Guest Post: If Only I Had a Spouse

Our friend Heidi has written a guest post for us this week. We’ve been blessed by it and hope you will be too.

On Monday, we’re fasting and praying for God to do a work in our generation to raise up men, sanctify women, and give the gift of marriage to those who desire it.


Have you ever had those days or maybe it was one of those weeks, months, or years when things just kept happening and your internal response was “if only I had a husband/wife this would be so much easier?” I’m walking through one of those ‘funks’ right now and it’s got me doing a lot of thinking.

We all have those seasons of life – whether we’re single, married, divorced, dating, etc. If only–fill in the blank (my kids were older, my wife hadn’t left me, I’d have a husband, etc). These seasons come about for various reasons but it’s typically during times when life has hit a rough spotor twoor three. That’s where I’ve found myself the past week or so – walking through some rough spots and finding myself saying “if only I’d have a husband this would all be different.”

Two weeks ago my check engine light came on in my car, no big deal, last time that happened it was something very minor. Oh….but this time….this time it was a big deal, it was a very expensive fix which turned into me trying to sell my car and unexpectedly going through the process of searching for a new car. It’s been a stressful and, at times, overwhelming process. I’m a single female which means looking for a new car is a very vulnerable feeling for me. I don’t know much at all about vehicles – other than if they look nice and if I like the color (oh and if my feet can reach the pedals). It brought up a lot of feelings of inadequacy inside of me. Feelings I didn’t want to face and feelings that I wish would just not exist. I found myself saying If only I had a husband I wouldn’t feel so inadequate because I wouldn’t be making this big decision all on my own and having to carry the burden of it myself.

Is that truly the case? Is the solution that I need a husband? Not at all – but I so quickly go there. Maybe my husband wouldn’t know the first thing about cars either, maybe he would be just as overwhelmed at the idea of having to look for a new car. God’s Word doesn’t say that when you lack wisdom to wait until a husband shows up at your door. His Word says that if anyone lacks wisdom we are to ask Him and He will give generously! So often, at least for me, I fail to see how God provides this in my life. I ask Him, I tell Him how inadequate I feel, and I definitely remind Him that a husband would really help this situation but I fail to see His provisions if they don’t line up with my ideal in the situation.

He provided generously for me, but did I fail to see it as I focused on my “if only I had a husband” funk? He provided a coworker who treats me like a little sister, a coworker who knows a whole lot about cars and was able to provide me with much wisdom and insight as I made this decision. He provided an amazing father in my life who was willing to go test drive cars with me so I wouldn’t feel as vulnerable. He provided exactly what I needed – and amazingly it wasn’t in the form of a husband.

The car was the most recent issue in my “if only I had a husband” funk. The past 2 years I’ve been walking through some very trying and frustrating health issues. The past 6 months have been an extremely tough journey as I was diagnosed with Lyme disease and have been very actively treating and battling the disease. If you’ve ever walked through health issues as a single person you know how quickly the “if only” concept rises in your mind and heart.

I’ve said “if only” many, many times over the past few months. If only I had a husband to come home and hold me in the strength of his arms when I feel so weak and drained. If only I had a husband who could remind me that it’s ok and we’ll get through this together. If only I had a husband who could be a soft place to fall when I feel like my world is crumbling around me and that I can’t go one more step.

God’s answer to my “if only” concerning my current health issues hasn’t been a husband – much to my disappointment. His answer has been amazing friends who check in on me to see how I’m doing and to remind me that they are praying for me, a job which allows me to be flexible with my hours so I can attend the many doctor’s appointments, a mom who is that soft place to fall when I just need to cry and whine and get out all my frustrations. God has provided me strength in my weakness by carrying me every step of every day through the physical pain, mental inabilities, emotional burden, and the many, many days of wondering when it’ll all be over and I’ll finally feel myself again.

As I’ve pondered the “if only” concept that I so quickly resort to, I’ve come to the conclusion that when I say “If only I had a husband then….” it really is a slap in God’s face. Without actually saying it, I’m saying “God, You are not enough and You are not taking care of me. You are not providing for me in the way I need provided for.” And that, my dear friends, is the farthest thing from the truth. Would all of my problems be fixed if I had a husband? Would my car not have had issues? Would I not be having to purchase a new car? Would my Lyme disease be gone? No, no, and no. A husband can’t fix or change any of these situations.

I’m not saying it still wouldn’t be nice and a blessing to have a husband, that true best friend, to walk with me through these tough times but what I am saying is that Christ IS enough. Until I recognize that and stop saying “If Only” I will not be able to get out of this funk and actually see who God is and how He is walking with me through these trials.

Let me leave you with a challenge to change our wording when we are faced with the temptation to say “If only I had a spouse.” Let’s instead say “If only I would fully trust God and recognize His provisions in my life.” Join me in changing our perspective and being ever so grateful for the many ways God provides – ways that we so often take for granted.

Lord – forgive us for assuming that a spouse will make these trials in our lives easier. You know the desire of our hearts is to be married and to do life with a spouse, You designed us that way and You created us for relationship. But, Lord, we never want that desire to become stronger than our desire for You and our dependence on You.

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Every story points to Christ

Reminder for Monday at lunch: We fast and pray for godly marriages for those who long to be married and for those who are married; for courage for men and women to walk toward marriage; and for humble, malleable hearts towards the Lord. *If possible, find a friend with whom you can pray, even if it’s outside the lunch hour.*

A few weeks ago, a friend in my Sunday school class shared how he and his wife have been reading a children’s storybook Bible to their daughter each night before bed. He said what he loves about this Bible is that it’s written in a simplistic way that shows how every story in the Scriptures points to Christ.

Every story points to Christ.

I can’t get that truth out of my head. It makes me excited, helps me re-focus my outlook on life and this fallen world, and renews my hope.

I’m reminded of Romans 1:21 that says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (NIV).

Yes, every story in the Old and New Testaments points to the coming of the Messiah (either His time here on earth or when He returns to set up His forever-kingdom), and so does every facet of creation – the way our universe is held together (Colossians 1:15-17); the body, soul, and spirit that comprises each human (Genesis 1:27); the institutions of government, marriage, family, and friendship; and the struggle between good and evil we see played out every day within ourselves and so clearly in current events.

Your story points to Christ.

Whether single or married, the story of your life points to His redemptive work and unfathomable love for you. As a believer, you are His bride, destined to be His and with Him for eternity. You are His adopted child, a full heir of His kingdom and glory.  This sense of longing for something more is a picture of all creation earnestly, expectantly waiting for Him to break the effects of the curse once and for all (Romans 8:22-24; Genesis 3:14-19) and restore the broken relationship with Him.

Think about all the biblical characters (Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David – to name a few!) whose lives took crazy twists and turns only to prove even more powerfully that God was in control and that Jesus was Who He said He was. I know it’s as hard to relate to someone who lived thousands of years ago, especially when the “why’s” of their hardships have been made evident, but has God changed in His ability to make Himself known in and through the lives of His children?

Won’t you join me this week in reflecting on how your story points to Christ? What are the areas of your life that aren’t boldly revealing Him to the world as they should? Where can you look back and see His hand of protection or provision on your life? Do you believe and proclaim that He is good?

Blessings,

Emily

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Happy Easter!

We at FastPray hope you are having a blessed Easter, and we will be taking a break from our normal routine of fasting tomorrow.

Our Savior lives and we have everlasting hope because death has been defeated.

Love from your FP Team.

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What’s in your trashcan?

On Mondays, we fast and pray for the Lord to do a work in our generation: for Him to move mountains, raise up men to walk into relationships, soften women to allow God to work in our hearts, and to bring the gift of marriage for those who desire it.

I have not found a way to prepare for the randomness that fills my life. Although, I realize it’s the random that makes life interesting, provides for great stories, and keeps me trusting that God’s plans are way higher than mine; I’d still appreciate a heads-up sometimes.

On Wednesday, my sister stopped by to pick me up to go shopping for wedding stuff. Have I mentioned that my sister, who is 16 ½ years younger than me is getting married this summer? I’m the oldest member of the bridal party and the only one eligible for the title of Maid of Honor, but I digress. So before we head off to our shopping destinations, I rope my sister into helping me with a four-arm house project. We finish up the project in a matter of minutes, clean up and make our way to the back of the house with the trash. My sister gets to the trashcan first to discover it filled 1/3 of the way with water from the snow melt and rain. As she begins to tilt the trashcan to empty the water, I spy something unusual floating near the top. It had ears and fur! I gasped and ran as my heart raced! A squirrel drowned in my trashcan! Could you imagine the horror this story could have risen to if I had performed my usual nighttime take-out-the-trash routine?

On Saturday, my other sister was experiencing Braxton Hicks, as she is due with child #4 any day now. So in case it developed into anything more serious, I volunteered to take her 3 children for the night (all under the age of 4). The remainder of my weekend was spent asking kids if they needed to go to the bathroom, solving the problem of sharing, being drooled on by a precious 2 year old, and jumping on a trampoline with all 6 of my nephews and my niece. I’m just glad there wasn’t another heart-racing discovery of the expired animal variety over the weekend!

I was doing my Beth Moore study earlier in the week, and she was talking about our God-given ministry, basically the reason why God left us on this earth sucking air. As I reflected on what my God-given ministry has looked like in years past and what this looks like now, I realized somewhere in the background of my mind was playing this thought “when you’re married and have children, then your real ministry will begin.” When did that thought cement itself in my head? What in my world has reinforced the thought that my God-given purpose doesn’t begin until I’m married and have children? How does this mindset effect how I view my contributions now to God’s divine purpose for my life?

The truth is, our circumstances in life have NOTHING to do with our God-given purpose. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God has prepared things for us to do. So it doesn’t matter if we are sick, car-less, physically fit, or have a diversified investment portfolio; God has good works for us to perform in spite of our circumstances.

If we remember, Jesus summarized the commandments into two: Love the Lord with all of your heart and Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30 – 31). Our God-given purpose has everything to do with how well we LOVE God and others.

The squirrel I discovered on Wednesday was only concerned with his own survival, he had no other purpose. He fell or jumped unknowingly into a deathtrap of water and was unable to tread water long enough to survive until help came. Morbid thought, I know. However, can’t the same thing happen to us when we become so engrossed in our own survival and pursuits? We can get caught drowning in a sea of pressure, responsibility, and bitterness. God is calling us to come follow Him, and live life differently… like “jump out of the boat and walk on water” kind of different.

Slap me across the face with a dead squirrel, but isn’t it slightly ironic that my one sister is planning a wedding and my other sister is having a baby, all while I’m working through my own thoughts about my purpose despite not having those things? I smell an awesome opportunity to Love God and Love and serve my sisters, because “’not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6).

And in the closing words of Beth Moore (from Children of the Day, page 145):

Whatever area of service you are called to fulfill, if it is fueled by fiery love for Jesus Christ, you’ll be effervescent in the Spirit and effective. If you love Him with your whole heart and that heart bursts to sell everything and move to China, Girl, get your passport!

Who would you be if you loved Jesus with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength? That’s what you’re meant to look like.

Let that person follow Him, and He will make you a fisher of men.

In His Strength,
Michelle

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Fear, Family and Following Jesus

On Mondays, we fast and pray over lunch for men and women to be shaped by God to more fully show His unique image, and for marriages to those who desire them.

Last weekend, I had a zillion family events: my brother and (new) sister-in-law’s wedding, multiple big dinners with the extended family and another brother preaching at my parents’ home church on the wedding weekend.

Going into the weekend, I was convinced of a lot of scary things. Anxious that I’d get lost in the shuffle. Terrified that my mix of emotions would erupt at the most inconvenient time. Afraid that I’d be so consumed with my own emotional stability that I’d only think about myself and act weird around everyone else. Sure that my family feels awkward about my inexplicable life. Convinced that I have to be insistently loud in order to be heard by people who just don’t get it when it comes to unsought singleness. Scared that no one really sees me an adult but as someone stuck repeating age 26 until I finally get married, and everyone can exhale. (For the record, none of these scary things happened. My family was so wonderfully loving. And no one made any unfunny jokes about me being the last one standing. #miracle).

I know those fears are mostly rooted in lies, but sometimes they feel really true. In this mix, I did realize that I had a lot of emotional distress about trying to ensure that I still have my family’s deep approval of me personally as an unmarried adult child, and more broadly, of unsought celibate singleness as an equally valid and equally adult path for believers.  During this mess of emotions and fears, I was reading in the early part of Mark’s gospel when Jesus calls the first disciples (Mark 1:16-20):

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

I never noticed the last phrase but it stopped me in my tracks as I realized what it said… James and John basically walked out of the family business when Jesus called them. And their father was still standing there with the other employees. Wow, how did I miss this before?  A few random thoughts…

  • Trust and obey: When the voice of Jesus comes, we are called to leave what we’re doing and who we’re with and simply follow.

  • I’m part of my family, but they are not my primary identity. Wanting my family to deeply see and affirm me isn’t wrong, but they aren’t my primary audience or the source of my worth. My emotional distress probably points to deeper issues in my heart than about my family itself.
  • I often think of “leave and cleave” as a marriage-centric lesson with the implicit assumption that I don’t have to exercise that skill right now. Yet perhaps, as passage reminded me, I need to start learning that lesson now with Jesus. Leaving parents and parental approval is harder for some, but as believers and the bride of Christ, we’re all called into a foundational, primary relationship with Jesus above all human relationships.
  • Family, Jesus-Style: Jesus himself echoes this idea when He dismantles the traditional conception of family at the end of Mark 3. He doesn’t actually destroy the concept of family, but instead exponentially expands the idea of family into a gloriously crazy clan where the common tie is not biology but those who do God’s will (implying relationship with the Father). And that, I think, is a comfort to those of us who aren’t raising biological families. It’s also a challenge to love and be loved by this crazy new kind of family called the church.

What a scary, crazy adventure! And what a privilege to do it with the family that He’s given us through His body, the church. May each of us be encouraged this week to cleave more closely to Jesus and to follow His loving voice into the adventures ahead.

In His Grace,

Amy

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Coffee with Todd Wagner

On Mondays, we fast and pray for the Lord to do a work in our generation: for Him to move mountains, raise up men to walk into relationships, soften women to allow God to work in our hearts, and to bring the gift of marriage for those who desire it.

In May of last year, I sat down and had an imaginary coffee with South Carolina pastor, Perry Noble. Quite a few of you chimed in on the conversation that we were having about how many times pastors completely miss the mark when giving advice to single people and say things that are not only not helpful– but destructive. One of the reasons that I fast, pray, and write with this community is that I do not want damaging proclamations whispered into the ears of singles to go unanswered.

Todd Wagner, a married pastor of a large church in Texas, wrote an article called “Why Am I Still Single? 7 Things To Consider If You’re Single And Don’t Want To Be.” This little treasure trove was shared on my Facebook feed this week, and I was almost too terrified to look and see what he wrote. Five of his six points are solid. He writes that singles should know it’s ok to long to be married, to long for a different life circumstance, and that people should (rightly) not expect that we will ever experience life on earth without some unmet desire. We’ve even said similar things here. He even concludes with sympathy and admiration for singles who can’t really find an answer for the big WHY.

Pastor Todd’s advice goes off into wonky territory when he starts to discuss that you might be single because you don’t know yourself, you might be awkward, you haven’t dealt with enough of your stuff, and because God might be being gracious to others by keeping you single. If I was to sit down at Starbucks with Mr. Wagner, this conversation is probably what would take place.


Pastor Todd: Do you know…I mean really know yourself? Are you needy? (that scares everyone) Are you awkward? (that is just awkward) Have you dealt with your hurts, habits, hang-ups? Any relationship is only as healthy as the least healthy person in it.

Anna: I feel like this is fundamentally an unfair question to ask. Most married couples I know definitely did not deal with all of their hurts, habits, and hang-ups before they got married. Most people just meet someone they like, fall in love, and get married. There’s not usually an in-depth psychoanalysis.

When many people marry on the young-side of twenty don’t know themselves terribly well and probably have some pretty bad habits. They’ve had their first jobs and adult experiences, but they’re basically still figuring life out. Your question, although well-meaning, presupposes that to get married, you have to “know yourself” and that you can even know yourself enough for it to make a difference. Most humans in history got married so young they couldn’t possibly have known themselves or dealt with their hang-ups. Yes, if you are a complete nose-picking, jerk who burps in people’s faces, kicks puppies, and never showers, you might be single for fairly obvious reason. But, most of the time, it’s not that obvious.

Pastor Todd: Some people are single and God’s grace is sufficient for them. Some people are single because God is gracious to others. Know which one you are.

Anna: I’m pretty sure that is heretical. God’s grace is sufficient for His people whether or not we feel like it and whether or not we are married. Simply because God’s grace is enough doesn’t mean that singles don’t still desire to get married. Paul said pretty clearly that God’s grace is made perfect in weakness. Sometimes, God grace is the most visible to the singles who are keenly aware of just how broken they are.

If you’re single, regardless of your hang-ups, God is gracious to you. You’re not single because you’re being quarantined. Jesus doesn’t look at you and say, “Oh my gosh, this one is lethal. Gotta keep her from contaminating the holiness stew.” As I’ve said before, marriage and singleness (whether for a season or for life) are both vocational callings. God is working in and through your singleness–even when it’s lonely, and singles, no matter what their issue, aren’t being kept unmarried to be gracious to other people.

Sanctification does not work like that. Unrepentant sin brings consequences into our lives, but that consequence is never God being gracious to others at your expense. Grace is not a zero-sum game. Grace, by its very definition, is for those who do not deserve it: the broken, helpless, needy, gross, and unlovely.


I don’t know how exactly that coffee would end. I hope that Pastor Todd would hear me out. Many on a long road of singleness are keenly aware of their shortcomings and often blame themselves for being too much or never enough to get married. Be comforted that God doesn’t give the good gift of marriage to only those that deserve it. If that was the case, no one would ever get married.

Singles and marrieds should be “[r]adically, relentlessly, daily, biblically deal with our pain, insecurity, anger, hopelessness and neediness” as Pastor Todd says, but not for the hope of being taken out of the sick bay or the B team. We should be pursuing wholeness and holiness for God’s glory and our good.

Praying with and for you,
Anna

 

 

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Guest Post: Joy through Pain

On Mondays, we fast and pray for lunch (or longer) asking for the Lord to soften our hearts as women, embolden men to walk to into relationships, and give the gift of marriages to those who desire it. 

Today, we have the privilege of a guest post and testimony of God’s grace from Christy, an amazing woman and musician. Her story of God’s severe but necessary mercy is convicting and encouraging. I hope that you are blessed by it as much as we have been.

The FastPray Team


Joy through Pain 

Hello, my old heart, how have you been?
How is it being locked away?
Don’t you worry. In there you’re safe.
And it’s true, you’ll never beat, but you’ll never break.
               –The Oh Hello’s, “Hello My Old Heart”

Four years ago, if you had asked me to describe myself, I would have used words like, “independent, secure, content, self-sufficient.” I was successful in my career and hobbies, my immediate family lived nearby, I had a beautiful church community and a number of wonderful friends, and I was thoroughly enjoying my independence. I was satisfied with the state of my relationship with God, and I figured I didn’t need much more to be content in life.

Sadly, what was hiding behind that wall of independence and self-sufficiency was the heart of a girl who had never healed from years of darkness and hardship without a safe place to stand. That wall was the only way she knew to survive rejection, pain, and heartache. How do you avoid being let down by anyone? You need no one.

God in his severe mercy allowed that wall of self-protection fall to pieces. In four years, my parents separated and divorced, I became very sick with chronic Lyme Disease and went into significant debt with medical bills, my two sisters and their families moved out of state, and my boss told me that my job was being eliminated in a matter of months due to budget constraints.

I wish I could tell you that my immediate response to each of these trials was to run to the Lord, lay my burdens at his feet, and allow his beautiful promises to speak comfort to my aching soul. Unfortunately, I had so trained myself to be fine on my own, that my immediate reaction was to simply endure the hardships and manage to get by on my own two feet.

The problem became quickly evident: I had nothing to stand on. My relationship with God was mostly an intellectual assent to his existence, his holiness, and power. It certainly wasn’t an intimate, personal relationship with a recklessly loving King who was willing to leave perfection and glory to stand on filthy ground and die the death I deserved–all to prove his saving, steadfast, perfect love.

As life was falling apart, I met a man. (I’ll call him Andy.) I was so desperate for an escape from the pain of my circumstances that I dove blindly into a relationship with him. I ignored the warning signs that Andy was a very broken, angry, hungry man willing to take advantage of my loneliness to satisfy his own longings and pain. Over four months, he methodically pushed my boundaries, and I began to justify things that were questionable but covered up with “Christian” language. I closed my heart off to the truth in pursuit of this immediate relief from pain. However, as St. Augustine said,

The closed heart does not bar Thy sight into it,
Nor does the hardness of our heart hold back Thy hands,
For Thou canst soften it at will.
                   –The Confessions, Book V

Thankfully, God did not hold back his hands from my heart. My relationship with Andy did not end with me having been seen, known, or loved at all. Instead it ended with me having been used and tossed aside and left to carry the shame of the choices I made. I went through a period of serious depression and anger. How could God allow a man like Andy to come along and mess with my heart right at the time when I was at my lowest physically, emotionally, and spiritually?

As many angry prayers were sent up to heaven, something happened in my heart.  I discovered that my anger was a mask for a profound thirst.  That God-given longing for intimacy – to be seen and known and fully accepted – was chipping away at my desire to stay protected and safe from rejection. I found my prayers changing from, “Why did you let this happen to me? You don’t care about me at all, do you? Are you even there?” to what the Psalmist writes in Psalm 63:1:

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,
As in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

In the end, this season brought me God’s merciful destruction of a deadly idol.  When I stood in the rubble of my desire to be secure in my independence and self-sufficiency, I was able to see a kingdom that was infinitely more beautiful than the world behind the wall a little girl had created long ago to keep her heart safe.  Later in Psalm 63, David says, “For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” This beautiful imagery developed into a song I wrote, which summarizes part of the heart-healing truth I learned through the journey of the past four years:

I try to fade in an ocean of the pain,
But your hold remains, you won’t let me run away.
As the darkness falls and the silence calls,
You tear my tower down, and give to me a crown.

Climbing the sky into endless burning light,
With your face in sight I run into the fight.
When the lies were choking me,
You taught me to sing in the shadow of your wings.

Life hasn’t exactly become easier since the years described above. My health, family, and finances continue to present challenges, and I’ve been through another painful heartbreak. However, the priceless gift that those four years gave me was freedom the belief that independence and self-sufficiency were where I would find safety and contentment. God replaced that belief with a yearning for his presence, a longing for the intimate love he alone can give, and the freedom that comes only from depending on him. Now when pain comes along, I don’t have to shut my heart off to survive. I lay it in his hands and sing these words:

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I dare not close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
–George Matheson

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