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Thursday, September 4, 2014

God's Presence in Singleness: Guest Post

It's hard to feel God's presence when you're in a holding pattern. Trusting God, finding His goodness in the small moments, even when things don't seem to go according to your own plan... it's really hard. 

Waiting to find "the one" is a daunting, exhausting, and often incredibly disappointing. (And the idea of "the one" is another thing we're going to get into later, but that's another post for another day.) 

Last week, Bianca pointed out that this time of singleness is an opportunity- that while we're single, we have an opportunity to wholeheartedly serve God in a way that isn't always possible when we're married. But how does our attitude get to that point? Our minds might know that truth, but getting our hearts to catch up is a difficult thing. 
Victor is a seminary student studying biblical counseling. He also happens to be a good friend of mine. Victor's dealt with a lot of hard things when it comes to relationships, but I've always admired his ability to keep God central in his life, even in the tough stuff. I asked Victor to share a little about what this time of singleness has taught him.

A few years ago I found myself at a crossroads in life. I was in a relationship that had become physically immoral and spiritually destructive. The relationship itself was dying and I knew things had to end by my hand. My girlfriend at the time was willing to do whatever it took to keep things alive, even to her own spiritual detriment. However, a choice was pressed upon me in my spirit by counsel of wise people in my life, and from God.

If I chose to stay in that situation I would end up cutting myself off from God. But if I want to mend my relationship with God it meant cutting off my girlfriend and jumping into the deep abyss I have hated with a passion since I hit puberty- singleness.

Would you rather be single with Jesus by your side, or have an immoral relationship (one that you know should end) without His presence?

To quote V. Mary Stewart, “I wanted God’s Spirit more than I wanted transient physical titillation.”

I chose to end the relationship, and embarked on this new journey God had called me to. It was a situation I can’t say I ever saw myself in when I was younger. I was convinced in earlier years that I would be married by now. And yet God had called me to end my relationship with my girlfriend, and make Him the center of why I exist.

This new chapter in life wasn’t an easy one, and I found myself living with all the issues of loneliness and depression I didn’t want to deal with. I was afraid of the future, filled with all manner of pain and bitterness from my relationship, and felt very, very alone.

I think this is where a lot of singles find themselves now days. We’re alone and afraid of the future. As much as we try to drown out our fears and frustrations with the toys of life we find ourselves not finding answers.

Is that where you are right now?

I’ve found that as much as I pray and ask God to give me a spouse and lead me to the promise land of marriage, He seems to want to correct my thinking. His highest goal for my life doesn’t seem to include giving me what I want when it seems most sensible to have it. In the past I rejected His guidance by dating people I shouldn’t have been with, becoming addicted to pornography, and living life as best I could to mask the deep pain I had from my own loneliness. But God wanted to tell me it was time to put away the toys of the world and start drinking the deep wine of His presence.

He wants to give me Himself. I think the only way He can actually do that is take away what I refuse to let go of. For the longest time I’ve held on to the ideal of finding a person to settle down with. In my
relationships I’ve obviously demonstrated by my behavior what mattered most to me. I wanted intimacy with a person more than I wanted it with God. Being single now gives God the opportunity to show how broken I really am.

We are broken people, there’s no hiding the fact that many of us feel like messes nobody can fix. We look at our loneliness, fears, and other issues we have and sometimes think maybe the answer is to have a life to share with someone else.

It’s sad, but people are still lonely when they get married. They still find that their inner restlessness doesn’t go away. As time goes on, the issues they refused to deal with when single now come to haunt them while married. If we don’t have peace now, the stress of marriage won’t help. If we don’t have any joy, our ephemeral emotions will only make things worse. If we can’t actually love another person right now, we’ll destroy lives in our own selfishness. We don’t need to master the single life, We need to sacrifice our lives right now for God’s purposes that will bear three fruit I know I want badly: love, joy, and peace.

Do you have peace? Can you actually sleep at night? Do you find yourself restless and with many anxieties running through your mind?

Do you have any joy? Is there pleasure coming from sensing the presence of God in your life? Do you delight to do His will? (Psalm 40:8)

Do you have any desire to truly love another person? I’m not just talking about being romantically linked, I mean actually making the personal sacrifice to see other people as ends in themselves, not a means to yours.

We need to take our lives to the cross. What I mean by this is we need to pour out our needs and issues before God, knowing full well He is the healer we need to make us whole creatures again. I want to be capable of just trying to loving a spouse if I’m given one. But for that to even be possible God is calling me to let go of my desires and dreams and entrust them to Him.

That means I let go of my wish to meet a girl right now, get married and start a life together. It means to understand God is the creator of the human sex drive and His authority over that needs to be put into practice now, not when I’m married. It means I need to learn that God is the one who knows me most intimately and perfectly. All romance and pleasure of romantic love are merely shadows of what is waiting in God’s presence.

Are we willing to take our fears of being single, the pains of loneliness, and the urgings of the body, and submit them to God’s caring authority?

Start doing it in prayer. Begin by asking God to fill you with His presence, and make Himself known to you. Come to Him with scriptures that are filled with His promises and pray to Him for your needs. Psalm 145 says, “He fulfills the desire of every living thing.” Philippians 4 said His transcendent peace would overcome our anxieties and guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Genesis 2 says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Psalm 16 says in “His presence there is fullness of joy, and at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

Do you believe this? Take your life to God, and open up everything to Him. Talk to your Father about your day, cast upon Him your anxieties (1 Peter 5), put forward all your doubts, fears, and pains that come from life. But also come to Him boldly, knowing full well that God is good, and any doubts we have should be submitted to His will for our lives. (There’s nothing wrong with being honest to God about our doubts, but to actually doubt that He will do what He says is to give in to the temptation of the enemy, and should be repented of. Satan does not want you to live your life by the conviction of the truth that God is good.)

I’ve found something in the last few years I never thought I would find. I’m learning what it’s like to sense contentment while single. I am not content with being single, I’m content with the presence of God in my life. His presence gives a peace and joy that transcends the pain that comes from being single. He didn’t take away the trials of life that come from being a single, He’s started to show me His purposes behind them. The purpose behind all things is to lead us to Him.

I know that whether I’m married or single the purpose of both lives is the same. To know Christ. We marrieds and singles come about that purpose from different angles. But I have joy knowing that right now I’m learning how to live the life God has for me, and it doesn’t wait for marriage.

Have you started the journey yet? Have you decided to throw yourself into the pursuit of God determined to find Him regardless of whether you end up married or single? Offer up your relational future to His hands, and draw joy from knowing that while He didn’t promise we would get what we asked for, He would give us what we truly desire. We will be given peace and rest from our cares, joy from His presence, and we will be taught to love as He loves us. Don’t wait until your married to make the purpose of your life the pursuit of Jesus. 

Start now so when you do get married it will become a story of two people on the same journey to their Savior who was already making them whole people; wholly devoted to Him before they even met.


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