(Last singleness post for a while.)
There’s a part of me that has struggled to care about God’s love.
You probably know what I mean. We would rather things just go well than be forced to lean on him.
This week is a prime example for singles, especially. Valentine’s Day comes and we singles feel missed, not only by the season but by the church. My church has handled its singles with grace, but not every church does. Irritated by what it perceives as our self-pity, the church swings open its arms with a beatific smile and goes, “Jesus is your boyfriend! Singleness isn’t something to be endured; God’s love is all you need!”
You know they’re right somehow. You feel vaguely guilty. And you do care about God’s love. You do.
“You don’t understand,” some part of you still says. “I’m tired of being alone. I’m sick of the 8,967th article telling me to be content while the church reserves its celebrations for weddings and births. I know you are able, Lord. Wouldn’t it be simpler to just gave me someone?”
Some part of us doesn’t care.
It’s okay to admit that. It’s not like God doesn’t know. Admitting it is the first step to fixing it.
As I’ve opined before, it’s okay to call singleness a legitimate hardship. Doing so diminishes neither singleness nor God. It just reminds us that even comfortable first-world Christians have their disappointments and that God is making us mature, and more fully his, through trial. The mature church should note this and keep striving for a balance of exhortation and empathy, so expertly struck by its Wonderful Counselor.
It takes little more than a glance at Facebook, or a day at work hearing people’s stories, to see that many Christian singles aren’t happy. Too many don’t know how to get there; too many leap from relationship to relationship, stuff their shelves with romance novels, or just settle into unfruitful funks.
I do not say this in judgment. I used to be full-on funky (not in the 60s way). Over the years, God has slowly gained sweeping victory over this territory of my heart, but it didn’t happen overnight. Every Christian, in some measure, is still somewhere on the trail to a prizing of God’s love above all.
For those still back near the trailhead, I would ask this: have you unknowingly agreed with the lie that God’s love is not enough?
You read my words and try to imagine seeking God’s love, only to come up with a monk-like existence up in the mountains somewhere while everyone else just goes out and finds happiness. I confess, I used to imagine that in my less patient years.
It is only more evidence of the lie infecting our hearts. We struggle to believe that his love is enough.
One of the Christian’s greatest challenges is believing in truths we haven’t yet experienced. “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). That has specific application to Christ’s resurrection, but it could apply equally as well to many of the truths he taught. That is our path. We must do God the honor of taking him at his word, believing what he says about himself. He is risen; he is loving; he is enough.
Human loneliness is real. I won’t deny that for a second. Neither does God.
So if this is a tough week to find your spiritual fervor, try this: you’re going to need God’s love whether you want it or not. I’m just being honest. We really cannot get along without it.
For three reasons that spring to mind.
1. Marriage won’t save you.
A friend shared that she sometimes feels alone at parties even with her husband standing right there. Despite a long, happy marriage, there are still times he can’t put his finger on her ache. Another friend got married only for his wife to contract some bacterial deal that silenced her immune system for a year, leaving her in need of constant care. I remember grading a stack of papers one night, feeling bored to death, and as my mind naturally drifted to hopes of marriage, God broke in: “Your marriage will often look just like this. What will you do then?”
Well, I mused, a little taken aback, I’ll need a hobby.
And now I blog.
But more crucially, I realized that I was waaaay overdue in learning God’s love.
You think you’re invisible now, single? From what I’ve learned, marriage might leave you wishing you were. Singleness lets so many of our personal foibles and insecurities lurk beneath the surface, unseen by anyone. Marriage will expose it all. You’ll be loved in new ways, but also criticized, required of, and challenged in new ways.
I know what you’re thinking, for I’ve thought it myself: “I’ll ace that. Can’t be worse than loneliness.” I’m no longer sure we should assume that. Let’s be humble. The horror stories out there hint that we’ll need every ounce of God’s grace and strength we can get. (And then kids will come along.)
There is joy and happiness to be found, of course. “Those things you want in marriage? They’re there,” a pastor once told me. “It’s just that there’s much more that comes with it.” As in so many other dimensions of life, we find what we’re looking for only when we give it away, put others before ourselves, make God first. And that requires a fuel source outside the marriage.
2. What we believe defines us.
I’m not being New Agey. Truth is truth, but lies are also lies. We cannot wish a mate into existence, but what we believe does have enormous impact on our souls.
My dad once advised me to avoid things like calling my future wife “the old ball and chain” or joining in the subtle wife-bashing that we guys do. (Nazis and marriages alike are stopped by men in groups.) Not only is it wrong, he taught me, but we come to believe it more. The words leave our mouth, enter our ears, filter through a different part of the brain, and become belief – even if we meant only to joke.
With our minds and hearts connected in mysterious ways, speaking something can change us. It might be instructive that even Jesus quoted Scripture aloud instead of just thinking it. The spoken word has power in the Christian life – and over the enemy.
If you believe God’s love is enough, if you make your stand in that truth and profess it daily, your heart will turn. Like a ship tacking into the wind, maybe, but it will turn. The positive confession guys have one thing right: speaking Biblical peace over your heart can bring peace. Have you tried it?
It works the other way, too. Lies like I can’t be happy single become spiritual contracts against your contentment. Maybe you’ve never seen spiritual warfare in your singleness, but I’m telling you, that lie is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe it, well, it will happen. You’ll be miserable single.
And that’s a problem, because…
3. You don’t know when God will marry you off.
I once wondered why my pastor never just prayed that I’d get engaged that year. Would it kill you, man? Come on.
Then one day I was asked by a protege to pray for the same thing, and I found myself hesitating. I knew I couldn’t presume God’s will, couldn’t pray for something with bad timing, couldn’t get his hopes up. It occurred to me then that my pastor was fiercely committed to praying for the right thing at the right time for me, and nothing else.
So I will do the same.
Singleness is hard. But the honest truth is, it might be years or even decades until God pulls the chocks on your marriage flight, and there we may not have any say in the matter.
Look at how you’re currently handling singleness. Will it work for several more years?
If not, never fear. Something better is available.
Let’s give God’s love some credit. My testimony is that it can fill you, lighten your chest and shoulders, allow you to enjoy the fun happening right now. I really truly believe now that God’s love is my greatest need. Go God. My goodness, Christ died to make his indwelling available to you. Let’s swallow our pride and take advantage.
Don’t worry – you’re not committing to lifelong singleness. That’s another thing altogether. You’re simply repudiating Satan’s “Job 1:9 Lite Attack” and proving that God’s Word is truth.
He is enough, even as things are hard.
Even if it’s hard to care about his love today, his love cares about you.
Lord, give us a new revelation of your love. It’s so hard to hold onto. We know you care about our hearts deeply. We give this all to you – our longings, our frustrations, our questions. We surrender them to you. We trust you with it all. We invite you to initiate us on the journey towards the summit of your love. We believe you are enough. If it is your best, Lord, we ask that you bring us a mate now. But we trust your timing and your pick. For today, Jesus, help us discover what it is to lean into your presence, your peace, and your delight in us. Fill us with your Spirit. Establish us in your love. Help us to find life right now, where we are. In Jesus’ name, amen.