Somewhere I must have stopped praying for a husband because when I caught myself pleading with God, recently, it felt as though I had regressed. It was all at once as though my faith was stronger because I was taking it to Him, but weaker that I wasn’t believing that He was enough. What is clear to me is that I may wrestle with being single until the day I die. When I look in the mirror, I see gray hair and blemishes. I seem to need some kind of brace or support on every joint because so many different things hurt. What I suspect to be tendonitis in my thumb has stopped me from writing longhand in a notebook, as has been my habit for most of my life (thank God for the blessing of a laptop). I’m officially ‘over the hill.’ What business do I have hoping that there might be a Christian man out there who wants to share life with someone like me?
I saw an advertisement for a hat that read, “I don’t know how to act my age, I’ve never been this old before!” Sometimes I feel like I have never grown up, and I am still that thirteen-year-old watching my older sister get married and knowing that my turn can’t come soon enough. Or, I am the twenty-year-old entertaining the affections of the wrong men because Christian men aren’t interested. And I’m still the twenty-nine-year-old trying to cling to the hope that I won’t get left behind. Middle-age snuck up on me, and no one ever told me how to be a forty-something, single woman. Every time I think I have matured past this heart ache, I am faced with the truth that what I have always longed for is just normal for most people.
“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”Matthew 7:9-11
If the last twenty years have taught me anything, it is that a change to my situation is unlikely. I often think of a line from the movie, The Sound of Music, when Maria explains that she has given all of her clothes to the poor, and as for what she is wearing, “The poor didn’t want these.” I think, “The poor didn’t want me,” but that isn’t my real story. My story is one of grace and choices. After God rescued me from a relationship with an unbeliever whom I wanted to marry, I realized that I shouldn’t settle for less than God’s best. I think I stopped praying about my situation because I wasn’t praying with faith. I didn’t believe that God was going to give me what I desired. I prayed He would take the desire away, but even that was half-hearted, at best.
At present, all I can do is cry to God; He knows all of the confusion and mixed feelings in my heart. Jesus said, “. . .your Father knows what you need before you ask him. . .how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 6:8, 7:10) I realize that my desires, which on their face seem so normal, are illegitimate in light of the truth that only God can satisfy the human heart. The desire to be loved, cherished, and held by a man, is telling me a lie that it will fill the emptiness and make me happy, but only God can make me complete. Still, even when I am feeling content and blessed, I cannot escape the loneliness. I fear I do not have enough faith for God to give me a husband because it would be a stumbling block. But that makes it something I need to earn, which isn’t how God operates. It is a battle within my heart to stay true to Jesus and not chase after the things in this world I desire, which will not satisfy my soul.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.Romans 8:26-27
I must believe that God has a purpose in keeping me single for so long; it is clearly His will. This belief in His purpose, that He set me apart for a reason, is what drives me to keep pursuing Him. I figured out at some point, that seeking Him and seeking a husband are mutually exclusive. I am to seek Him with my whole heart, so I cannot also be seeking something else. God gives generously and is faithful. I don’t have to seek other things in order for my God to provide them. He is my Heavenly Father who knows what I need before I ask. These decades of singleness cannot be in vain; it is not how God works. I need to serve Him in faith, knowing that He will redeem the pain. He has told me that His grace is sufficient. So, day by day I depend on His grace, and it is enough. It is difficult to express that even though there is painful longing in my heart, there is also contentment and peace. I see God’s faithfulness to me everywhere I look. That is the difference that two decades has made: I am no longer desperate and depressed. God has clothed my disappointments with His steadfast love.