Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Singleness Survival Kit: Item #1

"He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."

-2 Corinthians 1:4

While nothing can replace the comfort that comes from the presence of the Spirit with me daily, there have been three specific things that have been of IMMENSE encouragement to me in my journey of singleness. The Lord has used these things to creatively express the precise revelations I so desperately needed to understand regarding this stage in my life. They have been his vehicles for providing His comfort to me during what can often be difficult and confusing times. I hope that as He has comforted me with them, that they can be a comfort to you. These three things are merely simple truths from Scripture expressed by other Christian women who have stood where I stand. Yet, for all their simplicity, they have affected my perspective profoundly. They are my "singleness survival kit" :)

Item #1: "Passion and Purity" by Elizabeth Elliot

Never, ever, ever will you ever need another book on navigating Christian singleness/dating/marriage...

I realize that's a VERY bold claim, but trust me--as a girl who has read DOZENS of books on these topics (both Christian and non-Christian)--this one is a gem to which no other book even comes close. EVERY topic you can think of is covered--boundaries, emotions, what men/women look for, discerning God's will, submission, masculinity, femininity--it really does have it all. It is full of Scripture, not to mention very practical, first-hand wisdom from an amazing woman of God who definitely has the credentials (authority!) to back up the intense things she writes of in the book. (Elizabeth Eliot, for those who don't know, is the widow of Jim Eliot who was one of the most famous martyr's of the 20th century. The Elliot's were missionaries in Ecuador in the 1940's and 50's).

I am insanely encouraged and convicted every time I read this book. This woman has an AMAZING love story--full of so much beauty and joy, yet so much sadness and struggle at the same time. She got married just before turning 27--which was definitely a "wait," considering this was back in the 1950's (when the average age of marriage was MUCH younger than it is now), so she definitely understands the plight of the Christian single gal very, very well. Passion and Purity contains many passages from the journals she kept during her singleness, as well as hindsight commentary after she was married. And, as she notes in the book, it's amazing how very little has changed in terms of the thoughts/struggles that single women had in the 40's/50's versus those of single women today. There truly is nothing new under the sun...

Here are the key quotes from this book that express the most profound singleness revelations for me personally. Along with Eliot's quotes, I've included my own internal processing and necessary response to each.

On our concerns that God won't get it right (bringing His perfect mate for us into our lives)

“Does it make sense to believe that the Shepherd would care less about getting His sheep where He wants them to go than they care about getting there?”

What this means for me:

Trust God’s character and good intentions! If I am following Him and seeking His will consistently, would He lead me astray? He desires to see me get to where He wants me to be! God longs to see His will accomplished through my life--far more than I do. I can cast my cares on Him BECAUSE He cares for me.

On the plight of a single man and a single woman hoping to get married

“Had our cause perhaps escaped His notice? Would He bother with us, when He was busy with who knew how many other worlds?”

What this means for me:

I am God’s child. He sees my circumstance and has NOT ignored my pleas (though I admit that I have often acted like the annoyingly persistent widow...). I can be assured that the Lord has heard every prayer I have prayed. And not only has He listened, but I can be confident that He is presently ACTING on my behalf (Philipians 2:13; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 3:20).

As Tim Keller says, “The story of Joseph shows us again and again that with God, silence is not absence…often when things look like they are going the most wrong, God is most working for our good.” Hagar experienced this. She was the first person in Scripture ever to give God a name. Her name for God is true for me too: He is the One who sees me.

On waiting and being patient in the unknown

“I do know that waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”

What this means for me:

I have to be humble enough to accept that I have no idea what God will bring about. His ways are not my ways. I can choose to go my own way…and see how that turns out. Or I can, like Abraham or the disciples, follow the Lord’s call simply to “Go” and follow Him into the unknown. Because I belong to Him (I am not my own), I need not know how He will bring everything about--or even where/to whom He is leading me. To wait is to TRUST…and to surrender time and again whenever I feel impatience creeping in.

On choosing how we will react to the position in life where God has us (she is speaking specifically in this passage about accepting singleness--whether temporary or permanent)

“Look at the choices:

Rebellion--if this is the will of God for me now, He doesn’t love me.
Rejection--if this is what God is giving me, I won’t have any part of it.
Faith--God knows exactly what He’s doing.
Acceptance--He loves me; He plans good things for me; I’ll take it.”

What this means for me:

If I am truly the follower of Christ I claim to be, there can be no room for options 1 or 2. As Henry Blackaby says: “Two words in the Christian’s language cannot go together: No, Lord. If you say, ‘No,’ He is not Lord.”

When it comes to my singleness, though it might not be forever (and I can’t claim to know that--see previous quote), it IS what has been given to me now. I will not wallow in self-pity about it and speak lies about the Lord’s character (that He “doesn’t love me”) simply because He is not giving me my present desires. And as far as rejection, where else I am going to go? Like Peter said, Christ has the words of life! How can you turn away and choose another path once you’ve tasted Truth?

So what will I do? Believe that He is sovereign and that His plan is better than mine. Receive the Truth into my heart that He loves me more than I can comprehend. And though I might not understand it now, I will trust that where He has led me truly is the BEST thing for this season.

On not seeing/understanding the big picture of what God is doing and how He will work everything out

“As I was writing in the journal I knew that the picture I was painting was far from complete.”

What this means for me:

When Ephesians 3:20 says that God can do much more than we could ever ask or imagine, it means that our perspectives are incredibly limited. We truly “see through a mirror dimly" (1 Corinthians 13:12). Only God knows the bigger picture. He is the Author of my life story. I will trust Him with the details, the characters, the plot and the ending. I will not claim to know more than I do about my future. I will trust that He is working in the unseen realm. I will choose not to get impatient when circumstances appear not to be coming together as I hoped they would. I will not pout even when things look as though they are completely unravelling. I will stand in faith.

On surrender

“What hindereth thee more than thine affections not fully mortified to the will of God?”
(Eliot quoting Thomas a Kempis)

What this means for me:

When my own (unfulfilled) longings and desires (even godly ones) become my primary focus, I am not walking in God’s will. My path is veering AWAY from Him because I am living in sin (idolatry). These desires need to be crucified so that they can be resurrected (if the Lord so chooses). But resurrection can only happen AFTER death. And it can only be brought about by One infinitely more powerful than me. In Passion and Purity, Eliot quotes Addison Leitch, who profoundly noted that “When the will of God crosses the will of man, somebody has to die.”

Guess who that’s gonna be?

To me, both of those quotes ultimately mean that the longer I wait to surrender, the longer it will take me to truly walk in the fullness of intimacysooner I genuinely put to death my own will in favor of His, the sooner I will find LIFE, peace, purpose...and the Love I have always craved. My striving, my refusal to submit, only hinders me. It is only in seeking first the Kingdom that all of those things will be added.

Ultimately, Passion and Purity has been a call to re-orient my thinking. To re-submit to Jesus' Lordship daily. The subtitle says it all--the true "secret" for us singles:

"Learning to bring your love life under Christ's control"

(p.s. Passion and Purity is not just for the ladies! On the cover of this book is an endorsement from Billy Graham: "This book is definitely for men, too." Just sayin, male readers...) :)


  1. If learning to surrender our passions and desires for marriage and intimacy to Christ aren't enough, then simply looking around us at the horrendous consequences of those living in sin should definitely be (look at your neighbors, watch the news, etc.) To me, that's even greater impetus than simple surrender--the fact that God's desire is to spare us from seriously messed up hearts, minds, relationships, disease, mental health issues, etc.

    I choose to surround myself daily with the truth of biblical sexuality and intimacy, because we live in a world saturated with aggressive, sexually twisted messages. I need those constant reminders of what (and more importantly, why) I'm surrendering myself to God.

  2. It's a tricky thing sometimes - being single. I've gone through phases of feeling desperate, phases of feeling that "I'll never get married" and all the other usual things that single people go through. I'm at a unique point in this chapter of the journey, in that I want (or at least I WANT to want) exactly what God wants for me - no more and no less. And so I'm praying a lot these days that he leads me to where HE wants me to be (like you said in your very first bolded quote).

    Something that really comforts me, Jenn, is reminding myself that God created my sex drive. If he created it, chances are he'll give me a husband. It doesn't seem logical otherwise, but I do understand that there is a tiny percentage of people who never do marry. (But it's tiny....)

    I have a random tool that helps me with my singleness. Remind me to tell you about it!!!! I think I'm gonna write a blog post about it, actually, so check on there. It's a little much ... but it helps me A LOT!