(This is Part 2 of an article on how we allow Satan’s lies to darken singleness. Part 1 can be found here.)
Some young Christian singles stick it out through their twenties with admirable gumption. They stay surrendered to God, their standards high, buoyed by their belief in God’s ability to deliver.
But as the years go on, the compromises become easier to accept.
You might meet someone who clicks with you and finally offers relief from the loneliness. But then you discover a fatal flaw. He’s foolish with his money. Her anger is out of control. She’s not a believer. He is, but has zero interest in attending church or leading spiritually. It’s a glaring item on your “no-fly list”, one of the things you’ve been taught will bring strife to a marriage. A last-minute foul on the play. You’ve got to be kidding me.
You know deep down this opportunity isn’t God’s best for you. But you’re tempted to “make the best of it” and just go for it. Man, do I know how that feels. After years of feeling invisible, after years of the roller coaster of hope and longing, you’re not sure what you believe about God’s plan anymore. You are sure that you’ve got a chance right in front of you, and you’re taking it. After all, nobody’s perfect and it’s about learning to love anyway and God wants us to be happy, right?
Don’t do it.
I want to drop to my knees and plead: don’t give up, single. I know Satan is whispering that more singleness is the worst outcome. It’s not. Plenty of married people can tell you that. I know you think you’d handle it better than they are. You wouldn’t. I know you envision only misery ahead as a single. Stop looking at the enemy’s fear-pictures. I know it seems cruel to release this chance, to have hope so close and let it slip from your grasp.
But like internet sites that will never ask you for your password, God will never ask you to act against his word. Don’t surrender your standards even for one second (provided they are wise and fair). His way is always best. Trust his adoring heart for you. I beg you.
I have a friend who sees marriage as a complication. Part of it is typical “confirmed bachelor” stuff – he likes being able to shower and brush less often. But it’s also practical; he knows that not every woman wants to go traipsing around the Third World with him on foreign missions, as is burning in his heart to do.
Unfortunately, my wise friend is in the minority among singles. Many of us are single for all the wrong reasons. We see these years as a chance to pursue our own dreams, unshackled by the demands of marriage. (There is maturity, financial stability, and a smart measure of holiness to find before you marry, of course. I’m not denying that.)
But Paul reveals a different gameplan 1 Corinthians 7, when he praises the freedom of singleness. He sees singleness’ potential to serve God and to love others, not its potential to fill our own goals of climbing the Himalayas or the corporate ladder (or maybe just the party stage, thinly disguised as “finding oneself”). In a world where people are starving for food and the gospel, how can we justify spending singleness on ourselves?
Are we really just avoiding the sanctification of marriage, when really we should be running towards it?
I’ve always felt that this is one reason God seems to marry off those who don’t seek it. We see him snare and lure someone else into the trap of marriage with a gorgeous, well-fitting mate, and we protest jealously, “God, she didn’t even want marriage!” And God’s reply is, “That’s why I gave her one.” Into all his good gifts, God blends an element of sanctification, making us less selfish and more like him. He must often foil our plans in order to shuttle us towards that goal. Why bother “finding yourself” when one year of marriage will make yourself utterly different anyway?
Let us ask God to “see if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:24).
Years of unanswered prayer can do a number on your heart. You just stop thinking God will deliver at all.
I recently posted a little on the warfare I underwent to break through these thorns in my prayer life. All kinds of lies. I had learned my “theology of no” a little too well – “he’ll say no and it’s for my good”, “we don’t get all the answers in this life”, “God is about changing me, not my situation”. So well, in fact, that I was applying these phrases to my prayer before God even had a chance to answer! They were spiritualizations of my very simple pessimism: “Why would this be the prayer God answers? Now, of all times?”
Combine this despair (and its cousin, worry) with a habit of looking at the waves instead of Jesus, and you’ve got a prime formula for the kind of despair that will cut your walk with God off at the knees.
I love watching sports comebacks. A few years ago, my Seahawks were getting blasted in the playoffs; Russell Wilson, he of the great scrambling-cum-converted-second-baseman fame, had thrown four interceptions. As a fan, I’m ashamed to admit it – but I turned the game off in the second quarter after that last interception.
Right before Byron Maxwell pulled off his own interception, one which would trigger the Seahawks’ comeback.
And last night, the Mariners(!) pulled off a ten-point comeback in just two innings to beat San Diego.
Comebacks remind me that God is never out of the game. He is powerful. More than that, he is willing, generous, thoughtful, and kind. I know that you have probably accepted a different reality about him. But as Larry Crabb said,
“Attend to who God really is (as revealed in the Bible) versus who you think God is (based on life experience)…don’t assume your view of God is correct.” (The Papa Prayer, p. 177)
Pay attention to what you think of God as you pray. If you think he’s stingy, detached, or reluctant, don’t be surprised when your prayers flounder and God doesn’t answer.
Don’t look at the waves – the “obstacles” that you think are hindering you from finding someone. Your looks, your life situation, a clinging sin, the little child you have in tow – nothing. God is not limited by these things. Whatever the answer in the present moment, no matter how long it takes, let your eyes rest fully on his power.
That brings up a tough question: if God is willing and generous, why isn’t my life better?
I can’t begin to answer. I have my theories. But I know for sure that the character of God is unchanging, and that we cannot hope to accurately reverse-engineer the heart of God by looking at this broken, devil-ravaged world. We must not let our past become our expectation of the future, nor our view of God.
Oh, but how hard it is during the times when following Jesus requires us to go on being humanly lonely.
For years, that’s all I saw when I prayed. It’s all I really prayed about. “Move forward,” everyone around me kept saying. Move forward? That’s all I’ve EVER done! Lost friendships, cancelled dreams, assignments that seemed God-ordained but turned out mediocre and didn’t really bear any fruit. Move forward? All that’s ever done is leave behind everything important to me.
Finally, I got sick of it. I gave it all to God, operating on advice from John Eldredge – “You can have God or you can have understanding. Sometimes you can have both. But if you insist on understanding, it often doesn’t come” (Walking with God, p. 81). I stopped trying to interpret everything as “God’s will” and simply gave it to him. I accepted that regardless of my life, God was still God. I repented of my bitterness – I “forgave” God.
Peace. Contentment. Lightness of the chest. Immediately it all started coming. Worry departed right alongside the bitterness, and when worry is gone, you start thinking more clearly. Hope and surrender both became possible. Feeling God’s love become possible.
It may take some pride-swallowing, and we may have to get over that ridiculous thing of “If I stay miserable in this place, God will be more inclined to help me”. I know you never asked for this season.
But don’t let Satan inflame it with his gasoline of lies. Resist him. Renounce his lies. Replace them with God’s truth.
I pray that God fills your day with joy. Receive that joy.