to obey! Please remember & rest in the fact that Jesus’ blood covers all guilt & shame – don’t believe the lie that it doesn’t ! Don’t believe the lie that He cannot save you from yourself and your past !
“And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
– Jeremiah 31:34
“I will cleanse them from ALL the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.
“Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; that is, though my conscience accuse me that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil, yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.”
–Heidelberg Catechism, Question 60
” [The woman at the well] met the One who alone could fill her heart. God wants to fill ours and He is wonderfully patient as we struggle to offer up heart, will, mind, intelligence, passion, emotions, affections. Although painful, it is only one day at a time, and we have the promised help of a Heavenly Father who is more compassionate than any earthly father.”
-Elisabeth Elliot, Quest for Love (Ch.24 Sowing in Tears)
Remember , true joy & freedom is not to do the will of your own heart but to surrender it to the one who designed it to find true pleasure in Him alone!
Grace, Peace + Glitter,
Favorite Reads (some quoted; others not) :
Bethke, Joy Alyssa and Gunn, Robin Jones. Spoken For : Embracing Whose You Are and Who You Are
Chandler, Mat.Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex and Redemption
Elliot, Elisabeth. Quest for Love Stories of Purity and Passion
Ensor, John. Doing things Right in Matters of the Heart
Keller, Timothy. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God
Reaoch, Stacy for desiringgod.org . Singleness is Not a Problem to be Solved