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Posts Tagged ‘Series: Singleness Suffering’

Encouragement #4: Our God is Creator

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Meet Toby Zeegler/Stanley*:

He always looks this sad. Promise I’m not abusing him.

This is how he responds to a walk

Yes, ladies and gentleman, despite all my commitment issues and selfish tendencies, I have thought it best for my sanctification to invite this little guy to depend on me and eat my stuff and pee on my rug.

So far I have learned that I am even more selfish than I thought.  I have also learned that my love is very conditional.  When puppy is good I love him.  When he looks sweet I love him.  When puppy barks I want to destroy him.  When puppy is destructive I want to beat him.  (Don’t fear dog lovers, I will do neither).

The most frustrating thing about this whole thing is that I don’t know what’s best for puppy in every moment.  I don’t know what puppies are created to do.  I treat puppy the way I would want to be treated, but we’re different.  I may be puppy’s owner, but I am not puppy’s creator.

The weird thing about puppy is that even though I have no idea what I’m doing (and my keyboard is worn out from google-ing ‘what do I do if my puppy…’), he trusts me.  Like REALLY trusts me.  Whatever I say, he does.  It’s misplaced trust, but it sure has been pointing me a lot to God.  Puppy is mistaken, but I think he thinks I’m his creator, and that thought brings him great comfort.  He really believes that I must know better than him what is good for him.

In the middle of suffering we sometimes want God to be our friend, our counselor, our comforter.  He is all these things, but He’s also our creator.  In fact, so often in Scripture when people are walking through REALLY hard stuff, God presents his comfort in the form of a reminder that He is creator.

When the Israelites are struggling they find themselves clinging to anything around them that they think will provide security.  Much like puppy, they put their faith in something that is ill-equipped to really protect them.  The psalmist writes to them to urge them to trust in God, not idols who are ‘the work of human hands.’  Instead he prays that they would trust and be blessed by the Lord ‘who made heaven and earth’.

When Job is walking through the most horrific and dark time of his life, God answers him out of the whirlwind as CREATOR.  He reminds him of all that he has made.  He reminds Job that He alone is the uncreated creator.

Even Peter in the new testament urges suffering Christians to “entrust their souls to a faithful creator”.

I’m not sure why the Scriptures speak of God’s role as ‘creator’ as a comfort to us in times of suffering.  I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that a creator knows what’s best for His creation.

If an artist painted a picture, he would know best where to hang it.  He would know best how it should be displayed.  If a software engineer made a program, he would be the one to ask how we should use it to make it operate at its maximum capacity.

Puppy trusts me because he thinks I know what’s best for him.  But I don’t.  I can guess and research and learn, but the difference between my wisdom and his creator’s is vast.  Only a creator can know the intimate and perfect design of how his creation will find maximum joy.

My creator knows best how I operate.  He knows even better than me what is good.  He knows what brings me joy.  His commands are not burdensome because they are insight into what will make me happiest.

In obedience to Him I will find more of myself more ‘me’ than I ever imagined.  And in moments of suffering I can be assured that my creator knows what I need even better than I do.

Suffering comes when we find ourselves missing something we think we need.  The call to entrust ourselves to a faithful creator is a call to remember that He knows what we need.  After all, He made us.  Surely we can trust these bodies to the one who knit them together.  Surely if we were missing something we needed to operate at our highest capacity, our creator would be the one to recognize that.

And here’s the crazy part which some of you aren’t going to like: even this suffering itself is part of His design for you.  Even this affliction is evidence of His willingness to intercede to bless His creation even through pain.

If I wake up today (which I did) and don’t have a spouse (which I don’t) and don’t have a means for an earthly hug (which I don’t) and do have a crazy living wiggly little furry creature depending on me for food (which I do), I can only conclude that puppy and I must both trust ourselves into a faithful creator and continue doing good.

Puppy is home alone right now.  I am worried for him.   But he is in the arms of his faithful creator who knows when even one sparrow falls to the ground.

In each detail of today, I too am resting in the arms of my faithful creator.

If you’re suffering today, meditate on Genesis 1 & 2.  This is your God.  Read through Job 38-41.  This is your God.  Why would we trust in idols? He alone is uncreated.  Why would we trust in spouses or friends or children or money or abilities or comfort or approval when we can trust in He who created everything from nothing.

Let those who suffer according to God’s will, entrust themselves to a faithful creator and continue doing good. 1 Peter 4:19

*see my note about commitment issues.  I can’t even commit to a name.  Toby Zeegler is from West Wing – whiney and self-pitying – and with the basset hound in him, puppy certainly has those things down pat.  Stanley is from The Office.  He is a bigger guy and lazy, only motivated by vacations and pretzels.  Again, this sure resonates with little puppy.   Open to your feedback!

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Encouragement #3: God is for Himself

In Bible on December 2, 2010 at 1:46 am

Tonight I am so thankful for a God who is out for His glory above all.  It sounds weird, but this is probably one of the greatest encouragements we have in the face of suffering.

God is for Himself.  What I mean by that is that God’s primary purpose in creating this whole crazy world is to display His character clearly.  This is uppermost in His motivations.  All His other designs are subordinate (or lesser), even His plan to save you and I.  His number one priority is that His true character be lifted high.

And on nights like this, my friends, there is no better news.

First let me say, that many people think it might be more encouraging if God was ultimately about us and not about Himself.  But this wouldn’t actually be comforting at all.  That would be like a presidential candidate proclaiming that the ant hill on the white house lawn was more precious than human life.  I’m guessing none of us would vote for that guy.  Because ants aren’t more valuable than people.  If God loved us more than Himself than He’d be an idolater and not worthy of worship.  Humans aren’t more valuable than God.

The news that God is primarily concerned with elevating His true self to the world may sound hard and scary (since we’re not at the center of that story), but it’s actually great comfort for us in the midst of suffering.

A few years ago, a member of our staff put together a collection of Scripture titled ‘The History of Redemption’.  He preached it as a sermon; a complete story of God’s interaction with the world told entirely through the word of God!  You can see video and audio of the sermon here and we’ve put it together in an illustrated book to help encourage people to memorize and reflect on this amazing story.  Some of our staff (myself included) agreed to hold one another accountable to memorizing it and it’s been an incredible challenge and an unbelievable opportunity to meditate on God and His purposes throughout history.

One of the hardest things about suffering is that it makes it really hard to believe in anything outside of ourselves.  In moments of pain everything becomes a little foggy and the purposes of God seem confusing and out of reach.  It seems impossible to believe that He could possibly be acting for our benefit.  And if we offer comfort to one another that places us at the center of the story instead of God, I think we will miss a great hope held out to us in the Bible.

As I was memorizing and meditating on “The History of Redemption” I was fascinated to see how God ‘encouraged’ the nation of Israel in the midst of their suffering.

See, back in the day Israel was…promiscuous.  Things weren’t going well.  God keeps saving them from themselves, but they continue to worship idols and bring sorrow upon sorrow into their lives.  In the midst of this tragic time, God comes to the suffering Israelites and brings them the glorious hope of the New Covenant; the great news that God will forgive all our sins and remember our failings no more.  And the foundation of this great comfort is not that He is so enamored with the Israelites that He can’t bear to lose them.  The foundation of this great comfort is that God is going to make sure that His name is clearly seen.

In the darkest and most broken moments of His people, this is what God wants them to know:

“Say to the house of Israel, it is not for your sake O house of Israel that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name which you have profaned among the nations…and the nations will know that I am the Lord when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.”

RECAP: Israel is being faithless.  They are slandering God’s name with their idolatry, and testifying to everyone who sees that God is not satisfying and not worthy of worship.  So God says that He is going to act to make sure that everyone knows that He is the one true God.  He is going to vindicate His name through the Israelites.  Now, to me, that sounds like some people are about to get smoked, but that’s not how it goes down.  Here’s how God plans to show His true character through the Israelites:

“I will gather you from the nations, and take you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.  And I will sprinkle clean water on you and you shall be clean of all your uncleannesses and from all your idols I will cleanse you.”

So confusing is our God.   The way He displays His character is by redeeming a faithless people.  The way He ‘clears His name’ is by rescuing a people undeserving.

And why does He do that?  Because He loves Israel so much?  No – that’s not His motive.  Don’t believe me?  Scroll up and re-read the first line of the verse.  He wants it to be really clear that His primary motive is His name.

Now – don’t get me wrong.  God does love Israel.  But His love for Israel is a by-product of His desire to display His character.  He is an unfailing Father.  He is a faithful lover.  He is a gracious husband.  He is a mighty God.  And because this is who He is, Israel can trust that at all times He’s going to act in the way that best displays these characteristics.  That’s why Israel could bank on His provision and protection; not because of anything about their lives – but because of the character of God.

This has been a long day and a weird night for me.  I don’t know how to believe that tomorrow is going to be different.  And we all have that in common.  Every single person reading these words is going to face a hard day sooner or later.  And in that day, how can we know for sure that God will provide for us?  How can we know for sure that He will be faithful?  How can we know that His love for us won’t fail?

We can know because God will always act to display His character.  He will arrange every molecule and every detail of every day to display who He is.  He is at all times acting to display His glory (or the full characteristics of who He is).  And this is great news.  Because He is the Lord the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.

Some days I just feel like I need God to make much of me.  That’s how this world works after all.  When your friend feels insecure, you encourage her with proclamations of how wonderful she is.  Honestly, I think we’d all be a lot more comfortable if God behaved this same way.  I think we’d all feel great about a God who whispered to us in the moments of our deepest pain how wonderful and great we are.  I’m guessing that’s what Job felt like he needed as well, after he lost his family and his future and his health.  Job turns to God and God – being gracious – answers Him.  God’s response is a reminder of where our true comfort will be found.  God launches into a magnificent speech about the greatness of…Himself.

Our God knows us better than we know ourselves.  We don’t need to hear about how great we are.  We need to hear about how great He is.   We don’t need to take hold of the concept that we are at the center of this whole thing, we need to take hold of the one who IS at the center of this whole thing and trust Him to vindicate His name through our lives.

In the darkest moments of suffering, have hope: God is going to act to display His character.  God is acting to display His character. In each and every detail, God is seeking opportunities to display His kindness, His love, His grace, His mercy, His provision.  For the Israelites this news meant that they were going to be redeemed and cleaned and given the promise of a new covenant.  For those of us who are children of God – it means that  God is going to use our lives to display just how generous, gracious, kind, loving and good He is to His children.

I don’t know where you are today.  I barely know where I am today.  But I know where God is – on His throne; working every second of every moment to display just how great He is.  Surely this is a great comfort for those who will cast themselves on Him.

This has been the great hope of the saints that have gone before us.  It was the hope of David in Psalm 79 when he said: deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!”  His hope of deliverance was found in God acting to display the greatness of His name.

It was the hope of Daniel:

[18] O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. [19] O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” (Daniel 9:18-19)

And tonight my voice joins with theirs and I will pray following their example.  I will appeal to God because I know He will act to display His true character.  That is my deepest comfort.

Not for my sake, but for the sake of your great name God – rend Heaven to meet with me even now and restore me to the joy of my salvation.  Use my life to display how merciful, gracious and great you are.  Use my faithlessness to display how transforming your grace is.  Use my fear to set the stage to display how great a comforter you are.   Use my loneliness and insecurity to set the stage to display how much joy and pleasure there is in you alone.

Encouragement in Suffering #2: Immanuel

In Endurance, Practical Issues, Singleness on November 25, 2010 at 12:38 am

My Christmas tree is up and looking pretty great (even if I say so myself).  Why, you may ask, is my Christmas tree up before thanksgiving?  A) I love Christmas.  B) I love Christmas trees.  C) Thanksgiving is valuable to me in that it’s a sign post for Christmas (and the food I guess).  D) I love Christmas.

I’ve always loved Christmas, but I remember my first Christmas with Jesus, and how different that was.  I remember the amazement I felt at knowing that the Word had become flesh and dwelt among us.  It’s crazy really.  It’s not crazy when you’re looking at the American Jesus – who is kind and cuddly and fits right in your pocket.  But it’s pretty nuts when you’re looking at Jesus who was before all things and through whom all things came into being.  The Jesus of the Bible  upholds all things by the word of his power and He is the radiance of the glory of the Father and the exact representation of His nature, and this is the Jesus who chose to bind Himself in flesh and dwell among us.  This is the Jesus who subjected Himself to all the humiliation and suffering that comes with being found in the form of man.

And it’s one of the greatest encouragements I know for us in the midst of suffering.  The comfort for you and I in the face of suffering is found in the flesh of Christ.

My last blog was about the comfort that can come from zooming out.  The thing is, once we grasp this our fractured logic can lead us to believe that God doesn’t care about the day-to-day pain we face.  We can begin to assume that God isn’t interested in the light and momentary affliction we face.  We tell ourselves that He is not the kind of God that would be concerned with the details of our suffering.

And we would be wrong.

Jesus – in whom the fullness of God is pleased to dwell – wrapped Himself in skin and suffered like me and you so that in our worst pain and moments of suffering we would know the truth.  God doesn’t scoff at the smallness of our pain.  God meets us in the intimate details of our pain.  God is with us even in the smallest hurts.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)

In our deepest pain, lies creep in and lead us to turn away from the only source of comfort.  We listen to the whisper that God does not understand the pain of abandonment or rejection; that He is annoyed that we are so bothered by our singleness; that He is frustrated with our pathetic inability to trust in the bigger picture;  God can’t possibly know what it feels like to be tempted to doubt His goodness in lonely nights or when tragedy strikes.

And Christmas is the evidence that these whispers are lies.  Christmas is the great glowing ebeneezer that reminds us we don’t have a God who wants us to just ‘get over it’.  We have a God who understands how rough this world can be because He lived it.

We have a God who came down and suffered with us.  Our God is the only being who never had to suffer; He’s the only person who never had to experience any pain, and yet He willingly endured the most horrific pain imaginable.  Why? So that in the moments when we are most tempted to despair in the face of our suffering we can go to Him, messy and broken and confident that He can help.

Because there is no one like our God.  He holds the universe in His palm but He will never scoff at the intimate details of our fears.  He will never grow impatient our inability to ‘zoom out’.  He will never roll His eyes at our desire to have a husband or a child or a different tomorrow.

We have a high priest who understands because He too has endured suffering.  He knows about lonely painful nights.  He knows about losing loved ones.  He knows about being rejected and abandoned and forsaken.  He knows about the moments when you look around and everything seems to be going wrong.  He knows about faces flung heavenward, begging for another way.  He knows about the weight of suffering.  Look to the Cross; He knows.

Surely there is none like our God.

He beckons us close even now.  He whispers to our hearts – draw near, beloved, draw near.  I know this storm.  I’ve weathered it.  Draw near and find the grace and mercy you need to breathe in and out.

His name is called Immanuel.  Because that is who He is: God with us.

Encouragement in Suffering #1: Zoom Out

In Uncategorized on November 4, 2010 at 12:32 am

Boy, oh boy! Thanks for all the encouraging responses to this singleness stuff.

I have a million more thoughts, but they all fall under categories I’ve already mentioned, and let the record show that I value organization too much to edit and add.  I thought it might be good to give you my final thoughts in the form of encouragement.  The next few blog posts will be dedicated to that.

The first big fat encouragement I can think of is: Zoom Out.

So often, life happens to us in minutes and hours and days.  But this whole thing is but a breath.  This day is over too soon. And this year will be over before you know it. And your life will be done before those around you feel prepared.  And He will come for us before most in this world are ready.

And this is an encouraging thing to remember.  Because here – in the trenches – we’re in the middle of this crazy story with rising tension and conflict and such.  And it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.

In the first five verses of the book of Ruth, Naomi endures a famine, leaves her friends, moves to a crazy sinful place, watches her husband die, watches her sons marry people who are historically enemies of God, stands by as her daughters-in-law are unable to bear children, and then witnesses her two boys breathe their last breaths.  And THEN the story starts.

Most of us live in the middle of these first five verses.  Life is happening to us.  And it’s real and it’s painful and tragic.  I think there’s comfort to be found in remembering that this is just five verses in a bigger story.  And the whole story of Naomi’s life is just a couple of pages in a way bigger story.

Pain is real.  And in the moment when it’s happening to you it seems insurmountable.  I’ve felt the grief of losing someone.  I’ve felt the bottomless ocean of despair.  I’ve felt the depth of panic that overtakes you in the absence of what you feel like you need the most.  And here’s the encouragement I have for you: it’s just a verse.

It may not even be a full verse.  It’s just a word.  In a verse.  In a paragraph. In a book.  In a bigger book.  In eternity.

And I know that may not seem encouraging for many of you.  It may seem sick and twisted and meaningless, but I just want you to know, it’s not.  Because in that moment there is an eternal and omnipotent God collecting your tears; there is an eternal weight of glory being worked out for you.  All the details in one minuscule moment are being threaded and ordained to knit together a story of glory and redemption.

If we don’t zoom out and let the weight of the bigness of the picture rest on us, then we might miss the greatness of our God who meets us in the tiny moments of our pain.

So zoom out.  Take some time each week to zoom out of your life story and look at the bigger picture.  That picture includes men and women who lived for hundreds of years in slavery.  It includes a girl named Ruth who lost her husband and her family and hope for a future.  It includes generations of real people dealing with real pain waiting and looking and longing for a Messiah whose name you and I know because of those who would obey the command to go to the nations and share the great news of a bigger story.

Zooming out can be terrifying.  My faith is shaky.  There’s much more unbelief than I might like lurking in my heart.  And zooming out reminds me that I’m banking on Jesus.  I’m banking on the bigger story.  I’m banking everything on my belief that this life is just a breath and that in eternity, our stretches of pain that seem to last forever will be momentary flashes of time that fuel my worship for a Creator who is trustworthy and true.

We look at the pain of Naomi, and we can scoff at her bitterness.  We have that luxury because we know the end of her story.  We know everything turns out for good.  We know that there’s this amazing conclusion to her life.  We know that she gets to be a part of something truly significant and so we shake our heads at her unbelief and think to ourselves, “If she only knew”. If she only knew the end of the story then she could get through the tragedy with hope.

Knowing the ending would change everything.  I hear single women every day say things like: ‘if I just knew for sure I would get married, then I would be okay with singleness today’.  We believe that knowing the ending would make it possible to have peace and joy today.

But here’s the deal: we DO know the ending.  and it’s a whole ‘h’ of a lot better than a mortal man down on one knee.

You may be sad tonight.  You may be afraid and insecure and alone.  You may be walking through tragedy that I can’t understand.  But let me remind you how this story ends: it ends with Jesus.  you and Jesus.  and a bunch of other people.  and worship.  and Jesus.  and faith that is by sight.  and Jesus.

I know it’s hard.  Life.  I know that some days it feels impossible.  But there is coming a day when He will come back for us.  And you’ll stand before your God and your King and your Savior and your life, and you’ll hear Him say ‘well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into joy today’.  And that day – that seems like the end – will really be the beginning.

Blessings of Singleness #7: The Pain of Losing Dreams

In Practical Issues, Singleness on September 8, 2010 at 3:39 am

Apologies for the lack of blog.  I haven’t been able to write because of the emotional, physical and spiritual preparation that goes into a 10 year high school reunion.  Fear not: good times were had by all.  It was the weirdest night ever.  First, because I am fairly certain I have never seen 79% of those people in my life.  Seriously.   Who were all those people?  And how come they all look so old?

In actuality it was kind of a wonderful time for me.  Surprisingly an encouraging reminder of how different I am than I once was.  And it’s prompting this blog because it illuminated to me another one of the painful blessings of singleness: the pain of watching as your plans for your life are cannibalized by time.

There was so much insecurity at the reunion that I could taste it.  There were so many people who were desperately ashamed that their lives hadn’t turned out according to the plan they had proclaimed in high school.  They tried to quiet this shame by campaigning for the things they have done well or by tearing down someone else who was absent.   They declared loudly how much they hated the very thought of those dreams that had once defined them, but despite the volume of their protests, their insecurity spoke louder.

And I understand.  I really do.  I have single friends who desperately want to have children, and each birthday seems to bring with it a wave of dream crushing hopelessness.   I watch their faces as other friends talk about how their 3rd child was a beat down simply because they were too old to be having children after 30.  Every off-the-cuff comment about the challenges of having children over a certain age is one more dig in the heart of the single who longs for a family.

I’ve felt this same pain in my own heart when a married friend reminds me that I can’t be too picky at my age.  I feel the stab of insecurity when I hear comments about aging bodies and I look at my own and wonder if I’ll get to share this life with anyone before I become a 90-year-old cat lady.

It’s hard.  It’s hard to let go of dreams.  It’s painful to see the details of life creep in and steal from you things that you were certain were secured.

And it reminds me of Ruth.  She’s a good kid.  And I can’t stop thinking about the way she walks away from everything that might give her security or comfort or worth or value and walks into a future that has no certainty or promise of earthly treasure.  And that reminds me of the call to follow Christ.  It reminds me of the death that we have to die in order to have life.

And thinking about Ruth and thinking about reunions reminds me of something I really hate about my job.  It’s maybe the thing I hate most about my job.

I watch women follow Jesus radically like Ruth did; I watch them walk out of lifestyles that are impossible to leave and I watch them dive into serving God with everything and I watch them look like they are running back to Bethlehem, turning their backs on Moab.

But as time passes I see them become frustrated with God; disappointed.  They’ve given him their lives, just like Ruth, but they haven’t seen their Boaz yet.  They left Moab, they came to Bethlehem, but now they are confused about why their dreams aren’t coming true.

And then I have the incredibly painful experience of watching compromise creep in.  God isn’t satisfying their dreams on their timeline so they find ways to make it happen for themselves.  They start dating a guy who may not be a crazy ‘Bible thumper’ but he goes to church, and besides – they don’t want to judge anybody, right?

They explain to me that they were never cut out of the ‘radical’ lifestyle.  They justify their decision to compromise on purity or in the work place or in the city because they can just feel God calling them to this person, this job, this location.

They not only buy the lie that they can love the world and still love God but they preach it to themselves and others in an attempt to muzzle the rumble of conviction inside.

And I think the reason I hate this part of my job is that it is unbelievably terrifying to me.  I’m not angry with these women.  I’m not scoffing at their choices.  I’m terrified.  I’m terrified because I get it.  I’m terrified that I’ll do the same. And more than anything I don’t want this to be me.  I don’t want to look like Ruth in one moment only to find that I was only following Jesus as a means to some other end.  I don’t want to look like I’m walking toward Bethlehem, having left everything that once defined me behind, only to look down and realize that I’m only walking this way because I think that the old gods I used to worship have moved into Bethlehem.  I can feel it inside of me.  I can feel the pain of lost dreams moving in me and luring and enticing me.  I can feel the pain of not getting want convincing me that I can take my dreams from the world in one hand as long as I just keep holding Jesus with the other.

I hear the same unoriginal lie in my ears that haunted Eve; the lie that I am somehow missing out by giving every piece of my heart and life to Jesus; the lie that Jesus is holding out on me.

You will waste the pain that comes from losing your dreams if you refuse to let the disappointment drive you like Ruth to let go of all those hopes and put your whole heart into God’s plan for your life, trusting Him to give you what is best.

If you refuse to do this you will eventually find a way to make your dreams happen for yourself, and miss the only thing that really offers you the peace, joy and security you seek in the first place.

And I want to urge you not to do that.  I want to urge you to turn to Jesus. Because I learned a lot at my reunion.

There are people who have met every timeline for their plans for their own lives. They got married when they wanted to and had babies when they wanted to.  And most of them couldn’t hide the fact that they’re still recklessly afraid and insecure.  They couldn’t hide the fact that they are dealing with the pain of what comes after you get your plan and still feel empty and alone sometimes at night.

And that’s why my high school reunion was so amazing.  It reminded me that I don’t want my dreams.  I really don’t.  I mean, I do.  I want a husband.  I want to get to teach God’s Word.  I want to write.  I want all these dreams.  But really I don’t.  At the bottom of my heart, I just want to be happy.  And I want to not be afraid.  And I want to be wanted.  And I want to be known.

This whole thing is so painful because somewhere along the way I began to believe that my dreams would save me.  We all did.  We began to believe that if we could just get that one thing we want we would be rescued from this gnawing sense of insufficiency inside of us.  We want our dreams because we think they must hold the answer to the nagging insecurity that makes most of us skip the reunion altogether.

But temporal dreams are too small to fill that gaping hole.  They’re just too small.  And those deep longings in our hearts are just so much bigger.  My heart won’t be satisfied by pleasure for 30 years.  It wants pleasure forevermore.  My heart won’t be satisfied by a love that fails 6 days out of 7.  My heart won’t even be satisfied by a love that fails 1 out of every 365 days.  My heart needs a love that will never fail.   My heart needs a love that will always pursue, always forgive, never forsake, always fight.

And that love is the only hope I have that I won’t trade my Jesus just so that I can have a better story at my 20 year high school reunion.  While everything in me is willing to exchange everything for nothing, I have Someone refusing to let me compromise.  I have Someone who has promised to fulfill my deepest dreams in every moment.

Blessings of Singleness #6: The Pain of Misplaced Shame

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Singleness on August 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Okay.  Apologies for going dark for a couple of weeks on this blog.

The problem with me is that I’m a lot like Peter.  Some days words just come out of me and I hear ‘blessed are you, fabs. you have no idea what you’re talking about but God is speaking through you.’  But some days the only words that come out of my mouth are met with  ‘get behind me Satan’.

And on those days, by God’s grace, I try to blog less.

So, now I’m back.  Hopefully ready to affirm that Jesus is the Christ through my thoughts on singleness.

There is a pain I have been noticing in singleness; the pain of misplaced shame.

There are two types of shame.  One is good.  It’s shame for something that dishonors God.  This shame is the grace of God in our lives that leads us to repentance.  But there’s another shame that is misplaced.  This is shame for something that we feel dishonors us.  Shame for things that bring no dishonor to God.  Shame for things like noses that are too big or teeth that aren’t perfectly straight or singleness.

Every single in the world knows what I’m taking about.  It’s the shame you feel when someone exclaims out loud ‘why are you still single???’ and inside your head comes the shame: people are only single if they have some flaw.  what’s mine?

It’s the shame you feel when you overhear another conversation that speculates on how that beautiful girl could be single and inside your head comes the shame: it’s no mystery to anyone why YOU are single.

It’s the shame you feel when your confession of sin is met with the counsel ‘you don’t want to be married till you’ve conquered this sin anyway’ and inside your head comes the shame: I’m too sinful to be a good wife.  Is marriage just for the godly?

Of course this shame is painful.  It makes every offhand comment about singleness a stab.  This shame makes every marriage sermon leave you feeling like an insecure failure.

Every woman in the world wrestles with insecurity.  Married women don’t feel less misplaced shame than singles.  Ask any woman who has had issues with infertility.  Ask any mother who isn’t sure where to send her kids to school.  Misplaced shame is at the root of every defensive response, it’s in every whisper of gossip, every cry for approval or indifferent hardened heart.

While painful, misplaced shame is a blessing because it forces us to trust the gospel, not just for a future salvation but for our identity here and now.  If we don’t acknowledge the blessing of this pain, we will give misplaced shame a terrifying power in our lives.  We will make the tragic mistake of allowing it to lead us to believe that we are victims instead of sinners. If we aren’t careful it will lead us to seek affirmation from others instead of leading us to repentance.

Every ounce of misplaced shame is an offense against God.  It’s a deceleration that He is wrong about us.  Every shred of shame about our appearance is a pronouncement that God is a deficient creator.  Every sliver of fear that we’re not good enough is a shout of unbelief in the sufficiency of the atonement.

We will waste our misplaced shame if we attempt to quiet it by justifying ourselves or seeking justification from others.  If we seek justification in ourselves we will constantly be trying to prove ourselves to the world.  We will be tragically afraid of failure. We will find ourselves defensively proclaiming the ‘betterness’ of singleness to anyone who will listen because we think if we just speak a little louder we will silence the shame inside of us.

If we seek justification in others we will find ourselves seeking friendships and relationships where people will comfort us by telling us how wonderful we are.  We’ll try to conquer our shame by speaking badly of others or pointing out their failings.  We’ll seek pity from those around us, and we’ll do anything to secure their approval.

There is only One who justifies.  The glorious grace of the misplaced shame we experience in singleness is that it will not leave us till it drives us to Him.

We will waste our misplaced shame if we attempt to quiet it by denying our weaknesses instead of the deep truths of God.

Here’s the deal.  I’ve got enough crazy in me to give most people a run for their money.  I’m more emotionally schizophrenic than David.  I’m more stubborn than Peter.  I can say, with full assurance, that I would have a good chance of winning in the ‘worst of sinners’ category when up against Paul.  And I have no place in Scripture that assures me that none of these things is playing into my singleness.  God, for whatever reason, doesn’t find it necessary to tell me that my singleness has nothing to do with any of my personal flaws.

So here’s what I don’t  need.  I don’t need those around me to affirm that I would be the best wife ever and that my singleness has nothing to do with my own shortcomings.  Because if those were the words I needed to silence my shame, they would be recorded for me in His complete and sufficient Word.

What I do need is someone to point out that every single thing (even my issues and certainly my singleness) is ordained by my kind and gracious Father for my good.  What I do need is to hear that when I confess my sin He is just and faithful to forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness and any lingering shame is my declaration that His sacrifice just wasn’t enough to cover that sin.  What I do need to hear is that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and anyone who disagrees with that (myself included) doesn’t dishonor me, they dishonor the creator who holds galaxies in His hands.

The gospel in which we stand is great news.  It offers us a truth that will speak worth and peace and value into our deepest insecurities.  It offers us better hope than a good body or a sweet disposition or a great hair day.

Let your misplaced shame prompt to quiet your heart and listen.  Don’t be stilled by the words of your husband, peers, employers, friends but the Words of God alone.

Hear the gospel:

We are not worthy because we are beautiful or because we are married or because we are single.  We are not loved because we are intelligent or sweet or kind or gentle.  We are not valuable because of anything we bring to the table.

We are His.

If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  Shall any of our insecurity?  Shall our singleness?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Blessings of Singleness #5: Lack of Physical Intimacy

In Endurance, Practical Issues, Sin, Singleness on July 23, 2010 at 8:33 pm

In our culture it seems ‘healthy’ or ‘normal’ when women desire sex as a means to emotional intimacy.  But no one believes that a woman could struggle with the purely physical.  So, I’ll go ahead and put this blog out there just in case it might be an encouragement.  This struggle has provided for me the biggest challenge and deepest ‘suffering’ of singleness.

I believe that one day, I will look at my life and say with confidence that the single greatest blessing I have experienced of singleness has been pain of learning to live without physical intimacy.

Part of why it’s been so painful is it is probably the struggle that has confused me most.  It’s been (and is) a pretty hard sell to get my body on board with the idea that I’m not missing out on what I was created for.  It’s challenging to not feel entitled.  And in a moment of absolute vulnerability, it’s one of the things that has made it the hardest to trust my sweet and faithful God.  And in some ways – in dark and frightened places – I feel forgotten and betrayed and confused.

Because I know He knows me. I know He knows my body and my heart and I know He designed and wired this desire inside of me in the same way He wired my belly to grumble slightly around 11:02 AM.  My hunger is designed to prompt me to eat.  And so I do.  And yet, my Father has told me that when I am hungry in this sense I must trust Him and not find food for myself.  And He has seen fit not to give me any guarantee that this hunger will ever be satisfied.

There is pain.  There is pain in watching my friends be fed one after another with the thing I feel like I need the most.  There is pain in facing each morning with the knowledge that today there will be no daily bread for this hunger.  There is pain as I sit, feeling as though I am starving to death, and listen to my married friends try to explain to me that eating is overrated.

And the truth is: this is the biggest blessing of my life.

You know what it makes me think about?  Fasting.  Fasting is strange.  I think it’s weird that God is about physical fasting.  It involves a need that is seemingly purely physical.

When I am lonely, I ultimately want God.  When I am sad, only God can bring true joy.  When I am afraid, it points me to the promises of God.  When I feel rejected, unwanted, unloved, alone, in all these needs, God alone will bring true and lasting peace.

But, when I’m hungry, I want a cheeseburger and some fries.

Physical desires seemingly terminate on physical things.  And that’s the beauty of fasting.  God commands us to fast, not so that He can prove He is as good as a cheeseburger by making our hunger go away. God commands us to fast so that we learn to feel hungry and trust Him in the midst of that gnawing sense of need.

The goal of fasting is not for God to remove our hunger, but for us to learn that in the midst of hunger He is trustworthy.  The feeling of hunger is the point of the fast.  God wants us to feel hunger so that we are reminded that we are not supposed to be satisfied and we are supposed to long for Him.  We fast to reflect that we trust God regardless of what our bodies tell us.  He is our authority, not our bodies.

Today, my body wants something tangible and physical.  My body doesn’t know that God will satisfy all my needs.  It just wants what it was made to have.  And today, I don’t get to have that.  And so the line is drawn in the sand and the challenge is made.  Today, what will be my source of truth?  Who will be the one who determines what I need?  My body?  Or my God?  Who knows my needs better?  Me or Jesus?  When I feel so clearly what I ‘need’, will I trust Him that there is a greater need?  Will I learn to be hungry so that I can trust Him in hunger, not just in plenty?

There is no area in my life that makes me more likely to doubt the promises of God than this area.  I have told friends through tears that many days I do not feel like I have everything I need for life and godliness because of this.  I do not know how I am going to persevere in light of my hunger and in light of my Father’s gracious call to purity.

And so, this pain, more than anything else will teach me to trust.  Each day, as the sun goes down and I still find myself securely held in the arms of the Father, my faith is built.    He doesn’t promise to give me everything I need to never be hungry.  He promises to give me everything I need to not starve to death on the road home to Him.  And today I’m alive; He has proved Himself faithful.  He doesn’t promise to give me everything I need to never ever falter.  He promises to give me everything I need to finish this race.  And today I love Him; He has proved Himself faithful.  He will finish the good work He began in me.  There is only one thing I really need.  And it is secure.

I have failed. Make no mistake.  I’m ashamed to say that more days of this life than not I have behaved as an orphan.  Though adopted, and promised provision, I have refused to trust but instead I have taken for myself what has not been given. When He has not provided for me, I have stolen and cheated.  But He has never forsaken me.  The price He paid to buy my freedom is more than enough to secure me despite my human frailty.  He has delivered me time and time again.

I am typing this today.  And today I love Jesus.  And that is by His grace alone.  I have traded Him for the fleeting pleasures of this world too many times to count, but He has never traded me.  And He will never trade me.  And He has met me in the pig pen and He has led me home.  And so I trust Him more today than I did yesterday.

And so today, by His grace, I will say – your commandments are not burdensome.  Today I will say – I trust that you know what is best for me.  I trust that you will not withhold.  I trust that you – the maker of my body – know exactly what it needs today to worship you.

Today, in order to worship God, my body needs to be hungry.  Today, He is giving me the blessed pain of hunger because it’s the only way I’m going to make it home, and He is nothing if not faithful to the promise to give me what I need to make it to Him.

You will waste this suffering if it doesn’t cause you to long for death.  Sounds morbid.  However, I want to stand with Paul and say that ‘my desire is to depart to be with Christ, for that is far better’.  It might be that the pain of a life without physical intimacy was part of what equipped Paul to proclaim through the Spirit that to die is gain.  To die is to gain a glorified body that feels and experiences the truth that all our needs are met in Jesus.  To die is to gain the heavenly reality that earthly intimacy can only reflect in shadows.  To die is to gain full oneness with God; fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.  To die is to gain Jesus.

You will waste this suffering if you fail to use it to witness about the greatness of God.  Our God is a God of pleasure.  He is not calling us to hunger because he wants us to be miserable.  He is calling us to hunger because He wants us to experience the greatest pleasure available to man.  There is nothing that sounds as foolish to the world as a person who would pursue purity, not out of some sense of religious obligation, but out of a faith that there is a greater pleasure in store for those who would trust in the Creator.  There is nothing that makes God look as beautiful as when we, who have tasted His goodness, would use our lives to testify that we will forego any momentary joy in order to taste more of Him.

There are pieces of my testimony that I hate; that I might wish to rewrite.  But even in my failure, God has written my life with His divine grace.  Perhaps this struggle more than any other has made me more like Christ.  Perhaps this struggle more than any other has proved the truth of Hebrews 4:14-16 in my life.  If you are ashamed, if you have failed, rest your heart in the fact that the gospel was made for such a time as this.  We don’t have a great high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.  Praise God that we have Jesus.  Who has walked in singleness; tempted in every way, and yet never succumbed.  So draw near to Him and receive mercy and find grace to help in time of trouble.

Thanks be to God.

Blessings of Singleness#4: The Pain of Rejection

In Practical Issues, Singleness on July 17, 2010 at 1:24 am

When I was a little girl, I never associated being alone with being rejected.  I loved my time alone because it involved hours of acting out my fantastical imagination with princesses and palaces without interruption.

I’m not so different now than I was then.   I still love finding time away from the world. I love coffee shops and talking to God out loud and I love the freedom that being alone affords.  However, if I’m not careful, my heart will distort and twist reality so that I believe being alone equals being rejected.  On too many days my joy of aloneness is sabotaged by the painful realization that I am alone because I am no one’s favorite.

While I’m embarrassed to admit it, there are days where singleness feels like that middle school playground.  You watch your friends around you get picked for teams, and you just keep waiting and wondering – when will I be picked?

In my ideal world, everyone would get to be someone’s favorite.  The pain of rejection in singleness comes in the unbalanced nature of relationships.  I have people who are my favorites.  They are my dearest and nearest friends – my top priorities outside of Jesus.  The thing is, they have husbands and children.  And so, I’m not their favorite.  These people are my family, but I’m not their family.  And that’s painful.

The problem is that you and I are broken.  We are insecure and afraid and we were created to have worth spoken into us by someone outside of ourselves.  The thing is though, that Someone else isn’t a human being.  There is no person on earth that should have the power to speak into us value or worth in such a way that it secures our identity.

Jesus talks about the danger of receiving affirmation from people in such a way that it adds something to you.  People’s instinct is to assure you that it’s valid to want or even need affirmation from other people, but Jesus says otherwise.  He says that affirmation and love from another human being should not be wanted or even received in such a way that it fills deficiency in us.  He says that when affirmation from people adds to our sense of self and security, it robs us of the ability to be satisfied in Him.  And I didn’t make that up – it’s what He said.  If we want to know why we aren’t satisfied in Jesus, here’s His answer: we receive affirmation from men and we don’t seek it from God.

Jesus comes to the pharisees and basically says that they don’t want him because He doesn’t receive worship from men in such a way that it adds value to Him; that it speaks identity into Him.

And then He asks them this question:  ‘How can you believe (or be satisfied with God), when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?’

Here’s Jesus question: how can you possibly be satisfied by God when the attention of man adds to your value?  How can you possibly be satisfied by God when you don’t seek your affirmation and identity in the only God? Why are you treating men like they have the power to give you value through their feeble words when that is a power that belongs to God alone?    There is only one Person who can speak worth into you in such a way that it finally begins to fill that aching fear and insecurity.

That’s why I feel no hesitation in claiming that the pain of rejection we face in singleness is one of God’s sweetest gifts.  It provides a head start on being satisfied in God.  The key to satisfaction in Him is two-fold: not receiving your worth from the words of men, and seeking it from God.  The pain we experience in singleness occurs because the first condition has been met.  I am hurting because my singleness itself seems to have stolen from me the opportunity to get affirmation from men.  Now, the challenge is to let go of my desire to seek out and secure that affirmation, or cling and scrape up the scraps I might have gathered of human affirmation to try to make me feel less insecure or unwanted.  The challenge is to seek my affirmation from God.

And the reward is great: you will have deeper faith and deeper satisfaction in our Lord and Savior.

Gosh – that sounds so wonderful.

If you are no mortal man’s favorite, you are in good company.  Besides me, you’re also in the company of Someone who was ‘despised and rejected by men’.  He refused to receive glory from men and He sought instead the glory, the perfect peace and joy that comes from the Father.

You will waste the rejection of singleness if you allow others to speak affirmation into your life that adds to your identity, rather than seeking the affirmation that can only come from God.  God has designed this beautiful season of life to be one where you can say: ‘where else can I go?’  When you need affirmation, you have no husband to turn to, and as the stages of life of your friends shift with the seasons, more and more of your ‘options’ for affirmation will be stripped away.  And again you will say – ‘no really, now, where would I go for affirmation?’  You will find that you have no other options.  If you want affirmation you will have to trust God to provide.  Don’t be ashamed by your insecurity.  Don’t try to cover or conceal or fill it with positive thinking or encouragement from mortal men.  Let it drive you to cling to God as your only hope.  Let no one but God – not friends or yourself – convince you that you are worthy and loved.  Let His word be the only balm to the broken soul.

You will waste your pain of rejection if you don’t let the affirmation of God fuel your role in community and the Church.  The more you seek the glory that comes from the only God, the more of an asset you will be to the hurting and broken around you in the church and the city.  Instead of looking around on a Sunday and wondering why no one cares for you, you will have all the affirmation you need to look around you and seek people to love – not people who’ll love you.  You will be able to be a true friend when you are loving out of an abundance not deficiency.  Now that you are not seeking your identity to be filled by their words or affirmation, you are finally able to be free to speak truth without fear.  You are free to bear burdens without counting the cost.  You are free to celebrate with those who are celebrating and weep with those who are weeping without the distraction of coveting.

Blessings of Singleness #3: Losing Control

In Practical Issues, Singleness on July 14, 2010 at 1:57 pm

In my naïve younger days (about 3  months ago)  I managed to convince myself that my desire for control had a fairly loose grip on my heart.  Now that I’m 3 months older I can see a little more clearly.  The tragic truth is that so much of my life is designed to maximize my sense of control.

Praise the Lord for the kindness of singleness, which costs me control in a huge area of my life.

Most life stages are chosen.  But for many single folks, this is not the case.  Singleness is the default.  It’s the life stage we are all in until we are removed from it by choices we make.  I didn’t choose to be single.   And so there’s this pain or anxiety that comes with knowing there is nothing I can do to change where I am.  The world may say otherwise, but the kind of marriage I would want is only possible through an act of God.

I have been taught – from an early age – that I control my own destiny.  That if I want something, I can walk out those doors and get it.  That I can pursue and achieve anything I set my mind on.  That my life is in my hands.  This is, after all, the American Dream

When I became a Christian I renounced these beliefs.  However, in my heart, I still cling to the lie that I have control over certain things in my life.  I believe I have control over my schedule and my day and my life.  The pain of losing control in singleness constantly reels me back in from my imaginary world where I can make anything happen that I want.  I can’t change my facebook status to ‘married’ with a little hard work and will power, and each time I remember this there is a sobering pain that teaches me truth.

Somewhere deep inside we believe that control would be the key to our joy and peace.  Life would be better if we controlled it.  We manage to set up 90% of our day living in the fantasy that we are going to determine what happens and we spend hours pondering days and years that haven’t occurred and anticipating the decisions we can make to steer and direct the world into our intended path.

My buddy Malachi (who is 3) gets the truth a lot better than me.  When he wants to eat, he can’t just go get food for himself.  Anything and everything he wants he has to ask for and the only way he’ll get it is if his mom or dad get it for him.

What is strange is that I’m actually more dependent on God than Malachi is on his parents, I just happen to live in a time and place that convinces me otherwise.  I can’t breathe in or out without His power and grace.  I think I can get food for myself, but I can’t.  I can’t do anything apart from Him.

My favorite part about the pain of losing control in singleness is the moment in the car, or in my apartment on an especially low day when I attribute my frustration with singleness to it being ‘the one thing I can’t control’.

It’s my favorite part because it takes about 10 seconds of sitting in that angst before I hear the challenge from the Spirit.  Is it really?  Is this the ‘one’ part of your life that you don’t control?   Crazy Spirit.  Silly Fabs.

The bible says that my very apartment address has been appointed by God and that every day of my life is written by Him and that He is always and in every way holding all things together by the power of His word.  There is only One in control, and it is not me.  He holds the hearts of Kings in His hand.

Would I want it differently?  In these moments, the faces of all the people I might have married if I was in ‘control’ flash before my eyes.  And I cringe a little.  And worship a little.

I’m afraid of not having control.  I’m worried that because I can’t control this area of my life I will miss out.  In the same way I am anxious about tomorrow because I am worried that if it doesn’t turn out as I need it to I will lose something or miss something or not gain what I need.

I’m afraid that if I don’t have control no one has control.  But this isn’t true.  Someone is in control  Someone who is fully wise and fully able and competent.  Someone who never sleeps.  And guess what – He’s someone who is constantly working every detail of every day and the hearts of every man for my good.

There is nothing more gracious than areas of our lives that remind us that we don’t have control.  Praise the Lord that I don’t have control over my marital status.  The pain of losing control reminds me that I actually never had control – in any aspect of my life.  Some of you reading that might find it offensive, but it’s so gloriously liberating.

Do you know why people loved college so much?  Or high school?  Or their childhood?  Because it was back in the days when you didn’t have to bear the burden of your life on your shoulders.  People could direct you and lead you and you would just be faithful with what was handed to you.

Good news.  This is the life of a Christian.  My Father is working everything out.  He will provide for me.  Today, I have everything I need for life and Godliness.  Today, nothing good has been withheld from me. Today, He is ordaining every detail of my day for my good.  Today, I don’t need to be anxious about anything because He will take care of me.

The answer to the ‘why am I single’ question is always: Because Jesus loves you.  Because this is Him giving you what you need for today.  Because this is the only way you’re going to finish this race.  Because He promised to give you what was good and best and the key to your ultimate joy – and He’s going to do that, despite your attempts to sabotage your life.

We’ll waste this suffering if we look to our ‘odds’ for hope instead of trusting in Jesus.  We’ll waste it if we think the key to our joy is taking control instead of trusting.  I know this tendency.  It produces every kind of evil in coveting and questioning: why is that girl married and not me?  What if I don’t go to this party tonight and so I stay single?  Don’t I have to put myself out there more?  If I go to the nations, how will i meet a husband?

Hear God today:

Seek first the Kingdom and everything else you need will be yours

Let those who suffer according to God’s will, entrust themselves to a faithful creator and keep doing good.

God’s mission calls.  It is the purpose of our lives.  Press on for the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Do not be distracted by details of marital status.  Do not be kept out of the fight because by fear of missing out on a date. Seek the great glory of God.

Blessings of Singleness#2: The Pain of Freedom

In Biblical Womanhood, Practical Issues, Singleness on July 10, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Okay – this may be a hard sell – but there is a unique pain in singleness in what the world affectionately calls ‘freedom’.

As a single woman, I have the ‘freedom’ to make my own decisions about where to go and what to do and there aren’t a lot of people implicated or effected by those choices.   I think this is sometimes something that others are tempted to envy about singleness: the freedom to just leave a place without any obligation; the freedom to make dreams for yourself and act them out without anyone asking you to be considered in your planning.

In my heart I believe in the rightness of binding our lives to one another in such a way that we move through this life in unison.  And there is a considerable pain in the facing the reality that tomorrow I could go anywhere or do anything without it effecting anyone on a profound degree.  I have a strong desire for my decisions to matter to someone.  I have a strange desire to spend my life making someone else’s calling become a reality.

I have these godly desires yet my decisions are seemingly made alone.  And the conflict between what I want and the perception of what I have creates pain.  It’s easy to convince myself that I have this pain because my heart wants something so biblical.

And this pain is such a huge blessing because it reveals that I’m a total idiot.

First, let me say that if singleness provides us with the opportunity to live out dreams without submitting them to anyone and make decisions without ever encountering interference, then we are not walking in the Christianity we see in Scripture.

When Paul talks about the freedom of singleness as a blessing, he’s not talking about the ability to do whatever you want whenever you want without anyone saying anything.  He’s talking about the freedom to submit every single moment to the leadership of Christ without a middle man.  He’s talking about the opportunity to go to the ends of the earth and to spend your life for the gospel and to die to self without distraction for the sake of the Father.

We will waste this pain in singleness if it doesn’t lead us to evaluate if we are truly living under the absolute kingship of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  We must ask ourselves if we are experiencing the pain of no one caring what we do because we aren’t living as if Someone cares what we do.  It may be that we are experiencing the sorrow of living out our own dreams unchecked, because we are not being obedient to the call to come and die and get new desires and new dreams that belong to our Father.

The pain we experience in this area testifies to our true desires.  If what we want is someone to care what we do, then rest assured – single and married – we have that.   But the pain reveals that we actually want something else.  It’s not that we want to be led.  We want to be led in the same tangible way our friends are led.

In 1 Samuel the Israelites go to Samuel and ask for him to go to God and ask for a King.  They explain that all the other nations have physical kings – men who go with them into battle and lead them and direct them and tell them what to do, but not the Israelites – they’re ‘stuck’ with God instead.  They don’t have a tangible representative ruling over them.

Crazy Israelites.  I am SO glad I’m nothing like them.  (sarcasm).

The Israelites aren’t foolish for wanting someone to lead them any more than we are foolish when we long to submit our destiny to someone.  The Israelites are foolish for looking around at their neighbors and thinking that what their neighbors have is better just because it’s more tangible.  News flash America: what is tangible in the here and now isn’t always better.

The pain I experience because no one cares where I go on a Friday night doesn’t exist because no one cares where I go on a Friday night.  That pain exists because the Person who cares about where I am on a Friday night isn’t as tangible as the person who cares about where my married friend is on a Friday night. I experience pain because I covet instead of trusting that my God has given me what is best.

Whatever our circumstance or stage of life we are prone to this coveting comparison that afflicted the Israelites.  Married folks are prone to covet the ‘freedom’ of singleness just as singles are prone to covet the constraints of marriage. It’s odd because the lordship of our King doesn’t shift with our stage of life.  In both we are joyfully called to lay down our lives for the reward of knowing Him.  This may play out differently but don’t be deceived: there is no such thing as a Christian whose life is their own.

If my true desire is to have my freedom constrained in love – no fear – that desire has been met and met in abundance.  But as long as my desire is to have what others have – I will never be free of this pain.  And I – like the Israelites – will live each day rejecting God as my King.

And that causes a new pain; a better pain.  I don’t want my life to testify that my King isn’t good enough.  I want my life to testify that I trust Him.  And if He brings a husband into my life, by His grace it won’t change that testimony.  I want to submit to a husband, not because I believe that the guy has any idea what he’s doing, but because I have learned through this pain in my singleness to trust my God to lead me even when I’m confused about what’s happening.  I want to trust His leadership so much that whether He leads through a donkey or a husband I will follow.

We will waste this pain if it doesn’t lead us to repentance.  Repentance is turning and trusting.  So turn and trust.  Take your gaze off your neighbors and the other nations that may have a tangible leader and fix your eyes on the author and perfecter of your faith.  Confess that you – like the Israelites – have rejected Him when you’ve questioned the manner He’s designed to lead you.  Turn back in faith that He is a better King.

In quietness and trust is your strength.  In repentance and rest is your salvation. (So says that crazy Isaiah.)