(Part 2 of this incoherent rambling can be viewed here.)
In The Screwtape Letters, as he narrates a fictional demon teaching a protege to draw humans away from God, C.S. Lewis takes a fascinating turn in his view of love:
Leave them to discuss whether “Love”, or patriotism, or celibacy, or candles on altars, or teetotalism, or education, are “good” or “bad”. Can’t you see there’s no answer? Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to move a particular patient at particular moment nearer to the Enemy or nearer to us. …this state of falling in love is not, in itself, necessarily favourable either to us or to the other side. It is simply an occasion which we and the Enemy are both trying to exploit.
Fascinating. Maybe a bit of a downer to we who dream of “God writing our love story”, but Lewis’ view – that sometimes things just happen, and God and Satan engage in a cosmic tug-of-war to turn it to their uses – does carry one marked advantage. It opens our eyes to Satan’s involvement. It keeps us from being “unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
Bringing Satan into our travails sounds unpleasant, certainly inconvenient, and possibly melodramatic. I understand. (I also would say that that’s his first line of attack – “I’m not here”). But we need not be disturbed or worried by his operations in our lives. (That fear is his second line.) We need only be informed, and respond with the truth of Jesus Christ.
You’ve probably heard that Satan attacks marriage. That’s easy enough to believe – just look at the institution now. The divorce rate, the poor reputation – it looks like Mordor. You, Christian single, have already committed yourself to beating the odds there. You know a God-centered marriage will thrive.
What you might not have heard is that the enemy also attacks singleness. I’ve seen this to be true in my own celibate journey and that of many others. Basically, he’ll use anything he can get his hands on. I say this not to frighten but to equip. God has given us everything we need to resist Satan. But you can’t resist an attack you don’t see.
My testimony: I allowed Satan to poison my singleness for many years before I let God open my eyes to the symptoms. I want you to avoid the same traps. Here I will list three of them, four in the concluding post, and I agonize that I have only two blog posts’ length when each of these could merit its own book.
But the occasion for joy and relief and bouncing off the walls? Each of these lies has an antidote, formulated straight from God’s Word.
In its rush to talk about God’s will and God’s purposes, the church sometimes fails to realize just how much shame singleness can inflict. It’s forgotten that prolonged singleness usually involves some rejection, and with rejection come serious questions. “What’s wrong with me? It’s that thing I don’t like about myself, isn’t it?” Whether it’s looks, weight, personality, social anxieties, bank balance, or some unidentified thing you fear that everyone but you can see, not being chosen can bring real self-doubt, whether it’s the 5th grade dodgeball team or the high school poetry contest or adult singleness.
And a wound that is not recognized, cannot be healed.
So here is a massive Bellerophon to that Chimera (sorry, big nerd reference there):
God paid too high a price – his own son – for the opinion of humans be the true verdict on you. Your identity is “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). That identity is a new self, a “new creation” (2. Cor. 5:17), one whose mighty maker is far greater than its marital status. He has wrought his plan over centuries so that you would be born. He has labored for millennia to prepare good works for you, his handiwork (Eph. 2:10). You are his delight, and he is proud of you. He is proud of ANYONE who will still follow him after years of disappointment. What greater test of faith could there be?
I know that one paragraph might not stack up against years of disappointment. Talk of identities and good works can often pale in comparison to our longing daydreams.
But it’s a start. As foreign as this may seem, there is a much greater identity in Christ that awaits your discovery. He has his own name for you, one the world cannot give or take away. Press into him and find it! Once you do, you’ll find that his identity for you is awe-inspiring indeed.
Again, sometimes the church seems quite bent on getting singles to stop feeling bad about their singleness. I wish it wasn’t. God seems to be far more gracious with our longings. No counselor worth his salt would rub that salt into his patient’s wounds by just denying his emotions. The Wonderful Counselor is a step or two above that.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13:12
What gracious words. God has room for our longing.
However, legitimate disappointment can be magnified past its rightful place. Like Ant-Man in Captain America 3: Civil W–ok, I’ll stop. Sorrow can feed on itself and swell into an enormous mountain. God does not expect us to bury it and never speak of it again, but neither does it he want it to dominate the landscape of our hearts.
And whatever God is against, Satan will be for.
He will press your frustration upon you. He will do whatever he can to steal your present joy, swell our campfire of longing into a bonfire of discontent. He might have already convinced you that there is little to be found in singleness. How many parties, holidays, and road trips have I allowed my enemy to ruin by turning my gaze to things I don’t have? How many perfectly passable days became wracked with dread over when I would stop being lonely? How many glorious moments – sunsets, thunderstorms, auroras – were greyed out in my eyes? I was there, I saw them, but I let my longing to share it with another person rob me of the joy. The gifts were from God, given to bring us closer, and I squandered them. How much different – how much fuller and more wondrous – could my twenties have been if only I’d seen? If only I’d seen what the spiritual kingdoms were doing in my life, the battles they were fighting over my heart?
And if we don’t see it, we’ll go along with the lie. We’ll attach our well-being to what we don’t have.
Envy may sound like a “duh” item, but we often don’t see it when it hits us. (Like Ant-M…urgh, sorry). We’re sort of aware of the dangers of longing for another’s life. Society at large has just enough of a clue about it, like it does about the dangers of money or power (see House of Cards or Game of Thrones – better yet, don’t see them), to make its own cautionary tales. Though nobody seems to listen.
But then Facebook arrived, and man – contentment was so much easier before that. Even walking into church and finding oneself surrounded by married couples and small children can trigger envy in the unguarded single’s heart.
Do what you must to guard your contentment. A wise friend of mine took a break from social media recently; she understands just how crucial her contentment is to her closeness to God. (It may or may not be a coincidence that she’s taking this vacation during wedding season.) Treat yourself; look for sunsets and poems that stir you; value every moment with your friends. Don’t let anything steal your joy – and don’t let yourself believe that there is none.
(Part 2 coming Friday. Please tune in!…)