Can singleness really be sweet?
Whenever I’ve asked my readers to share their thoughts about singleness, one of the issues they have with waiting is not becoming bitter. I’ve written two posts, 30 & Single (Keeping Hope Alive) and (Almost) 35 & Still Single that have chronicled my years as a single woman whose age is changing but not my relationship status. It can be so disheartening when our deepest hopes seem continuously deferred.
Through the advent of Facebook Live videos, I’ve witnessed more engagements and weddings than ever before. Instead of just seeing the photographs of the newly engaged flashing her diamond ring, I can see the guy dropping on bended knee, the tears flowing, and the engagement sealing hug. If I’m being transparent, sometimes it can feel like a dull knife to the heart. In the moment, I should be happy for them. After all, doesn’t the Bible say to rejoice with those who rejoice? (It does in Romans 12:15). Instead, my first thought is, “Are you kidding me?!” (I didn’t say my transparency would be pretty). And it sure doesn’t help when they’re usually younger than I am and I’m here eyes heavenward wondering when (and sometimes if) it will be my turn.
Even after that initial reaction, I know that there’s still a choice to make. I can either choose bitterness and inwardly shake my fist at God or I can celebrate a special moment in someone else’s life.
Out of all the negative emotions listed in the Bible, bitterness is the only one described as having roots. Dealing only with the surface problem is like trying to pluck the top of a weed. Unless we get rid of the roots, it will continue to grow back again and again. Read how the Message describes it in Hebrews 12:14-17,
Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for the weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing – but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.
Roots don’t stay in one place. They travel going wider and deeper. Bitterness won’t just affect one area of your life. It’ll dig its way into other chambers of your heart, crowding out and choking God’s goodness and grace.Bitterness digs its way into the chambers of your heart crowding and choking God's goodness and grace. Click To Tweet
Instead of sharing a mutual brotherly love, Jacob and Esau were more at odds with each other than ever before. Jacob ran for his life fearing that Esau would kill him because of his double deception (stealing his birth right and his blessing). Just the same, we can run away from God believing that instead of giving us His blessing, He withholds it from us and we have no idea why. We ask ourselves, “What did I do wrong?” or “Why won’t God bless me?” We feel left in the dark to questions we’ve been searching for and hurt not knowing why God won’t come through.
The Sweetness of God’s Grace
The Apostle Paul found himself with a condition he wanted to get rid of. We’re not told what that condition was only that he prayed for it to be taken away.
Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ might rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10, NKJV)
I know there are many of us single daughters who pray for God to take our singleness away and make us wives and mothers. Singleness becomes a thorn in our side, an ever constant wound reminding us of what we lack. Do we really think of our singleness as a way for God to reveal His strength in us?
Paul did the right thing and took his petition to God believing that He could remove it. Yet, when the answer was “no”, Paul did not hide from God. He didn’t shake his fist and become bitter that this all powerful God restrained a healing touch from heaven. Instead, he professes just the opposite! He will boast in his infirmities so that Christ’s power would rest on him. My goodness do I wish I thought that way! That I thought of God’s glory before my own desires.
God gives Paul two gifts in his circumstances: His grace and His strength.
Grace is God’s unmerited favor to those who are unworthy. There is nothing we can do to deserve or earn it and yet He gives it to us freely at the cost of His Son. His strength is given to us when we’ve come to the end of our own. Our full dependence on Him makes us stronger than we could ever hope or imagine. They both have nothing to do with us and everything to do with the awesome God we serve.
How can we stop bitterness taking root in our hearts and embracing the sweetness of singleness? By understanding that both singleness and marriage are gifts from God. They are gifts that He gives according to His purpose. We can either receive the gift of singleness with hands open and hearts grateful that God thinks of us and knows what is best for us or with fist closed reject it. Singleness is not always an easy gift but like God tells Paul, we are given grace and strength in the moments of weakness.