For many, Valentine’s Day can be a painful reminder of singleness. One woman wrote us this week to express gratefulness for our series, but slight consternation at our timing:
“Ladies, I had to laugh at your latest post entitled “The Single Season.” So close to Valentine’s Day and you reminded a group of your readers that we are single. We had forgotten for half a second.”
I have to confess that we girltalkers have a hard time remembering Valentine’s Day. We know many people who have wonderful traditions surrounding this holiday—with spouses, children, friends, or parents; but it was never one of the “major” holidays in our family. So, to all our single readers, please know it was a total accident that our series on singleness collided with the love holiday.
“National Singles Awareness Day” is what our friend, Carolyn McCulley, dubs February 14; and she confronts its challenges head on:
“If Valentine’s Day is hard because we think everyone else is out celebrating their romances (which isn’t as common among married couples as we’d like to speculate), then we can turn our gaze inward and start pondering that gray blob of self-pity. We translate singleness into loneliness.
When those temptations come, those are grace moments. That’s when we need to literally, out loud, ask for God’s grace to respond differently….Our Father is ready and willing to give us all we need to step out. His outpouring of grace is not dependent on our requests, but it’s a wonderful exercise to ask Him.
To encounter loneliness through the eyes of faith is to see opportunities to minister love. Grace translates singleness into outreach. There are plenty of people on Valentine’s Day or other holidays, parties or weddings — single and married — who need someone to carry God’s love to them.”
If you’re struggling with your single status this weekend, may God give you eyes of faith to see opportunities all around you to minister love to others. May grace translate your singleness into outreach.
Now that we’ve considered what not to spend our time on in the single season (“the present form of the world”) we come to the first great deal of the single season. You probably noticed it in 1 Corinthians 7:34-35:
“And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (emphasis mine).
Free from the anxieties attendant upon marriage and family, you have the opportunity to live for the things of the Lord, to pursue undivided devotion to Him.
You have “a unique calling and a unique responsibility” insists pastor John Piper:
“It is not a calling to extend irresponsible adolescence into your thirties. It is a calling to do what only single men and women in Christ can do in this world, namely, to display by the Christ-exalting devotion of your singleness the truths about Christ and his kingdom that shine more clearly through singleness than through marriage.”
For a greater understanding of these truths you are called to display, you can read Piper’s sermon “Single in Christ: A Name Better Than Sons and Daughters.”
But first ask yourself:
What does my singleness say about Christ and His kingdom?
Is my life one of Christ exalting devotion?
Am I anxious about the things of the Lord or the things of this world?
Is holiness in body and spirit my highest aim?
Undivided devotion is cultivated through reading God’s Word and prayer (Ps 86:11), and it comes with the promise: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). Undivided devotion to Christ is, by far, the best deal of the single season.
The verse we considered yesterday, 1 Corinthians 7, serves as a kind of “financial advisor” for the single season. This passage informs you of quality deals and advises you against bad investments. In the context of answering this question about singleness and marriage, Paul gets to his real point:
“This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away” (vv. 29-31)
How do you avoid wasteful spending of your time? Don’t invest it all in “the present form of this world.” ‘Cause it ain’t gonna last.
“Form” here carries the idea of “fickleness [or] the changing fashion. There is nothing solid and lasting in this world’s system. It is its nature to pass away” (Gordon Fee).
Here’s a metaphor we women can understand: fashion. The world’s bargains are as fickle, as fleeting as this year’s “in” style. And they won’t come back again in twenty years.
“Believe me, there is nothing here that is worthy of your pursuit,” warns pastor Charles Spurgeon:
“If you give your soul up to anything earthly, whether it be the wealth, or the honours, or the pleasures of this world, you might as well hunt after the mirage of the desert or try to collect the mists of the morning, or to store up for yourself the clouds of the sky, for all these things are passing away.”
While we must live in this world and “deal” with it, we must not set our heart on it or put our hope in it or give up our soul to it’s offerings.
So what are the good deals of this season? More shopping for time advice from 1 Corinthians 7 tomorrow.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
If you are a single woman, how do you make the best use of your time? What are the best deals of your season?
Maybe, as you look around, you don’t see a lot of great deals in your season. Maybe you’d rather be in a different season. Maybe you’d rather be married.
You might be asking another question: is singleness really the best season?
Paul tackles this question in 1 Corinthians 7, responding to church members in Corinth who were quarreling (among other things!) about whether singleness was more holy than marriage.
Me? I prefer singleness, says Paul, “I wish that all were as I myself am” (v. 7). But he is clear: “I have no command from the Lord” on this issue (v. 25).
“This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short…For the present form of this world is passing away. I want you to be free from anxieties…And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your own undivided devotion to the Lord” (v. 29-35).
Paul’s point? Whether marriage or singleness is better—that’s not the point! What ultimately matters is that time is short; that the days are evil. The real question is: how do we as Christians live in light of eternity?
“Marriage and singleness both present us with unique trials and unique opportunities for our sanctification” explains John Piper. “There will be unique rewards for each, and which is greater will not depend on whether you were married or single, but on how you responded to each.”
If you are single, you face unique trials. But your season also holds unique opportunities. And best of all there are unique rewards—rewards no less glorious or desirable as for those who are married.
How can you seize upon these great opportunities and their corresponding rewards? Let’s take a closer look at this verse and see what bargains we can discover.
It’s been great to hear from our single friends in response to yesterday’s post. Your desire to honor God and love the home in the season God has placed you is so commendable. You stand out in stark and beautiful contrast to the selfish vision of womanhood in our culture. Your humble obedience to God brings honor to his name.
But it’s not always easy. As a single woman there are many questions you must wrestle with—How do I reconcile my desire to work in the home with the need to work a job to support myself? How do I prepare for my future when I don’t know what that future will be? What does it look like to love the home and display femininity in my life? What if I can’t afford a home of my own? and many more.
While I can’t answer all these questions, I want to encourage you that God is eager to give you clarity. As JI Packer reminds us: “If you ask, ‘Why is this or that happening?’ no light may come, for ‘the secret things belong to the Lord our God (Deuteronomy 29:29); but if you ask, ‘How am I to serve and glorify God here and now, where I am?’ there will always be an answer” (The Lord’s Prayer, p. 14).
Take time, in prayer, to ask God how you can glorify Him as a woman, and in the home, here and now. And make use of the wisdom he has provided through others such as a pastor or a godly Christian friend. If you haven’t yet read Carolyn McCulley’s book or blog, then start today! I have personally been blessed by Carolyn’s peerless hospitality and I’ve watched her express her femininity in countless ways as she relates to children, bosses and men in the church—and I can’t recommend her writings enough!
Finally consider taking a personal retreat where you consider the wisdom you’ve received and map out a strategy for the season God has placed you in. He is eager to fill you with faith and joy and to show you the way you should go.
Every week here at girltalk we receive emails from single women who have questions about relationships with guys. How do I know if this is the guy I should marry? What do I do about my feelings for a guy when he hasn’t expressed any interest? How do I deal with a broken heart? What if my parent’s don’t approve of my relationship? How do I wait patiently for God to bring the right one for me? What if the right one never comes?
Many of these difficult questions require on-site advice from pastors and friends. However, on the Na blog today, Erin Sutherland shares how a little girl reminded her of God’s answer to all relationship questions—and indeed, to all of life’s questions. Be sure to check it out.
Since last week’s Q&A discussion on the ending of a courtship, I have had a few conversations that were too good not to post.
Both were with moms who had daughters involved in relationships. The first mom had just walked her daughter through ending her relationship. As I inquired about how they were doing, she expressed gratitude for how the young man responded to her daughter in this decision. He told her that their courtship had been nothing but a success. Why? Because they had both grown in godliness. This young man had the wisdom and foresight to see that a successful relationship is not one that necessarily ends in marriage, but one where the couple grows in faith and love for the Savior.
The second mom has a daughter who is two weeks into her courtship. Everything is new and unknown. This mom told me that she and her husband were excited about this relationship because of what the Lord is doing in the hearts of their daughter and this young man in the process.
These moms see something much more significant than a relationship. They observe God at work in the hearts of their daughters. They are grateful that their daughters are growing in godliness. This is an eternal and God-honoring perspective.
So, whether you are presently exploring marriage or have recently ended a courtship, may this biblical view of relationships permeate your thinking and fill your heart with faith.
Q. “I am curious what you ladies might have to say on the topic of dealing with the grief that comes from the ending of a relationship, particularly when a woman believed it would end in marriage.”
A. This question immediately brought back memories of a similar season that I experienced in my relationship with Mike. Although the Lord ultimately planned marriage for us, there was a period of time when it appeared our relationship was over for good. And while I realize that not all stories have the same ending, the issues God was after in my heart are the same for all of us—whether or not we eventually get married, and regardless of the nature of our disappointed hope.
When Mike and I ended our relationship, it was after many months of mutual feelings, and much time spent pursuing marriage. Before the decision to call things off, we would both have been pretty confident marriage to each other was in our future (Read the long version of our story here.) So, upon ending our relationship, I was immediately faced with the temptation to despair. What was God doing? Why was I so confused? I thought Mike was the one! The tears were many, just ask my mom.
This decision marked the beginning of one of the biggest battles I had yet to face in my walk with the Lord. The fight for FAITH. Did I really believe what I had been taught from Scripture about God’s sovereignty? Did I trust God that He had a perfect plan for my life? Was I confident that He would reveal His will to me, in His good time? Could I be happy if His plan didn’t include marriage? I’m sorry to say that my answer to many of these questions was often a resounding “no.” I thought that my ideas and plans were best. If only the Lord would speak more clearly. If only He would do it this way—MY way.
How grateful I am for the mercy of God upon my life during this struggle. Through the leadership of my parents, I began to press into God’s Word in a most intense way. I spent hours studying “faith” and “sovereignty” in the Bible, and talking through the issues of sin in my heart with others. The book Is God Really in Control? (previously entitled Trusting God) by Jerry Bridges became a faithful friend to me. I read this book over and over again. Quotes like these fed my soul…
“God in His infinite wisdom knows exactly what adversity we need to grow more and more into the likeness of His Son. He not only knows what we need but when we need it and how best to bring it to pass in our lives. He is the perfect teacher or coach. His discipline is always exactly suited for our needs. He never over trains us by allowing too much adversity in our lives.” Page 122
“If we are to experience peace in our souls in times of adversity, we must come to the place where we truly believe that God’s ways are simply beyond us and stop asking Him “why” or even trying to determine it ourselves. This may seem like an intellectual “cop out,” a refusal to deal with the really tough issues of life. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is a surrender to the truth about God and our circumstances as it is revealed to us by God Himself in His inspired Word.” Page 126-7
Slowly, I cannot tell you exactly when, my heart began to change. I still didn’t know if marriage was in my future, but my heart was at peace in the sovereignty of my good and loving Father. I wanted His perfect plan to be fulfilled in my life.
If you find yourself in a similar situation today (and this fight for faith is certainly not limited to the arena of marriage), I would encourage you to take drastic action. Renew your mind with the consistent study of God’s Word. Purchase Jerry Bridges’ book and pursue the counsel and help of a pastor and godly friends. Grace awaits you!
“The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
After posting last week’s Q&A on Guy/Girl Relationships, we received the following e-mail from a reader named Amy. She wrote to tell us her love story, which, besides being a fun read, beautifully illustrates the principles we laid out in that post. Amy’s story is full of the peaceful wisdom that comes from learning to trust in the Lord. And while no two love stories are the same, we can all be encouraged by this striking example of God’s sovereignty, which graciously rules over all our lives.
When I was a senior in high school, I developed a great friendship with two Christian guys, and I ended up falling for one of them. Although I never let on about my feelings, I had a terrible habit of overanalyzing his every move, hoping to find evidence that he was secretly in love with me. But I had no real reason to believe he was. And I didn’t know if he ever WOULD be interested in me. I think all I did was make myself crazy!
I also knew that the timing was off—having read and loved good old I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I was proudly (sometimes militantly ?) single, and I knew neither of us was ready for a serious, marriage-focused relationship. (I actually confided in my best friend at one point: “I don’t want to date Steve now. I just want to marry him later!”) Yet in spite of my confidence in a purpose-filled, focused season of singleness, I longed for God to just tell me in advance whether Steve and I would ever be together. I can’t tell you how many times I begged Him to give me some clarity one way or the other.
I knew that any sort of relationship might still be a few years away, but I foolishly reasoned that if God would just tell me, then I could let it go. I could either move on and forget about Steve if the answer was no, or if the answer was yes, I could rest in the knowledge that it would happen in a few years, and stop obsessing over it. What I didn’t yet understand was that God wanted me to learn to rest in HIM—not in the specifics of a plan concerning my love life. So of course I got no such clear answer. [Read More…]
From time to time we get this question: “I like such and such a guy but I’m not sure what his intentions are. I want to tell him how I feel, but I’m not sure what to do.”
When feelings of attraction toward a guy are strong, even a perceived interest on his part can raise our hopes and drive us to want to “do something” about those feelings. How do we know what is the right course of action?
As always, we must turn to God’s Word for direction, for Scripture is, “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). Regardless of how strong our feelings are, we must examine them under the light of God’s Word and submit them (by force if necessary) to the authority of God’s Word.
So what does the Bible have to say to the young woman who wants to make her feelings known? The Bible isn’t merely a reference book for our problems; however, it does have all the answers. Understanding who God is and the purpose for which He created us, will cause everything to fall into place. Three guiding principles apply here:
1. God has created us as women to be responsive to men’s leadership. This is clear throughout Scripture, not only in the created order and our calling to be helpers (Gen. 2:18-23), but in the commands for a wife to submit to her husband (Eph. 5:22-23) . If we seek to take matters into our own hands and “do something” about a situation such as this, we are depriving a man of an opportunity to fulfill his God-given calling to lead. Truly believing in the importance and significance of our femininity means living it out, even in the pressure cooker of strong desires. We must resist the temptation to allow our feelings and desires and not God’s Word dictate our direction. On a purely personal note, my mom used to ask me: Don’t you ultimately want a guy who is attracted enough to pursue you, without needing hints from you?
2. God is sovereign, loving, and wise. “But this guy I like hasn’t pursued me. How do I resolve the fear that he won’t notice me unless I take some initiative?” You may ask. Enter: the character of God. Human reasoning would say that this is incentive enough to buck the created order. However, we must hold fast to God’s Word and trust in His character. God is intimately involved in every detail of our lives (down to the hairs on our head). We must trust that His sovereignty is more than powerful enough, His love is more than true enough, and His wisdom more than knowledgeable enough to fulfill His perfect plan for us. This perfect plan may or may not include the desired relationship. But it will most definitely be for our good. As a single woman, Psalm 84:10-12 was my hope: “For a day in your courts is better? than a thousand elsewhere. ?I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God ?than dwell in the tents of wickedness.? For the Lord God is a sun and shield; ?the Lord bestows favor and honor.?No good thing does he withhold? from those who walk uprightly.?O Lord of hosts,?blessed is the one who trusts in you!”
3. God rewards our trust in Him. We don’t say “no” to our feelings and “yes” to God’s Word without a fight. And yet, there is joy and peace and freedom to be had. Psalm 131’s description of the weaned child, not concerned with things too lofty or wonderful, comes to mind. So does 1 Peter 3 and the woman whose beauty is of great worth in the sight of God because she does not “fear anything that is frightening.” Waiting and responding instead of initiating romantic relationships is not some kind of manipulative trick. It is the path to true attractiveness, the miraculous kind that only comes by the grace of God producing trust in God. For truly blessed is the woman who does not sinfully strive after a relationship, but quietly rests in the goodness of God!
Again, let me restate that these are guiding principles. Every person’s experience and situation is different; consequently we need the help of others to apply God’s truth to our lives. If you are unclear about how to relate to a guy in a God-honoring fashion, don’t try to figure this out on your own. Seek out your parent’s counsel or guidance from another wise couple or mature woman. God will surely guide your steps.