A friend of mine very recently got engaged. She’ll marry into a family, with children, and reap an abundance as God promised her many years ago. The reactions have been nothing but gracious and loving; some have proclaimed God’s goodness, others His faithfulness, and still others, His miraculous abilities. Thank God, she’s about to be married!
I’m super excited for her. I’ve shared her secret anguish, holding onto a promise for so long. Having an unfulfilled desire and having to lean into God in weak moments of despair. Biting the lip and fighting back tears while others rejoice at God’s faithfulness at the altar of matrimony. Always wearing the bridesmaid’s dress and dying inside. I’ve lived there for a long time myself.
I stood in the kitchen with my 15-year-old daughter last night, making burgers and talking about heart longings. She asked me, “Why does the church make marriage seem like the ultimate thing?” I knew exactly what she was asking, even before she poured it out for discussion: why is marriage such a big deal to the church? Why do you only get validated in the church when someone’s ringed you up? Why are people so impressed by that ultimate validation of worthiness in another’s eyes?
I’ve recently been invited to join a singles’ group online, which I swore I would never do, but suddenly, it seemed like a community of believers I wanted to be a part of. They get me. The silent despair. The loneliness. The pressing in. The feeling of isolation, and being overlooked all the time. I joined and found that most of us feel this deep pain because we have fed into the lie that marriage makes us complete. That when someone else chooses us over all others, it’s because finally, there’s something about us worth choosing.
In response to the news, many have exclaimed, “It’s such a miracle!” I know that my friend will agree that God has been working miracles in her life through all her sojourn of singleness. She gave her singleness to God and He used it to the fullest. He took her places she might never have been as a married woman and mother, and used her in the lives of many children while her heart pined to hold a child of her own making. The miracles didn’t start with this one, church!
She gave her time to God and He blessed her with His presence. She was never alone. Just saddled with a feeling of loneliness because Satan knows it’s an effective way to derail a single Christian. That woman became strong in solitude, held onto God in desperation and got to know her Savior as her Husband and Friend. She’s been strengthened to know where her help comes from, should her earthly husband fail her. She’s held the hand of Jesus in dark places and He’s brought her out.
Someone else proclaimed, “God is so good!” Hadn’t He always been good? Wasn’t He good even in the trying times? Have we learned nothing from Job? God was good to this woman despite her suffering. He was good to her despite the times she lashed out in frustration during the wait. He continually did good for her, even if it didn’t feel good at the time. She’ll agree that although the wait being over is the best feeling in the world, God has always been good to her.
We have to stop glorifying blessings, Church. We need to start glorifying God. Despite our experiences, God is good. He’s always been good. He is miraculous, working in ways we can’t even perceive. There’s a world out there that’s not experiencing only wonderful things. People are broken. They need to know that it’s ok if God is the only one who sees you or calls you worthy. We do a disservice to the lost and dying world around us if we only acknowledge the greatness of God in our blessings. Wouldn’t they love to be held in the pain? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they knew how to lean into God while they suffer? Isn’t this of great worth in our walks with God? Shouldn’t we tell them? Shouldn’t we be proclaiming God’s goodness while the world comes down around us? If we can’t worship while we suffer, we’re in a relationship with God’s hands, and not Himself. Doesn’t He deserve more of us than that?
This is my #sorrynotsorry moment: we especially have to stop glorifying marriage as the ultimate “thing” in life. Especially in ministry. God used many single people in the Bible. They were not less than and they were not used less. God has given some a ministry of marriage and others a ministry of singleness. Both are precious in His sight and He can use either situation equally effectively. The church is hurting single people, it’s true. But God is holding them. For this, we can praise Him in our suffering, thanking Him that all this pain makes us cling to Him.
Be encouraged, single friends, you are being held by the Maker of Heaven and Earth. He knows your name. He’s pressed into your heartbeat and that kind of validation trumps any eye-catching moment here on Earth.