May 21, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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One thing I never dreamt of being when I grew up was 42 and single. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, such as not being accountable to others while making attempts at relationships, allowing the desire for marriage (or ministry work) to become an idol, utilizing a myriad of unhealthy coping strategies, trying to figure everything out on my own, and stiff-arming God with a heart full of accusation to name just a few. But the Lord has patiently endured the journey with me, extending so much grace while also applying sufficient doses of discipline. The faithful and unrelenting love He has shown when I have returned to Him has been transformative to say the least. The most freeing fact remains: I am not missing out when I follow Him. I have learned a treasure trove of lessons and gained deeper intimacy with Him through each mountaintop and valley experience with my Savior.
Most Christians would admit to feeling a sense of agony or neglect as they wait on something—a marriage partner, a child, a family, a specific calling, a job, a friend, an emotional or physical healing, a financial breakthrough, etc. The Book of James teaches, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4 NKJV). It’s ironic that we can be made whole through what’s missing or hurting. Every type of pain (like loneliness) can push us further into our relationship with God than we would have gone without it. And what He gives of Himself in those struggling places is beautifully personal and ultimately satisfying. As we come to the Father in our weakness, that’s when His power, hope, and love can invade our spirits.
Loving God and others are prime exhortations throughout Scripture and the place where everyone can find fulfillment and joy in the midst of their current state. This command can be pursued always and is not dependent on our physical, emotional, social, educational, occupational, or marital statuses. We were created for relationship with Him and to give Him glory through loving and serving others (believers and unbelievers) with His supernatural resources.
Loving God has a lot to do with believing Him. At the core of my disbelief or doubt often lies the difficulty of wrapping my mind around His unconditional love since I continually make a mess of things. His love is other worldly, and His logic-defying mercy and grace are oh-so-real. It’s why I love Paul’s prayer for the Church to comprehend the incomprehensible love of Christ. We have a choice of faith every day to trust in God’s Word and character.
Here are a few biblical lifelines I frequently fight to embrace:
Loving God also involves being changed by Him. Repentance is a spiritual discipline needed daily as we obediently examine ourselves. We need to do some soul searching and discover the things we worship other than Him. I know for me I’m on my mind a lot, and the need to repent and acquire strength to crush that persistent idol of me—my will, my pleasure, my comfort—so I can focus on pleasing the Lord is only revealed and imparted as I spend time in His presence and face His truth. The desires in my heart (such as marriage) are refined only when I offer them up and allow Him to expose their hidden motives and reshape them. When we seek to value our Savior and accept His unique plan for our lives above all else, that’s when holy contentment can blossom.
Loving others includes being an active participant in the body of Christ—the family of God. We must seek to understand the various gifts He’s given us and allow them to flourish as we gather together. Rejecting any part of the gospel-believing Church is like walking around without an eye, ear, or lung. In today’s culture, it will take His courage to become vulnerable with a select few, learn conflict resolution skills, and overcome prejudices or opinion clashes for the sake of growth and partnership in His mission. Taking these risks with each other is the road to maturity. Whether we’re single, married, young, or old, we need to operate in every one of the beautiful roles we’ve been given—mother or father, daughter or son, sister or brother, etc. Among God’s greatest gifts are my accountability sisters, spiritual brothers who have ignored the narrative that friendship between the sexes is impossible, and mothers and fathers of faith who have rebuked, corrected, and shared wisdom as extensions of His protection and healing through many ups and downs.
Loving others also encompasses God’s heart for the lost world that does not yet know Him. We are called His ambassadors, witnesses, and disciples. This means we represent Him, speak of Him, and follow after His ways. The growing pain and darkness around us should prompt in us active compassion the same way it did for Jesus as He walked on the earth. We’re invited into His holy work of redemption at the same time His work is being completed in us. Being humble vessels He can use for the salvation of another is incomparable. Let’s learn from and attach ourselves to those who are pursing this mission.
You see, it’s really not about singleness. Faith must be applied every morning, afternoon, and evening to step first towards the Father and then others into abundant life through the gospel of Jesus Christ. No one can make those advances for us. However, God promises to speak when we seek Him. And He has a community to give us (others who are stumbling and pressing on, too). We can go on mission to share with conviction that “a relationship with Jesus changes everything.” Husband or not, that’s what it’s all about.