Singleness, it's not an easy topic to write about. In some ways it's elusive, hard to grasp and put down on paper and yet it's a message which each and every one of us needs to grapple with, come to understand deep within our hearts and be at peace with. Difficult in part because I do not know you and the struggles you have or are now facing. But this I do know that there is no temptation taken me but that which is common to man so I am confidant that you have, are or will face some of these same issues at some point in your life. I humbly present to you this perspective on the singleness subject, I pray the Lord can use it to His glory.
Many of us, having been raised with the presupposition that all good Christian kids will grow up, finish school, get married and then have kids, find ourselves in a quandary. A growing majority of our young people, having come of age, are simply not getting married, and of these as well as those who do eventually marry, far too many are under considerable pressure to 'find' a spouse. Singleness is not a curse to be gotten rid of, rather it is a blessing just like marriage is a blessing. You see God calls each and every one of us to be single. He calls us to be single until that time when, in His infinite wisdom, He calls us to marriage. Our Beloved Father does not care so much if we are married or single, He does not love one group more than the other, on the contrary both are a gift from His bounty, both are to be cherished and used to the glorification of His name. Our deepest desire should be to know and stay in the center of His will.
Contentment plays a crucial role here because when we covet a position or calling in life that God does not have for us at this time we are cultivating a lifestyle of wanting what we do not have. The natural outworking for me was daydreaming which allowed an easy escape from an unwanted calling into an imaginary and coveted one. Any of you who have ever tried this exercise in discontentment will fully understand what I mean by saying, it does not and cannot lead to true joy, happiness or a deep walk with the Lord. Many of us have this preconceived idea that marriage will make us happy, in all reality this is an impossibility. If we do not learn joy and contentment in the calling where God has placed us today what makes us think that marriage will miraculously undo all those bad habits and thought patterns which have resulted in making us unhappy and even miserable. If you and I do not learn to walk with God now let us not fool ourselves into thinking that it will be easier at some later date when this or that has happened. My beloved, now is the best time to learn to walk with God, no time will ever be easier. Consider carefully the fact that when we concentrate our focus on a calling which God has not given to us, we will be unable to properly fulfill the responsibilities and assignments which God has given us in the here and now. He who is faithful in little things will also be faithful in much. Am I faithful? What about you?
There is one more area I want to look at. I believe it to be a foundational issue that influences all areas of our lives not just singleness. For me it proved to be the root cause of a lot of other side issues. If you will stop and carefully consider these questions I think you might just find, as I did, that mental assent is not enough, many of us have had this since childhood. These questions however, must go much, much deeper if we want them to change our lives. I challenge each one of us to consider carefully these questions and find the answers which are hidden deep within our own hearts, the answers our actions betray and not the ones that our lips glibly say. This makes me think of a saying I learned as a child. "Your walk talks, and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks." I discovered, much to my chagrin, that my walk and my talk said different things. Let us each consider the talk that our walk truly talks as we answer the following questions.
My purpose here is not to cause you to dwell on the 'what ifs' of life, rather it is to challenge you to discover for yourself whether or not you truly trust the Sovereign Creator who made you and owns you. I am asking you to be honest with yourself in order to discover what is true in your life. Each of us has plans, dreams and hopes for the future. What we really want to know is, do our plans agree with God's plans? Or are we hoping that His plans agree with ours? If and when He asks us to give these up are we willing and ready?
When God was dealing with me on these very issues I discovered a lot of things about myself that I had never known or at least never acknowledged in the past, a lot of things that I did not like. Upon uncovering something in our lives that we don't like I have found that the best course of action is to tackle it head on, fight it out until you find the solution and then go on with life. For far too long I ran away from my problems, denied that they existed and hid from them. This course of action does not work, neither can it! The wonderful news is that God has the answer to every single problem we will ever face and He is not afraid of our questions. I challenge each of you, take your problems, difficulties, questions and confusion to the Word of God and, leaning upon Him for guidance, seek for His answers. God has the answers to all of our problems, for all the people problems, the difficulties with self (sin nature) and attitude, all the root causes. God has the answers. Perhaps not the ones that we wanted for they're seldom easy, comfortable answers but they are the answers, they are consistent with the Word and character of God and everyone willing to take and act upon these answers will get results, growth and maturity that nothing else can produce.
As I faced this dilemma God seemed to speak to my heart and said ever so gently, "Hannah, are you willing to yield these to Me?" (Things including my future, singleness, marriage, family and all my 'don't wants'.) "If, in My infinite wisdom and plan for your life, I know that these are not really best for you, are you willing to yield these desires of yours to Me and allow Me to make the final decision? Or will you push Me away and do your own thing?"
You know if we demand our own way, like the children of Israel did, God may just give us what we covet. Are you willing to pay the price, the price of leanness of soul? I'm not. I found that although I had all the right answers in my head, deep down in my sub-conscience I had a lot of restrictions placed on God. Things upon which I didn't even know I'd put parameters. Until we deal with this issue of trust we will struggle. Do you truly honestly trust God to always do what is best for you? I grappled with these issues for months. I actually found that I believed that if I yielded these things like marriage and family over to Him that He would take them away from me and perhaps punish me with the 'dreadful' things I didn't want. You see I did not know the Father, the vital relationship that results in trust was missing and so I could not trust Him. This I say by way of encouragement to all of you who look deep enough to find similar things to be true in your own hearts. We can know the Father in such a way that we come to trust Him fully and not only yield these fears, hopes and desires to Him but yield them with joy, gladness and confidence.
The God we serve is a wonderful God, we can trust Him intimately!
Knowing God is the key issue here so lets take just a moment and define what exactly we mean by saying, ‘know God’. We could ask any Christian in this country if they ‘know God’ and the immediate answer would inevitably be ‘Why, yes, I’m a Christian.’ That is not the knowing God that we are discussing here. Consider an example, suppose I have in my possession a book written by my Great Grandfather. I can read that book and study it diligently, I can ponder the word order and try to figure out exactly what he meant and even memorize pertinent portions. If you were to then ask me ‘Hannah, do you know your Great Grandfather?’ I might answer without a moments hesitation, ‘why, yes, I’ve read and studied his book, of course I know him’. But do you know what? I would be wrong in my conclusion, absolutely wrong, because I have never met him, I have never talked with him, there is no vital, intimate relationship linking us together. The same is true with God, for although we may have been Christians for many years having read and studied His Word diligently, the possibility still exists that we may not know Him in our hearts, that vital relationship that should exist between us and God may be missing and as long as it is we will struggle with the trust issue.
My advice to each and every one of us is, seek the Lord's face earnestly till you know and trust Him for yourself. When that vital relationship exists between you and God you will find it no problem to accept with joy the gift of singleness which He lavishes upon you and whatever other gifts He entrusts to you later on in life, both joyful and painful. What He does you will always find to be good no matter what it is. Seek the Lord and I have no doubt but that you will find Him.
His yoke is easy, His burden light, His ways (God's wisdom's ways) are pleasant ways and all His paths are peace.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isa.55:8)
My parents are often asked about when the older of their children will be getting married. I have even received a few queries about girl friends. For some strange reason, other people seem more concerned about this than we are. Personally, I have a mix of feelings. The short answer is that I do not feel prepared to take on the responsibility of a family. I do not believe that God’s time is yet right.
To provide a more specific answer, I believe that the major difference in our view is our perspective on personal responsibility. As a family we take responsibility very seriously. There are several areas in particular that concern me.
1) A spouse is from the Lord. God indicates that He intends marriage to be a picture of our relationship with Him. I believe in eternal security (once saved always saved), so marriage is inviolable (Once married always married). Besides which if I were to get a divorce I would be forcibly entering the camp that Jesus describes as ‘because of the hardness of your hearts’. I want to maintain a tender conscience, not a hard heart. This brings up a quote from my Dad "better to be married to the right person for 20 years than the wrong one for 40."
2) People usually marry a spouse who is like themselves. Thus logic defines that you should strive to become at least somewhat like what you wish to marry. "If you make yourself the right person you don’t have to worry about finding the right person". I have a lot of areas in my life on which I am still working. In several of these areas I am looking for a major breakthrough that could make for a significant change in my life. The most important of these is the area of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, sometimes referred to as Lordship (who is king in your heart?) I would definitely prefer to marry after making the major changes.
3) "He who does not discipline himself will be disciplined by another". This principle has led me to make a series of decisions, largely in areas where I don’t want to be disciplined by someone else. While I still have a ways to go, by the grace of God I am making some progress. To this end I have voluntarily taken on myself several responsibilities that I have yet to fulfill. Each is based on a specific scriptural principle.
a) "If a man does not take care of his own family he is worse than an infidel." I have seen too many cases of fathers who did not take proper care of their families. As a Christian I believe that my actions and life are a direct reflection on my master. As such it behooves me to make the best use I know how of my talents. I find the scriptures very clear that as a father my responsibility before God is to my family first, and through the family comes all other ministry. I am not sure I am ready for that yet.
b) "Prepare your work, make it ready in the field, and then build your household". About five years ago I made a commitment to have five skill bases from which I could support a family. While my goal has changed, I believe this was an important stepping stone on to a bigger goal. There are some overlaps in my current skills base, most of them falling under the broad category of ‘Construction’ or ‘Computer’. Each of the items on my list are ones at which I have at least a little experience. Most of them would not qualify me for a senior position, but I could at least earn a pay-check.
c) Caring for long-term family needs. If something were to happen to me, what would happen to my wife and children? While I do trust God to take care of them, I believe God will hold me responsible for providing as well as I can. My parents have covered part of this base with insurance, however they want each of us to be ‘self-insured’ both in skill-set and in resources.
I also believe that the biblical model is for the husband to bring home the income while the wife stays home and takes care of the children. (For an interesting caveat see Prv. 31). In this day and age, that requires both frugality and reasonable pay.
So, that gives you a small picture of the goals I have set for myself before I get married. Will I reach all of them? I don’t know, but I do know I can not reach a goal I have not set. For now I am content to prepare a better foundation to support my future responsibilities. Whether those include marriage or not, I am seeking to build foundational skills that will support me in whatever God calls me to do.
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