One of the analytics tools WordPress gives us bloggers is labeled “Search Terms”. It shows us the search words that have brought up one of our posts to someone (though it doesn’t specify which post).
Most of the time, for (I think) privacy reasons, Google hides the actual search words the person used and just says “Unknown Search Terms”, but occasionally the actual words show. I’ve seen “losing friends” (which presumably led someone to this post), “being godly and sexy” (I’m guessing this), a surprising number containing the phrase “last minute” (which probably all led to this), and some hilarious non sequiturs that aren’t all appropriate to share.
On Monday, this one popped up: “single and feel like god doesn’t care”
My heart broke.
I will never know who it was, out of 7.5 billion people, that was led to my site by that search phrase. I don’t even have a way of knowing which post they viewed. I can only hit my knees and pray that God got their needs to them.
Because I know what that feeling is like.
Sometimes we must sweep aside the thick knot of church-foyer theology, rationalizations, and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, and just shine a light upon what our hearts are really believing. And I know what that feeling is like.
No matter how many married people tell you that marriage won’t fix everything (it won’t) or sweep aside your feelings with a big hearty “You shouldn’t be lonely, you have JESUS!!!”*, loneliness is real. There are those who’d give anything to have someone to share a dinner with, someone to entrust with a few uncomfortable secrets, someone to help with the calendar or budget or even just touch them on the shoulder. It’s amazing how many people go without these small comforts. Only the lonely really understand. And that only makes them lonelier.
It’s another level of suck entirely to bear the clenching idea that God doesn’t care. That he’s too concerned with The Plan** to notice how our hearts react to it.
To feel cut off and dismissed by the greatest hope we have? Awful.
I have wonderful news.
It’s a lie.
It’s a lie.
God does care. Immensely.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll—
are they not in your record? (Psalm 56:8)
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. (Psalm 68:6)
That’s only a sample of the verses describing God’s tenderness and thoughtfulness to those struggling with any hope deferred.
I love Psalm 56:8 especially. It evokes God’s fierce attentiveness, his thorough capture of our each and every tear.
Whatever your theology about his sovereignty and purposes, God allows for our pain. Even though he truly is enough for us, God grants in Psalm 68:6 that loneliness is real. Somehow, deeply, mysteriously, in a way that real theologians could better untangle, both truths coexist in this world.
Now, here’s the hard part.
Just because God cares, doesn’t mean he’ll bring you someone tomorrow.
I’ll certainly celebrate with you if he does. But there is no exegetically defensible promise in Scripture that binds him to do so.
That’s the seeming bizarre paradox, the head-turning contradiction, that God’s singles must live with. It’s the road we must walk.
And that is hard.
Some of us honestly aren’t interested in God’s care if it comes in any form except a spouse. That was me for a long time. The posture was narrow, and it pinched off my connection with God for a large chunk of my adult life. I let it get to me. Instead of joy, resentment, distance, and confusion marked my walk. (And the irony is, such reaction to pain does not make you a good marriage candidate.)
Over the years, Jesus got to me in a wonderful way. Calm and lightness of heart replaced the heaviness. I rediscovered hope and faith. “He made my feet like the feet of a deer; he caused me to stand on the heights” (Psalm 18:33). And I long to see other singles reach those heights.
I know. I can hear you sigh. It sounds like a consolation prize.
It’s not. I beg you to trust me on that.
And one of the gateways, the first steps towards that lightness, is embracing the truth that God cares.
That detached, vaguely irritated God that you imagine? That’s not the God of the Bible. Run, don’t walk, from any un-Biblical theology that says your tears are misplaced before God. They are recorded on his scroll.
If you know someone this post might bless, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks so much!
* I’m happy to say I’ve never once gotten this cliche from anyone at my church.
* I am not denying God’s providence. I’m simply saying that it’s not always the right message to relieve someone’s hurt, and I believe Scripture bears that out.