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August 07, 2006

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Kristy

As another single, my heart goes out to this woman. :( I pray that she won't give in and that God will give her a renewed strength and energy to keep running the race...

manet

I love what CJ Mahaney said (when Josh quoted him in his book, Boy Meets Girl), Your greatest need is not a spouse. Your greatest need is to be saved from the wrath of God.

It may be difficult but yes, God's grace is sufficient for us to overcome any trial!

Rebekah

One useful strategy I think is to focus away from oneself and your immediate feelings to the opportunity that singleness is to serve God.

I find it encouraging to read biographies of people like Corrie ten Boom and other single women who have given their lives to serve God. Another book is Not Less Than Everything by Valerie Griffths about three missionaries in China Eva and Francesca French and Mildred Cable in the 1930-40s and all that they were able to do for God. Another book that springs to mind is "God is good for women" by Michelle Guniness and she writes about contemporary Christian women (mostly singles again) in the workplace and the opportunity they have for witness.
These books have been an encouragement and have taken my eyes off of myself. It is not that the desire to get married goes away but ultimately marriage will not meet my deepest needs only God can do that.

Kyle

Being a single guy that's encouraging to hear too! Especially when I begin to see my friends getting married. I'm tempted to think that marriage is ultimately what I should be pursuing instead seeking to please the savior regardless of my marital status.

Janice

Great post but I'm left wondering that while this is objectively true and yes, God's grace is sufficient, what about some practical, "rubber-meets-the-road" encouragement/tips/advice for what to do when the feelings of loneliness overwhelm even the most cross-centered soul?

daniel

I completely understand where the letter writer is coming from. I'm single at age 40 and the temptation to jump into a relationship can be overwhelming.

Sometimes it can feel as though we are all like the Shakers. It seems no thoughts of romantic love are acceptable. Our basic human needs to be loved and have companionship with the opposite sex are often negated with "Satan is on the prowl to devour you for wanting romantic love, for thinking of physical love".

Sometimes I wonder if the Lord really does want his people to spend empty and lonely lives of celebacy and bitterness. God did make us human beings and knows our limitations and the longing of our hearts. Of course we are lifted up daily in our relationship with the Lord, but I don't think we are "in sin" for wanting what we are created to want.

I was married for fifteen years, and while I ended up divorced, I would never replace the happy years of that marriage with solitude and sadness. Some of us aren't made for being alone.

I'm still looking to meet a good Christian woman and I wouldn't hesitate to ask her to marry me and make her every day happy. I think this is God's plan, but He does expect us to take some initiative, not just wait in fear and longing.

Sarah

To quote a dear friend...
"This week God has given me 2 Cor 12:9, "And He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, that the power of Christ may dwell in me". There are specific desires that I have and I am weak when it comes to submitting them to Jesus, but how much more will I one day see Jesus' power because I am fully aware that I CAN NOT submit these desires on my own. So I therefore boast in my weakness by saying, "Jesus, I'm so weak that I'm falling on my knees right where I'm at, PLEASE, meet me here and take these desires and lay them at Your feet where they belong!"


Tabitha

Wow. I greatly admire this woman's conviction to hold on to that which is sacred and Holy.

I wondered if she could minister somehow to teens? She is a living testimony.

Carolyn McCulley

Daniel,

Wanting a spouse is different from wanting to sin. I empathize with the desire for a spouse. I pray that you, as a man, will take the appropriate initiative and find a wife. I pray that my sisters in the Lord will be proactive in prayer, service to the church, and encouragement of the men around them in order to have a reputation like Ruth's.

But this letter was about when the good desire becomes a controlling idol, and tempts one to sin in either fornication or knowing violation of the command to marry only in the Lord. That's what I'm addressing here. And they are two very different things.

Thanks for the chance to clarify!

daniel

Thanks for responding. I have difficulty knowing when a natural desire becomes an idol. You did clarify that point for me.

I'm still struggling with the reality that for many single Christians, we have very rigid parameters for our interactions with the opposite sex. It can be especially difficult for those of us with a naturally strong sex drive and a persistent desire to have romantic love in our lives.

I do have patience, and I'm happy everyday knowing the Lord is with me. I have literally felt as though I have been "carried" over difficult times in my life, so I'm nowhere close to having a crisis of faith, but I do feel we all have a basically romantic heart - and it is a lot less patient than we are.

Leigh

Reading this letter almost made me cry. I have felt the same way at times. We have to ask God for deliverance from those feelings and to recognize that it is Satan trying to influence us in our weakness. I will be praying for her. Please stay strong, don't give up, and rely of the Father.

Chris

Thanks to all for your thoughtful comments, biblical exhortations, and humble honesty. Trying to digest it all :-) As a single woman on the brink of turning 30, I am looking back on my years as a single 20-something (and all the struggles/temptations/opportunities therein). I am also as looking ahead to what the future may hold ... whether single or married. In this current season, I feel the pain of loneliness much more acutely than I did when I was in my early 20s. I know my struggle is not unique or even comparable to what others have had to bear ... but it can be seem unbearable if/when I do not have a support network. Carolyn's comment that we need fellowship is logical, biblical, and true. When it's there (and there have been seasons when I've been immersed in biblical fellowship and rich friendships) it's a wonderful gift and means of grace. But when there is litte/no companionship coupled with great sorrow (isolation due to relocation, sickness/death of multiple friends and family members, and countless other reasons) which last for years at a time, it doesn't seem like enough to say that biblical fellowship is the answer. Although true and necessary to say, what happens when we cannot find fellowship? I am not trying to justify self-pity or preoccupation with self. However, in the day-to-day, if heartache is compounded by heartache, and if isolation from fellowship is an issue with no immediate remedy, how are we to address the need for companionship and desire for intimacy? And how are we to resist the temptation to cling to unbiblical relationships if we are in a spiritually and/or emotionally vulnerable position?

Terry Shepherd

I can relate. I made a move for a job several years ago. I hadn't given much thought to being all alone untill then. For the last several years I have not been able to control my emotions. I can't stop crying. I woke up, 50 and alone. I feel stupid. I can admire Carolyn for being able to do what she does. It's hard to see the happy families and couples at church. It's hard to eat alone every meal. I teach school so I am with children all day, but they are someone elses. I have been relegated to second class status. My mind knows all the Biblical answers, but I still get the left-overs.
I don't know how much longer I can take it either. If God knows I'm not good enough for a Christian man, to be wife or mother, it is tempting to give in to the unacceptable a non-Christian. What would be the point? No spiritual intimacy there. I am both embarrased and ashamed to sit in church alone. At 50 you can't hide you're not wanted or good enough. I will continue to hang on, but I don't look forward to 30 more years of second-class status. I will NOT give in and accept anything less than the best, no matter how tempting. It's hard to believe this is the plan God has for me, unloved all my life. I'm glad this is not all there is. Don't give in, eternity awaits.

Jay

Hi

I was deeply touched by some of the comments that emanated from the letter sent in by a very brave and openly honest young lady.

I can identify with all the responses to the letter written, particularly the lady at 50. I am a born again single Christian lady and will be 50 later this year. Yes it has not been easy as I am one of 5 siblings 4 sisters and 1 brother. All are married except my brother who has recently divorced. It is a battle at times, but because of very good and faithful family members, (particularly the recently born-again ones)and Christian friends, I have managed to soldier on. It is not easy, but we must remain focused and appreciate all the wonderful things we can do for God's kingdom whilst we are single.

I will never give up hope and as I live I will still be praying and trusting God for a Christian husband, but as I look at the words on the placard just beneath my mantlepiece - Jeremiah 29 vs 11. 'For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future...' The main thread or essence that runs through this great passage from His Word is that GOD HAS GREAT PLANS FOR ALL OUR LIVES AND HE HAS ONLY OUR BEST INTEREST AT HEART. May God bless you all your endeavours and keep trusting Him.

Jay

Philippa

Terry, my heart goes out to you and to everyone else who has posted in this thread ... and to the original letter-writer.

I've been right where she is. When I was 27 (I'm 44 now), I said to the Lord, "I've been a good girl all these years, but really, You have to be kidding me. I can't still be a virgin at my age. It's ridiculous. Yes, I know what Your Word says. But I want to have sex, and right now I don't care what You think about it."

Yes, I know. Woah.

Later on that summer, I nearly fell into sexual sin. (Hardly surprising, given my defiant attitude). Thankfully, I didn't. I can't tell you how glad I am that I didn't. It was a wakeup call. I repented of my folly, and got my Christian life back on track.

If God knows I'm not good enough for a Christian man, to be wife or mother, it is tempting to give in to the unacceptable a non-Christian.

Ah, dear Terry, that's the voice of the accuser. Don't give him an inch. Because you are infinitely precious in God's eyes.

Marriage is a great blessing, but it's not a prize for the spiritually mature. And singlehood is not Plan B for the Christian life, however much we struggle with our natural human desires.

Unwanted singleness, however, does seem to me to be part of the larger problem of suffering. I believe that God is good and loving, and that in all things He works for our good and His glory. Even in our suffering. I have no idea how. But He does, and He will.

Of course we all want to be loved, deeply. We were made for companionship.

May God fulfil the desires of our hearts, brothers and sisters ... however He chooses.

Carrie

Heartbreaking and sobering. This could be me in a few short years.

Where has the Church gone wrong? Instead of an Acts 2-like community that truly cares for one another's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, we have become a building that houses a bunch of impersonal programs. VBS, youth groups, care meals for new parents, missions trips, Christmas shoeboxes for Third World children, singles groups... all of these are good things. But we are losing out on the better thing, the true knowing of God and of one another.

The enemy of our souls laughs and rejoices at this state of affairs.

Grace

Dear fellow travelers,
As a late 30s single, I find the struggles you're sharing here poignantly resonate with many of the golden joys and dark sorrows I've experienced along my own journey. Being called to be Christ's is not easy. It's hard, heart-rending, heart-shredding sometimes.

But one practical help I have found when I feel overwhelmed with that piercing emptiness, that loneliness, is to ask the question with the Psalmist, "How long, O God?" The key is to go to the One who holds the key to our loneliness, to our future. He's the only One who knows what lies ahead, who knows what we are made of, and who can take us through it.

Remember that our Bridegroom has chosen us, called us, and given us an eternal, unbreakable commitment, more solid and sure than any promise any earthly man could make to us. He _chose_ us to be His representatives on earth for a brief handspan of time, but IS NOW and WILL for ETERNITY be cherishing us more deeply and completely than anyone else ever could.

"How long, O God?" Just for this brief life. That's how long married folks have to mirror Christ's relationshi p with His bride in their marriage relationship. That's how long any of us have to suffer sorrow, pain, and loss. That's how long we have to enjoy the gifts, the blessings, the freedoms, the other ways of looking at life, and the unique ways of serving the rest of Christ's bride that He has given us. Just one life is how long we have as singles to reflect Christ's redemptive power and incredible love and provision. We won't always FEEL or SEE His provision. But those God has providentially put alongside us on earth may only see Him as we honor or dishonor Him with our attitudes this side of eternity.

Please know that you're not alone and that Christ can redeem your/our loneliness, emptiness, and pain. May we bear witness together in the future of how He has brought great fruitfulness out of what seemed to us utter barrenness. Trust Him. Go forward and onward! Look to the wonderful home and the wedding feast He is preparing for you, know that you ARE greatly beloved.

And, who knows? "How long" could be "in the blink of an eye... " See you there!

Missy

I am right now listening to the song "I Will Glory in My Redeemer." It puts things in such wonderul perspective to listen to the words "His face forever to behold." Because, when you think about it, none of the loneliness, heartache or despair will really matter in 10,000 years when we are in sweet communion with Christ. The hard part is here and now, on this sin-infested earth we call home, when subjective "feelings" seem to take control. When this happens, what has always helped is objectively looking at my cirumstances through the lenses of eternity. Will I be in despair? Will I be lonely? Will I be in heartache? Absolutely not! I will be beholding my Savior!

Stacey

Two great quotes I have posted in my office give me great encouragement.
Regarding lonliness, "Fill up the emptiness fo your heart with love for God and your neighbors." by Edith Stein, a concentration camp survivor. And "contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have", author unknown.

Jennifer

Marriage is a great blessing, but it's not a prize for the spiritually mature. And singlehood is not Plan B for the Christian life, however much we struggle with our natural human desires.
Awesome, awesome statement!!!! I need to tattoo it on my arm or something. :)

I too feel the letter writer's pain. Sometimes all the platitudes fall short and you just want to give up. And the pity of many marrieds makes it *so much worse.*

Deanna Holmes

Offering well-meaning platitudes to someone who is suffering from protracted singleness is really like putting an Elastoplast over a gaping wound. It may temporarily halt the bleeding in one area but other than that, it just won't work!
Could it be that unless we are in the small minority of people that have been gifted with celibacy, then it is actually in our make-up to be married? After all, God's first command to mankind was to "go forth and multiply". Trying to fight God's mandate is bound to make us unhappy. Maybe instead of struggling to achieve some kind of contentment, perhaps we should be examining why we have so much chronic singleness in the body of Christ. Let's look again at 1 Corinthians 7:7 and ask ourselves if Paul is really talking about a gift of singleness, or could it be - as it has always been interpreted in previous generations - a rare gift of celibacy? Are there cultural factors that have slipped into the church that are causing this widespread singleness? Are men being taught in our churches to actively seek and pursue a wife - and in a timely manner? By simply saying that it must be "God's will" that we are single, are we neglecting to examine how our own collective actions may be causing protracted singleness? Let's be bold and ask ourselves whether marriage and singleness really are regarded as both equal gifts in the Bible. And if we decide that they are not, then let's look at how we can return to the Biblical blueprint for our lives - not strive to achieve contentment in a state that is actually not God's will at all.

Deanna Holmes

Just another quick thought that I neglected to include previously!

The Biblical solution to the problem outlined in the first letter that started this thread is actually not a list of platitudes. It is...guess what...to get married!
So what we really should be doing is helping this lovely lady - and all the other like her - to get married. Let's address that and examine the causes of protracted singleness, not try to clog up our spouse-shaped holes with platitudes that really don't work anyway. Paul knew it didn't work for the Corinthians, even when they were facing famine and persecution. It is hardly going to work now.

Brian Winkler

Hey, Carolyn! Thanks for this article. Such a good reminder. And I can relate. Thanks. Oh, and Sorry we never met at NA06! Maybe soon somewhere! Hope you are very well!

Philippa

Deanna,

The thing is ... some of us have been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

And we are STILL unmarried.

There's nothing wrong with exhorting Christian men to go in pursuit of a wife. But some men suffer repeated rejections, and never seem to meet the love of their life. Where, then, is the pastoral care for them?

And some Christian women, no matter how attractive, mature and godly they are, just never seem to meet that special someone either. Where, then, is the pastoral care for them?

I press on, hoping one day to meet the love of my life.

Meanwhile, there's nothing stopping me from taking hold of my inheritance, the abundant life that Jesus promised me.

Grace and peace to you. :)

barb

I undertand all too well what the author of this letter is feeling. I've voiced those same issues on many occasions - to friends, pastor and most often to God.

I've hesitated in responding to the posts, as I want to be very clear in my statements.

One person said "the Biblical solution is to get married". WRONG. The Biblical response is to be content in all circumstances. Remember that Jesus was single and therefore had all the same feelings and desires that we do...lonliness and even sexual attraction. But in it all He remained pure and honorable and OBEDIENT TO GOD'S WILL. God's will for you (and me) at this time is (apparently) to be single.

One issue I did not see addressed is the rebellion the author is expressing in the statement "I am not sure that I can continue any longer being alone. I guess whatever man comes my way will be the one I will link myself to, Christian or non-Christian, even if his intentions with me are far from holy. I will just go ahead and, well, God will punish me. I have come to a point where I just can not bear it any more." (Note that the only reason I recognize this as rebellion is because I see it every time I look in the mirror).

You need to confess and repent of this sin. And if you're anything like me you'll wind up doing it multiple times. Many multiples of many times, in fact.

But our God is amazing. He gave us a means for forgiveness in the generous gift of His Son, Jesus. And not utilizing this gift is downright stupid, and an insult to Him. Jesus died for all our sins...the "big" ones, the "little" ones, and all the ones in between.

So many articles and books have been written about techniques for accepting singleness or "catching a man". Forget them all and go with the simplest of "techniques" - prayer, confession and repentence. God may or may not give you a husband. But He WILL change your heart, no matter what, when you employ these "techniques".

With Christ's love...

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