Friday, January 9, 2009

Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye - Pt 2

Chapter 3 - God's Quiet Providence

Could you identify with the concept of living in unexpectant apathy in this chapter? I know that at times that has certainly been me, concluding that God had abandoned me to unwanted singleness, and even feeling at times that if God wasn’t interested in this one thing that meant so much to me then was he really interested in anything about my life. To read that our distrust of God is viewed by God as seriously as our disobedience, as quoted from Jerry Bridges, is a challenging call to look at how we view God in our singleness. Do we, perhaps, look for someone or something else to blame (even maybe our church?) so we don’t have to deal with the fact that we don’t trust God?

I think sometimes our bigger problem is not that we don’t believe that God is in control of our singleness; we believe that, we just don’t want it. We can’t accept that God might want us to be single for a few more years or forever. And so we live unsubmitted lives of quiet rebellion against God and the portion he has assigned to us. But, the reason we don’t want it is because we don’t believe that God intends us good, that our singleness is governed by his great love, mercy and grace and will make us more like Christ. For me this can be where the most important battle is most fiercely raging, and so I do need to I have to meditate on Scriptures that speak that truth, such as the renowned Romans 8:28 (and the whole of chapter 8), Psalm 16:5-11, Psalm 139 and there are many more. These passages exhort me to live a life of joyful peace and not one of begrudging resignation.

I’d love to know if any readers tried the suggestions at the end of this chapter to read through Isaiah 40-49 and meditate and pray on these passages or to make a list of the evidences of God’s faithfulness. I confess that I didn’t spend a lot of time on the former but have attempted the later, was encouraged to see past the absence of one blessing to the many others that I have in Christ, and I hope to repeat that suggestion throughout the year. If there is one way that we can be absolutely certain that we do God’s will that is to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

I was challenged once again by this chapter to see past my own individual circumstances to the bigger panorama of God’s grace and how he may be using my singleness in that, to remain hopeful about the future, not for marriage necessarily, but for the work of God through my life, and to rest secure in God’s promises.

I’d thought I’d here include the testimony of another who has walked this road ahead of us:

Through no fault or choice of my own, I am unable to express my sexuality in the beauty and intimacy of Christian marriage, as God intended when he created me a sexual being in his own image. To seek to do this outside of marriage is, by the clear teaching of Scripture, to sin against God and against my own nature. As a committed Christian, then, I have no alternative but to live a life of voluntary celibacy. I must be chaste not only in body, but in mind and spirit as well. Since I am now in my 60's I think that my experience of what this means is valid. I want to go on record as having proved that for those who are committed to do God's will, his commands are his enablings ...

My whole being cries out continually for something I may not have. My whole life must be lived in the context of this never-ceasing tension. My professional life, my
social life, my personal life, my Christian life-all are subject to its constant and powerful pull. As a Christian I have no choice but to obey God, cost what it may. I must trust him to make it possible for me to honor him in my singleness.

That this is possible, a mighty cloud of witnesses will join me to attest. Multitudes of single Christians in every age and circumstance have proved God's sufficiency in this matter. He has promised to meet our needs and he honors his word. If we seek fulfillment in him, we shall find it. It may not be easy, but whoever said that Christian life was easy? The badge of Christ's discipleship was a cross.

Why must I live my life alone? I do not know. But Jesus Christ is Lord of my life. I believe in the sovereignty of God, and I accept my singleness from his hand. He could have ordered my life otherwise, but he has not chosen to do so. As his child, I must trust his love and wisdom.

Margaret Clarkson "Singleness: His Share for Me," Christianity Today, vol. 23, no. 10, February 16, 1979, p. 14-15 (cited in the foreword to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem).

Here are Carolyn McCulley's discussion questions for chapter 3:

  • Do you identify with Naomi? If so, what does it look like in your life?
  • What circumstances cause you to conclude God is through blessing you? What do you do to combat that temptation and cultivate trust in God?
  • Where have you seen God surprise you in the past times when you though no further blessings would be forthcoming? Do you ever review those evidences of God's faithfulness?
  • Did anything in the recounting of this familiar story of Ruth surprise you? Why?

  • Further reading:

    You Can Change by Tim Chester: If you are struggling with feeling depressed about your singleness, with believing that God intends you good, and would like to make steps to change, this is an extremely helpful and practical book.

    The God Who Knows the End of Your Singleness by Carolyn McCulley.

    Fine China is for Single Women Too by Lydia Brownback: This is another good book for single women which contains a great chapter titled Safe in God’s Sovereignty.

    The Path of Loneliness by Elisabeth Elliot: Once again a great book to encourage us in joyful acceptance of God’s will.

    Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb: A book that also uses the story of Ruth to consider how God is working through our lives.

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