Lord, help me…
Today I’m taking on a topic that I normally wouldn’t touch with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole (Grinch reference!). But I recently read a book on Christian singleness that basically tore me apart inside, and I have some things to get off my chest. While I do think the book held a lot of Biblically-based truth, the way it was presented felt extremely harsh and grace-less, rather than balancing truth and grace. And for someone who is already pretty terrible at giving herself grace, reading it was just a giant guilt-fest.
So the following are just some of my thoughts on singleness, desiring marriage, and what surrendering to God looks like. Although I feel my arguments are in line with God’s word, they are just my opinion, and you’re free to take ‘em or leave ‘em. Know that I am not writing out of my own mastery of this advice, but rather out of my need to hear it too.
1. God first. I feel this kind of goes without saying in a discussion about Christian singleness, but I’m saying it anyway. Everything else I’m about to say hinges on this. No dream, no relationship, NOTHING is worth it if it’s not what God wants for you. But if you’re like me, you might be perpetually scared of getting your priorities out of line, even if you really are putting God first, and this can cause a lot of guilt. Which leads me to…
2. Don’t feel guilty for desiring marriage. First of all, let me say that GUILT IS NEVER EVER PRODUCTIVE! Do you hear me? EVER!!! Marriage is a natural and God-given desire that most of us have, and I don’t think God intends for us to feel bad about ourselves because of it. I know I personally have felt like I must not love God enough because having this desire means I’m not letting Him alone be enough for me. Yet if I made this statement about other things in my life, it would sound utterly ridiculous: “I must not love God enough because I still need to eat food and breathe air in order to live.” Some of us may never get to the point where we can say, “I’m completely and 100% fulfilled and happy being single and I don’t desire marriage at all.” Now, that’s no excuse to live out our single days in misery and discontentment. Grow where you’re planted. Follow where God leads. Find your fulfillment in Him. But don’t feel guilty for your desires. As you grow closer to God, He is able to shape your desires into the desires He has for you, and then fulfill them in His time. No guilt involved.
3. Surrendering something to God doesn’t mean you have to kill it. Yes, yes, I know the story about Abraham and Isaac. And yes, it’s true that sometimes God asks us to give up things for Him. But that’s not always the case. The Bible says that God gives us richly all things to enjoy, not that God gives us all things for us to feel guilty for having and then destroy. For instance, I give God the first ten percent of my income as an act of obedience to Him. However, I wouldn’t set fire to my paycheck as a “burnt offering” to show God that my finances are under His control! If God has given you the desire for marriage, of course you should surrender it back to Him and seek His will for you instead of letting that desire control you to the point that you are willing to do something against God’s will in order to fulfill it. But you don’t have to kill it.
4. God can use you ANYWHERE. Okay, so this one doesn’t have quite as much to do with singleness, but the book I read made me feel like I’m a sub-standard and un-surrendered Christian unless I spend my single years as a missionary in a third-world country who adopts poor orphan children. I don’t feel I’ve been called to this, and so clearly it doesn’t sound all that appealing to me. Here’s the thing: God can use you anywhere, and He’s gifted everyone differently so that we won’t all end up in the same place doing the same thing. For me, I feel I am called to write music that glorifies Him, and I’m doing my best to be faithful to that calling. I could compare myself to overseas missionaries and conclude that I’m not doing as much for the Kingdom of God as they are, but that would be unfair to both of us. Their calling is not better or worse, or more or less important; it’s just different. And God can and will use my faithfulness to Him in writing music as much as He can and will use their faithfulness in serving overseas. Also, don’t discount the seemingly small opportunities you have to show God’s love every day, like encouraging a family member who needs it, or serving in some capacity in your local church. Your obedience to God in these little things produces more results than you may ever realize.
5. Wait for God’s best. Even with no experience with dating relationships and no marriage prospects on the horizon, I can say with absolute certainty that it is infinitely better to wait for God’s best than to settle for less. I’ve seen this in other areas of my life, and in the lives of many others around me. Waiting won’t kill you, and believe it or not, it’s much less painful than a poorly-matched marriage or a messy divorce. And while you’re waiting, draw close to God. Some of you might roll your eyes at the cliché advice to “just fall in love with Jesus” in your single years (confession: sometimes I do), but growing your relationship with Jesus is a blessing to you now and will be to your future spouse one day, plus it beats the alternative of being mad at God because you’re not married yet. If you need encouragement about waiting, read and memorize Bible verses like Psalm 57:2 and 7, Psalm 62:1-2 and 5-6, Micah 7:7, Romans 8:24-25, and Galatians 6:9.
So that’s it. That’s my best advice for Christian singles, including myself. Know that God loves you. God has grace for you, as well as some pretty amazing plans for your life. Please don’t ever give up on Him.
[September 13, 2013]