The following article was submitted to Plants & Pillars by a young adult in the FRC who asked to remain anonymous — Editor
Do you wish to start a life with someone who can share your dreams, hopes, and struggles? Does thinking about relationships consume the majority of your thoughts and emotions? Has anyone ever asked you if it bothers you that your younger siblings are dating before you? Has anyone ever promised you that God has someone special out there for you? Have the majority of your cousins and friends been married young? Are you tired of feeling as if your worth is measured by your relationship status? Have you ever felt pitied because of your singleness?
I am 23. Single.
When I was 16, I thought I would FOR SURE be married by 21 at the latest. I could not imagine it any other way. I looked around my surroundings of prominent Dutch traditions and culture and what I saw was the normalcy of an early marriage. It was what I anticipated with curiosity, restlessness, and an excited expectation.
I have learned a lot over the past few years, by God’s grace my expectations were very different than my reality, I learned how to continually seek and find contentment (a daily process), my faith was strengthened, and by searching I found my identity. I will be briefly touching on these points in this article and although there is so much more to be said under each subheading, please remember that these are ways I have grown in my journey. While my faith is still weak, I hope that through some of what has impacted me personally, it may be a positive impact on others embarking on the walk and current calling of singleness.
In Jeremiah 29:13, He has said, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart”.. Summarized with the words of Isobel Kuhn, “notice that last phrase, for it is the only condition. There must be inner honesty and undivided loyalty- that is the only stipulation”. For “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”, Hebrews 11:6. “Every degree of approach to Him is, in the same proportion, a degree of happiness”, Susanna Wesley.
Expectations versus reality
Carolyn Custis James speaks of Naomi struggling with a similar thing in her book The Gospel of Ruth: culture’s expectations in comparison to her reality,
“In Naomi’s eyes… she sees herself as a woman who had outlived her usefulness. In God’s eyes, she was still on active duty and the treasure of His heart. Her story has purpose written all over it, although the signals she receives from the culture and from her own heart tell her otherwise. She is unaware that instead of setting her aside, God is readying her for a strategic kingdom mission.”
Throughout the years God took me on a very different path than what I would have pictured for myself. I am 23; single, but what I hope you see by the end of this article, is that there is so much more to be defined by than “singleness”. When you allow singleness to be your defining “characteristic”, it is also what others will see first. It has been hard to not allow singleness to be what defines me when often one of the first questions that someone asks me includes an inquiry about relationship status.
In the past few years I have attended multiple weddings of my close friends and cousins. It has been an exciting time; what a joy it is to witness two souls confess before the Lord and their family that it is their desire to love God first and one-another second, seeking to serve Him in a new stage. In the past few years I have been on a journey of my own. A journey of singleness. Some of you can relate closely, some of you truly have no idea what it is like to embark through life’s various decisions and trials as a single adult.
A brief thought on: Contentment
In the book Crazy Love, Francis Chan opens up self-reflection with the focus of contentment through the following questions:
“Do I recognize the foolishness of seeking fulfillment outside of Him? Do I understand that it’s impossible to please God in any way other than wholehearted surrender? Do I grasp the beauty and deep joy of walking in genuine intimacy with God, our holy Father and friend? Do I seek God more than I desire security?”.
Trials are common, but vary in timing, presentation, and affect. One person may be impacted through a family member’s death, another with depression or anxiety, another with infertility, and still others with singleness. James, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, does not distinguish between “levels” of trials, but rather encourages readers to ask for wisdom in faith during trials. (James 1)
Throughout enduring a trial, it is easy to compare and to envy someone else without understanding their situation, hearing their story, or even being aware of their trial. George MacDonald turns the contentment story into a whole new perspective when he says,
“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I can think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, most grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking”.
While reading through my journal, I can trace my journey of faith through the quotes I have written down. God has used this time of singleness to strengthen me; to draw me to Himself in an incredible way. In Jeremiah 31:1 the promise: “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee” has reminded me, time and again that my satisfaction is to be found in Him alone. This is the foundation that is necessary for the journey of life, whatever it brings.
While being single, I would make goals… be dating by my 18th birthday, have a date for all 7 weddings this year, have a boyfriend to take on my family’s vacation, etc. Whenever one of these life milestones or moments approached, and I was still single, I was yet again disappointed, discouraged and frustrated. I tried to understand, but there was no clarity because I was looking to myself for the answers, but as Carolyn Custis James writes so profoundly,
“We live in a realm of faith, and that means trusting God for who He is and not because things equal out or we have satisfying answers to our questions. Faith may want answers, but somehow it is able to survive without them”- The Gospel of Ruth.
Louie Giglio continues this thought by saying,
“The cross: where the universe-maker becomes mankind’s Saviour, it is proof that God doesn’t always change the circumstances, He did not change them on that hillside in Jerusalem, but it is also proof that God always has a purpose in the circumstances and that His purpose and plan will prevail and will triumph in any circumstances in this world”.
Sometimes I think about leaving southern Ontario just for a year. A way of escaping the pressures around me. To breath and truly enjoy the stage of life God has placed me in. But running away from hurt doesn’t help. John Piper helps us to pursue similar concepts by further expounding with,
“whenever your heart starts to be anxious about the future, preach to your heart and say, heart, who do you think you are, to be afraid of the future and nullify the promise of God? No, heart, I will not exalt myself with anxiety. I will humble myself in peace and joy as I trust this precious and great promise of God- He cares for me’”.
God has given me a passion for my church, family, and community and with strength outside of myself I am learning to seek Christ even in the mundane.
By searching, we find our identity
Before even finishing the body of this article, I was struggling with how to conclude. How do you conclude your thoughts that are ever changing, growing, and developing? There is so much more to say on the topic, some of which I had to ensure I did not include because they were sinful thoughts, thoughts of bitterness. But also how do you end an article on an area that God has so much more to teach you? This stage of life isn’t over. It may be over in one month, five years, or I may be called to singleness for the rest of my life.
With the unknown of the future, we should be continually praising God for His Special Revelation, where He reveals to us how to live; who to follow, how to find Him in our searching, no matter what trials our journeys encounter. John 4:16-18 tells the story of the Samaritan woman who is searching, unsatisfied.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Go call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered Him, ‘I have no husband’. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.’”
Prior to this conversation Jesus is offering her a drink that will quench her thirst for all eternity. She is not content, which is clearly evident in the fact that she has been married five times. Five times. I have heard this story on numerous occasions, but never before have I connected her dissatisfaction and searching with her five marriages. I knew she was a “thirsty” sinner, but I didn’t realize how much I could relate to her search. God provided a way of escape. He taught her that He alone can quench the thirst that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of those He chooses. The woman thought that the answers would come in a man, married five times and living with another. It’s right here in this story, isn’t it? Having a relationship, even with the most godly man cannot satisfy the longing for perfect peace, fullness of joy, and true love, because all of these things can only be found in Christ, our Saviour who is the perfect example and fulfillment of the law. In verse 39 we read that “Many Samaritans from the town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did’” and verse 42 continues with “They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world’.” Do you think she was still connected to her previous identity? Maybe as an illustration of God’s grace, but if it is safe to assume that her previous identity was in multiple marriages, now how do you think she was identified? She was someone who shared the gospel, planted the seeds and brought others to Christ.
Often, in Paul’s many letters to varying cities, he mentions praying for the congregation. In his letter to the Colossians he says,
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy”.
This is my prayer for you also, you who are single and struggling to find contentment, you who have any of the other wide expanses of trials. Find common ground with one another in honest conversation in the topic of your struggles with discontentment and pride. Be honest and through that honesty, love each other more.
I will leave you with words from Dr. Joel Beeke:
“Be thankful for what God has granted you, and strive to grow in grace. Make the best use of what you read, hear and see. Aim to be a father in faith, and pray for grace to live like one… Remember that God builds us up by the same means with which He saved us- His Word and His Spirit. Search the word, depend on the Spirit and look to Christ.”- the Epistles of John.
Take the cup Christ offers, a cup of grace. Drink all of it because in Him you will find true satisfaction and pray that one day, with the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work, the first thing people will define you as is a follower of Christ: loving God and loving your neighbour. Not only can we find our hope in singleness in Christ, but we can also thrive in it.
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