Discouragement & Things Made New

Reminder: We fast on Mondays at lunch (or longer) to ask that God would raise up godly, courageous men to move toward relationship, that He would show us where we need to change, and that He would grant marriages to those who desire them.

Some friends and I have an informal prayer group around singleness which has been a great source of encouragement to all of us.  Seriously, everyone needs a place to say: “At Thanksgiving, my mom said the thing she was most thankful for was her kids’ spouses.  I’m the only one not married.”  Everyone realizes that would feel bad, but only a room of single women can viscerally understand.

In any case, we’ve recently lost a bit of steam, and I asked my friend why she thought we had lost that energy.  Her answer was brutally honest: I hate to say it, but I think I’ve lost some of the urgency because I feel discouraged. I just don’t see God answering prayer in this area. I just hear silence.

Bingo.  I couldn’t agree more.  I just got tired of banging my head against the reality that I can’t see what God is doing here, and I’m so frequently faithless in believing that He’s doing anything.  I just see ever larger potholes of fear, resentment, selfishness and jealousy in my sinful heart.  I see other people’s fabulous, life-altering romantic relationship go from zero to engaged in the space it takes me to get one (mediocre) match.com date or get marginally less distracted by the ex sitting in the next row at church or restrain myself from packing all my stuff in boxes four months before my roommates’ wedding.  Small wins, people.  Small wins.

And each passing milestone (the end of grad school, another birthday, oh-look-my-childhood-best-friend-has-two-kids) underscores the panicky feeling in my stomach that somehow this whole praying for a husband thing is going to require an actual miracle, because statistics and time and the current dating pool aren’t getting more encouraging.

It’s easy to be discouraged when those sorts of things are filling my head.  It starts to look so absurd: why am I still telling God about desires that might not be met soon?  Or ever? There is a deep lie that my story is off track and that God’s not listening.

But it’s not true.  It’s simply not true at all.

First, yes, my story is going to be different.  It just is and I’m accepting that fact.  Is this the story I imagined for myself?  Uh, not exactly.  But it is my story and I believe God is intimately, clearly involved in its daily details.  My story, including singleness, is not because I got the leftovers of God’s goodness.  My story is because of God’s goodness, sovereignty and love.  I can pray so much more boldly in that context.

Secondly, I’m going to remind myself that discouragement is human and is not limited by marital status.  And I’m going to remember more often that our God is not limited by our humanity or our marital status or our atrociously sinful hearts or statistics or the timetable on which it often seems everyone else’s life operates.  He sees our hearts, knows our rawest pain, hears our unspoken prayers.  And because He loves us, we can come – even with our discouragement – and pray boldly.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  (Revelation 21:5) 

Praying with you – to see all things made new,

Amy

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51 Responses to Discouragement & Things Made New

  1. Joanne says:

    Amy, thanks for your very (very) honest words. You have given voice to what so many of us feel. I relate to those lies that faith and prayer in this area are ridiculous exercises. I think Abraham heard those lies, and Hannah, and David…so many Bible people. Whatever God has for us, it is good.

    While it is encouraging on some level to realize that there is a huge, huge number of older single women experiencing what I am, it is also shocking and bewildering. What in the world is going on? I believe that God created us for marriage and that it shouldn’t have to feel like this big impossibility to find a husband. However, the enemy opposes every good thing that God designed us for. I think part of what’s happening in our society and our lives are the result of changed philosophies and morals in our society as a whole, and all that has entered the Church as well – even if we personally don’t subscribe to it.

    However, God blesses those who fear Him. His Word never changes or fails. Our fight is not against flesh and blood. It is not even that we are fighting for marriage, although we do need to boldly pray that God would enable His Church to restore godly values (including healthy, faithful marriages and godly families) to society. We have to stand firm in our belief that no matter what, living for God and serving Him is worth it. It will bring fruitfulness and blessing, no matter what we see or don’t see happening around us. Your post encourages me to do that.

  2. Paige S. says:

    a well meaning friend (married of course) forwarded this blog to me… I subscribed and enjoy Amy’s candor and writing style but… I can not help but feel that this marriage desire by soooo many single 30, 40, 50 something year old never-married friends has taken over their lives. It’s like an ‘idol’ and all consuming!!! God has allowed us to live in the South and in a time when there are far fewer eligible men than women. I think maybe He has a plan, other than marriage, for many of us and we need to be OPEN to that. As Christian women all we EVER hear is family, children… it is even more prevalent at church. Beings single there is to be ‘pitied’. To be ‘lesser’. Two of my sisters are going through difficult seperations / divorces – one sister has been trying to get out of a crazy emotionally abusive realtionship for 5 years – but money and kids have complicated things terribly. My younger sister has some emotional imbalances – she’s in counseling and on medication – she is a fully functioning adult and looks great – and her husband (who is like a brother to me and a son to our parents) has been a ‘saint’ we have all thought all these years that God hand picked him for our sister. But ‘suddenly’ (probably not so sudden to him) he ‘can’t take it anymore’ and has moved out… my sister is devastated and heartbroken. They do not have children – 4 dogs though. I pray they work it out. But… honestly, if I was married right now – especially if I had children… I would not be in the position I am in right now to help them and support them. God has spared us some heartache girls!!! But… yes, I do long for a romantic & supportive relationship so I am praying with you all – but do not forget to ‘bloom where you are planted ‘ and make the most of your CURRENT circumstances. God has us HERE for a reason.

    • amy says:

      yes, definitely need perspective to not miss the gifts in front of us! that being said, i still think marriage is a good gift – even though our fallen, sinful human natures break and corrupt and mar its purpose and shape. definitely not easy to live in the tension of “marriage is good but it’s not everything”

      • Paige S. says:

        Totally agree Amy. My parents just celebrated 48 years of marriage and they still hold hands – they are a young 68 and 72 and I am so blessed to have them in my life and as a strong Christian example through thick & thin. “Marriage is good but it is not everything” I think the vast majority of single Christian women want to be married but no one ever says it’s okay if you don’t get married… there is so much ‘pity’ attached being a single-never-married 40 something which for me is worse and makes me feel anxious and a bit desperate until I stop and remember “God has a plan for my life” … for us all! Blessings to you. PS

        • Carolyn says:

          I agree with you, Paige. I am in a new chapter in my singleness as well where I am beginning to receive and feel so affirmed by what Scripture has to say about remaining unmarried. Like my eyes are being opened to see that I have been enslaved by our culture’s requirement for marriage for so long and have felt desperation, self-pity, and worthlessness as a result and THAT IS NOT my Father’s will for me. My Father loves me as I am and affirms me in my singleness. And amazingly, He communicated this to women thousands of years ago when marriage was an absolute societal mandate. How revolutionary! What a Father we have! So unlike the earthly fathers of that era (and maybe even now) who probably pressured and even forced their daughters to marry someone of their family’s choosing.

          Ultimately, we probably all could have married SOMEONE if we desperately wanted marriage as our goal. But we haven’t. We have chosen not to and God gives us that liberty and doesn’t chide us for being “too picky” or nag at us to “settle,” as our culture so often likes to tell us. He allows us that liberty to choose and respects it.

          Now for me to demand and feel entitled to marriage to a worthy man who is my best friend and is godly and can lead me spiritually and is sufficiently attractive and isn’t too socially awkward and by the way makes me laugh – I realize, this is greed. It’s fine for me to desire this and choose to wait for it BUT I can’t hold God’s favor hostage to this particular blessing. It’s not promised in Scripture. And if God chooses in His providence to grant this to some but not to me, who am I to hang my head and feel overlooked. When I have an abundance of other physical blessings that He has providentially withheld from brothers and sisters around the world and through the ages. Let us not be the pots in Isaiah 45:9 who say to their potter “What are you making?” or “Your work has no handles?”

          I hope this does not come across as condemning in any way. The passion I write with is directed mainly at myself, who is guilty for every misguided thought and form of idolatry I am seeking to dismantle. Ultimately, I can direct you to a few sources that have been so helpful in breaking the hold this issue has had over my heart:

          John Piper’s Foreword to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which is written to single men and women: http://www.gnpcb.org/assets/products/excerpts/1581348061.1.pdf (starts around page 11)

          Lydia Brownback’s blog and I give her much credit for reinforcing and defending the truths God has begun to plant in my heart: http://www.purplecellar.com/

          May we all feel AFFIRMED by our heavenly Father who loves us as His beloved daughters and may we SUBMIT to His sovereign dispensations of physical blessings. The sooner we do, I believe the sooner we’ll immerse ourselves into the life and ministry He has called us each to, with greater joy and gladness than we ever knew possible.

    • Jane says:

      Totally agree Paige! I have just been reading some great articles from Rachel Held Evans such as http://rachelheldevans.com/mutuality-women-roles – totally coming to terms with my 38 year old single self – God has a purpose!

      • andrea csia says:

        Thanks, just subscribed to rachel evans’ blog…

      • Paige S. says:

        Thank you Jane – looking forward tor eading more from Rachel!
        and to Carolyn’s point above – I have subscribed to Lydia’s blog for awhile. Powerful!

    • Helen says:

      …your godly, insightful thoughts are most uplifting.

  3. Thanks for this post and this blog. I often have the feelings you expressed. I am 39 and never been married or even in a relationship. I sometimes wonder what’s wrong with me. Lately, I am starting to realize that God has a plan for me and he knows my needs better than I do. There is a reason for this. I am glad that we can be honest with God about our feelings and have him minister to us through his grace and in fellowship with others who do understand.

  4. teah says:

    WOW! You have hit on ever emotion any single woman has ever felt, especially a Christian woman. Praying with you! Although I haven’t participated in the actual fasting, these articles have soothe my heart.

  5. teah says:

    WOW! You’ve hit ever emotion a single woman has felt, especially a Chrisitan one. Praying with you!

  6. Daniela says:

    Thank you for this encouragement Amy. Recently, the hope that I have had in a potential made has been disappointed again, and I have also wondered whether I should continue asking God to fulfill my desire. But indeed, He sees our heart, and He knows all about our desires, even before we express ourselves to Him. And we can come boldly before His thrown – even if the situation seems hopeless!

  7. Kirsten says:

    Amy, I couldn’t have said it better myself. And yes, the the non-believing men do seem to be the highest caliber. And at times I have chosen to enjoy their company, partly because they were wonderful people, but also because I couldn’t stand the thought of passing up a good man for another night, month, YEAR of sitting at home. Sometimes I wrestle with that decision, at others I’ at peace. I guess it’s something we can all identify with. Thank you for being so honest.

  8. halennox says:

    Thank you, Amy. You’ve said exactly what I’ve been thinking!

  9. Kristen Joy says:

    “My story, including singleness, is not because I got the leftovers of God’s goodness. My story is because of God’s goodness, sovereignty and love.”

    During senior of college, all of my friends from freshman year had paired off except for me and my one guy friend. I complained to him that we were “the leftovers.” He said, “We’re not the leftovers; we’re dessert!” That was so encouraging to me, and I rejoiced at his wedding about 4-5 years later. I told his bride that she got the dessert!

    For anyone else who feels like a leftover, I would like to remind you that you are not a leftover; you are dessert!

  10. Gina says:

    This was SO GOOD. Thank you.

  11. Jill says:

    Thank you Amy for this post, Jen, KayBar, livingwide21 and Mo for keeping this so-oo very real! Like Mo, I’m 40-something and struggle with not fitting in anymore in the circle of friends I’ve been in. Just in the last few months, one friend will probably be engaged by the end of the year, one friend had her first child (met her husband online), another friend is now engaged, and a cousin gets married at the end of the month. I’m happy for them, but I wonder if I should just give up hope.

  12. Jen says:

    So I completely relate to this passage because I’m getting to panic stage too. So much so that I’ve been asked out on a date by a non-believer and I’m getting excited about it because to be brutally honest, I’m angry at God for making it seem like I’m not good enough for a godly man (I know of course of my propensity to sin and that no one actually is “good enough”…but still).

    Despite my going on a date with this man, I know deep down that the biggest peace I could ever have would be in the Lord. I’m just feeling extremely discouraged because I really feel like God just doesn’t care about this area of my life sometimes :/. Sometimes I fear that I’m not even a Christian because of this! Anyway, thank you.

    • Amy says:

      Yep. So been there. So felt and thought those exact things on all fronts. All I know is that there are no easy answers and no shortcuts. Also I’m think that the nonbelievers who ask me out are some of the highest caliber guys I’ve come across…which results in more heartbreak and more anger, if it’s not confronted by the truth…praying for/with you.

  13. KarBar says:

    I feel this way everyday; when I walk to the train from work and see couples smiling, when watching TV and seeing love so easily obtained. I instantly think ‘when will it be my turn Abba Father?’ The discouragement is constantly there, even when I try to lie to myself that it’s not. I know we serve a God of miracles but am I doing something wrong? Is that the reason I feel like I’m being overlooked? Am I not deserving Lord? All glory to God for answered prayer but…this woman is growing weary….Lord hear our prayer.

  14. livingwide21 says:

    Amy, if there was anything I needed to hear this morning it was this message. And trust me when I say it applies to so much more than my current single status. I have been feeling discouraged about quite a few aspects of my life of late, dating and marriage included. I\’ve found myself withholding certain prayers and focusing on others thinking, God can\’t possible bless me in all the ways I desire, so I should just focus on one. I ask you, who does that help? God is BIG, so much bigger than any of us can even fathom. If anyone can handle it, it\’s He. Thank you for your candor.

  15. connienoelle says:

    Amy, this made me tear up yesterday as I read it – perhaps because, as a relatively “young” 22-year-old, I already relate to some of these very same discouragements in waiting on God’s timing.

    My music was on shuffle today and I was listening to an amazing song, “To Those Who Wait” by Bethany Dillon. These lines especially struck me:

    “I am waiting on You,
    I am waiting on You.
    You say You’re good to those who wait.

    My heart’s discouraged,
    So I come to You expectant.
    You say You’re good to those who wait.

    Lord, today You know what I need to do,
    But You can do more in my waiting than in my doing I could do.
    So I won’t run anymore.
    I’m waiting on You.”

    Know He is doing amazing things in all of us through your writing and example!

  16. suzanne loucky says:

    One thing that has been helpful to me: the love that I would like to give to a husband I try to give to as many as possible in multiple ways. Also, trying to fulfill the commission to disciple others. While this doesn’t take away the desire for a partner, it does try to find a place to show love and give myself to others who need me. And gratefulness is a continuing, sometimes challenging, practice to gain and maintain
    perspective.

    • andrea csia says:

      Suzanne,
      I so love what you shared! God has stirred up similar thoughts in me…just in a particularly tough spot at the moment, and your words helped me tremendously! Moving forward…fulfilling our destiny in God…
      Andrea

    • amy says:

      wise words and so so true…thank you!

  17. Jane says:

    Thanks for your post Amy.

    I’ve been thinking lately (and I will try to explain myself correctly) Oh by the way I’m in my late thirties never married only sibling to be single out of 4, and my twin has just had her 5th child so I do understand the pain…
    Does anyone think that maybe the church needs to listen to what Paul said with a much deeper understanding…that’s it’s better to be single?? Maybe that is God’s will and a lot of people are trying to get married or getting married when they aren’t supposed to be? I think of all the time and energy spent praying for spouses, dating etc and I wonder maybe God is wanting us to use that time and energy to GO into all the world…When I think of all the single women – why aren’t we all gathering together in communties (maybe like the nuns do but SO different) living together, praying together, going on mission trips together etc…we would benefit from community, support, prayer, and then we would have the time and strength to Go – helping communities and nations etc however God leads us…anyhow this is where my thinking has been going lately….anyone else have any thoughts….

    PS: I know we may want/desire marriage and children, but aren’t we really supposed to be dying to ourselves? I think there is going to be so many amazing things in heaven, much better than any marriage and it really won’t have mattered if we were married on earth or not – we won’t care! and if we could just get past what we want…and what society and especially church tells us is the best…we would have so much energy and time to GO and really do the good works Jesus commanded us to do.

    • suzanne loucky says:

      thanks for these thoughts to help focus on Christ’s mission for us. A German Lutheran female pastor who is single (Astrid Eichler), working as a prison chaplain, has written a book on these ideas: gathering in communities, etc. (but unfortunately only in German)

    • amy says:

      Jane…thank you so much for your thoughtful questions and perspective…I think there is much askew in both our culture’s and our church’s view of what constitutes “the good life” especially in relationship to marriage / family. So I definitely hear you on that one…maybe a future blog post??

      I could write pages on my thoughts on all this, but probably not the right context in a blog comment response 🙂

    • Paige S. says:

      I have these same thoughts Jane. I didn’t read through all of the posts before I posted yesterday but you’ve hit on my thoughts directly!

  18. andrea csia says:

    Wow, Diane…my story is SO similar…married 29 years, distant, cold, continual adultery I did not know about…yet a church leader. Thanks for taking the time to share! God never promised any of us a happy marriage…so trying to hold on to all He DOES promise, while hoping so much to have a ministry partner/husband…and I don’t feel very patient. Time is marching on…sigh. Trying to move ahead in all areas of my life so I don’t look back and see that my focus was what i DON”T have, versus what I DO have…

    • Diane Dvirnak says:

      Andrea,
      You are so right…I have learned through the years to PRAISE HIM for what He has done. It gets my focus on His goodness and off of my sometimes selfish desires and other times my fearful thoughts. “Thinking on what is Good, TRUE, Pure and from above” is my grounding and foundation during those times. Blessings to you!

  19. andrea csia says:

    Just talking about it makes me feel better 🙂

  20. Diane Dvirnak says:

    This was SOOOOOO uplifting! I literally cried myself to sleep last night. I’m am truely weary of “doing life alone” My story is different from yours Amy. I was married for 26 VERY difficult years to a man who was Dr. Jeckle/Mr. Hyde! Scripturally I had every reason and right to leave the marriage. We met in church leading Bible studies. The 2nd day of marriage his “other side” started showing itself. We had dated for 4 yrs. before marriage and I didn’t see the other man. I know Scarrey! I believed in marriage and felt if I prayed long and hard enough and fasted long and hard it would change him. I took my vows seriously. Nine months into the marriage I found myself pregnant. During the pregnancy in which my son and I almost died. He was living his other life fast and furious. I, being VERY toxemic, was unaware of what he was doing. Toxemia makes ones brain unable to think clearly. When our son was 9 months old the Holy Spirit alerted me to what was going on and then the “roller coaster” ride really started. I know what it is like to be married but “doing it all alone”. Marriage does not work with one doing the dance alone. Being married and being alone is far lonlier than being single and alone….at least those around you understand. Yes, we live in a couple society but try living in it married but “doing the marriage alone and unable to really share with those around you the truth of what you are walking in is also very difficult and painful..
    I raised our 2 children by myself with him under our roof. The Lord would not release me from the marriage and when I was released in the spirit the Lord showed me He had kept me in the marriage to protect our children. I am now 9 years out from the divorce desiring, like so many others, to experience a true loving, Godly relationship. Continueing to carry the burden of parenting my young adult children and seeing the devistation of divorce in my oldest adult childs life. My youngest truely has worked through her issues with her father and is in a wonderful Godly marriage to the best man a mother could ever desire for her daughter. They just made me a Nanna for the first time last week. God truely answered my prayers here. BUT, my oldest, who is my son who almost died during the pregnancy has refused to forgive his father and is hurting big time. I know God will redeem him also but it is difficult knowing that in many ways I had a part in his pain.
    All of this to say. I have longed my entire life to be in a Godly nurturing marriage. This has been my desire since I was a young girl. I carry heavy responsibility for my elderly parents, my son is very ill right now but I know God is doing His work through this illness. My heart aches for that true Godly relationship to share lifes joys, triumphs, sorrows and pain with. I can, and frequently do recount ALL that the Lord has done…but there remains that longing to experience a true earthly, GODLY, love. so reading your posting for tomorrow was exactly where I was 24 hours ago. I keep asking the Lord to take this desire away if it isn’t something He has for me in this earthly lifetime and the desire remains…is it selfish? I know marriage truely is HIS design so I am not asking out of HIS design but is it His will for me…that remains to be seen….as like you He remains silent and hasn’t removed the desire. Thank you for your post.
    Diane

  21. Mo says:

    I am not sure how I discovered this site. At this point I am not able to fast/pray with you, or about this issue much at all, for all the reasons you’ve mentioned. At 40-something, I am now so far behind my peers that even if I got married tomorrow, I would never be able to catch up as far as life experiences. Many of my peers are or will soon be grandparents! Yet here I sit, still single. Most days I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere. It’s only going to get harder as I get older. Some days it’s unbearable.

    But I admire those of you who are doing this. If nothing else, it helps to know I am not alone. I wish you all the best!

    • andrea csia says:

      http://www.amazon.com/Betrayed-God-Making-Sense-Expectations/dp/0834125196/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1340074338&sr=1-1&keywords=betrayed+by+god
      This book has been such a help…written by a warm, honest 40 something single woman…our feelings of betrayal come from expectations we put on Him that He never promised us…like experiencing a happy marriage. He doesn’t owe us that. He HAS promised other things…like purpose, love, strength, comfort…I don’t want to forfeit those things because I believe the lie that God has consigned me to horrible suffering. Yes, the loneliness and pain are intense at times…and I don’t want to “blame” God at those times instead of receiving His empathy and compassion, for no one has suffered as He has. I AM worth dying for and He proved it. I so wish i had a partner!!! But I don’t want to wish my life away, leaving a legacy of self-pity. Oh Lord,help us, we need You and You love even the smallest “yes” in our spirit, to living a surrendered life…Come close Jesus, or we die…

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