In January, we began to periodically feature posts submitted by readers of the FastPray blog. It’s encouraging to know there is a whole community of Jesus followers fasting and praying on Mondays.
We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.
The other day my friend Annie told me one of those “I can’t believe they said that!” stories that can be filed under the heading: ‘Terrible Things People Say About Singleness’. It went a little like this…
Annie was enjoying a picnic with her parents when they bumped into an old friend of Annie’s mum. This lady, let’s call her Mrs S, was known to Annie from her childhood church. During the conversation, Mrs S asked Annie if she’d ‘found a nice young man yet?’ Annie replied in the negative and Mrs S exclaimed, “I’d have hated it, HATED it, if I’d been single at your age!” Thankfully, Annie is a very gracious person and managed to turn the conversation. Now we could easily go down the path of blaming and feeling frustrated that singleness is often misunderstood. But instead this situation got me thinking about living the life that no one wants.
No one, when young and talking about their hopes for their future, replies with, ‘I want to be a single, celibate adult!’ And because culturally we perceive adult singleness as ‘the life no one wants’, we can be embarrassed and ashamed about our life at this time.
In prayer, God shows a pathway to be free of those feelings. First, He points out a few sins hidden in those feelings; jealousy and the desire for approval from other people.
As singles, we sometimes struggle with jealousy towards those who’ve been blessed with marriage and children. I secretly wish I had a life of which my married friends could be jealous. Instead, I’ve got ‘the life no one wants’ and I’m embarrassed about that and jealous of my friends.
Jealousy is not the desire for marriage and children in itself; jealousy is having a slightly (sometimes tinsy-tiny) bitter attitude about those who have what we desire and comes from a belief that our life is not good without that which we desire. So really, behind our jealousy is the belief that God’s goodness to us is not really goodness; we don’t perceive it as goodness because it’s not good in the shape we want ‘good’ to be. So for some of us, jealousy may be behind our embarrassment about singleness and lack of belief in God’s goodness may be behind the jealousy.
Then some of us secretly want praise and approval from our friends. When I catch up with married friends, they chit chat about what their husbands are doing, their homes, their children, their choice of schooling and all those other ‘normal’ milestones that seem to measure their days. In all my adulthood they’ve known me, nothing has changed outwardly in my life! I’ve changed jobs a time or two and travelled a little. The biggest milestones have been internal; renewal and growth in my relationship with the Lord. I don’t have those ‘normal’ (according to our society) milestones at which we all exclaim, ‘Well done-you got through the first year of parenting!’ or ‘Congratulations on your new home!’ and so I feel ashamed. But what lies behind this kind of shame? It’s wanting approval from people around us. I want to hear my friends say, ‘Wow, that’s great!’ Instead, God’s approval should be our desire and then we won’t be ashamed. (We’ll leave the point for the moment that perhaps we should have more Godly, Spirit-filled conversation!)
So, do we need to confess sins of jealousy and following after people’s approval to our Lord who forgives and restores us?
The second step in moving towards freedom from these feelings is standing on the truth of who God is and praising Him. Now when we notice jealousy creeping in or the desire for worldly approval, God reminds us to trust in His character and turn Scripture to praise. “I will bless the Lord at all times…Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed…Oh taste and see that the Lord is good…those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (taken from Psalm 34.)
The truth is that God is personally good to me and personally good to you and we need to believe that even in the middle of painful singleness. He is good as He chose to rescue us. He is good in providing people around us who love and support us, including this community. He is good as He draws us nearer to Him in our singleness. He frees us from the burden of sin.
As difficult as it is to live the life no one ‘wants’, we have a God who never leaves us alone in that place, who grows us in relationship with Him so that we can be ‘radiant’ and who gives us the Holy Spirit so we become more and more like Jesus, abounding in love. What grace! What goodness!
Heavenly Father, forgive us for allowing our pain to turn us from you. Forgive us for jealousy, for seeking approval from people around us. Thank you that in Jesus our sins are removed and we stand before you in grace. Lord, let us see your goodness anew today. We praise you for being the one good treasure worth pursuing.