Q: Spending time with the Lord in prayer and Bible study is the way to find satisfaction in Him alone, but as a forty-eight-year-old single woman, my desire to marry is still so strong, and the struggle to find my satisfaction in Him alone is so very real. What counsel would you offer in dealing with that struggle and honoring God even if the struggle never ceases?
The struggle is real, isn’t it? What does it ultimately mean to be satisfied in the Lord and yet honest with Him about your desires? Although marriage is an incredibly good thing, remind yourself that as wonderful as marriage promises to be, it is not an ultimate thing. There are challenges in marriage (as there are in singleness), and being aware of them can help you keep your desire for marriage in perspective.
But simply acknowledging challenges isn’t helpful. When singleness lingers, there are additional steps you can take to face the temporary struggles while focusing on ultimate things.
Grieve Losses as They Come
My daughter-in-law Hannah told me the story of a sixty-five-year-old single woman who shared that at each stage of her life as a single, she has grieved certain losses. For example, although she could still marry at sixty-five, she couldn’t bear children, and therefore would not see biological grandchildren.
This woman remains happy in what God has given her to do, yet she grieved these losses honestly before the Lord. Grief and lament can be part of worship and moving forward with Christ. In 2013, God changed my status from married to widow. The life I envisioned—growing old with Jim, the man I loved, by my side—was not to be. I found it impossible to find peace in Christ until I faced my hurt and loss before the Lord honestly.
Pray for a Kingdom Mission and Passion
Jim’s death left me deeply wounded and with a renewed appreciation that this short life is mere preparation for the next. I asked the Lord to reorder my priorities to match His and to grant me a sense of urgency about His mission and my role in it. This changed my perspective as I moved forward alone. John writes, “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17, emphasis added).
Recently I was convicted by this question: do my prayers to God sound like a servant humbly asking how I might serve in His kingdom, or do they sound like I am giving God a list of things I want Him to accomplish for me? In other words, who is serving whom in this relationship? Married or single, my whole purpose for being on the planet is to enjoy God and bring Him glory. Dare to ask God to give you clarity for what He has for you and a passion to accomplish it. Most likely this is bigger than marriage.
Trust That God Is Enough
I pray God will, in His timing, grant you a godly husband. But what if He does not? As difficult as it may be to face, God’s ultimate plan may not be to change your circumstances. But He will change you. Paul once begged God to remove a thorn in the flesh. We aren’t certain what it was, although theologians speculate it was likely a physical ailment of some kind. Paul’s trial didn’t involve waiting on the Lord, but an outright “No.”
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor. 12:9)
There is no chance on this side of heaven for a reunion with or miracle healing for my husband. God’s loving answer to my prayers that He would heal my husband was “No”; I must trust God in that answer. Trite sounding or not, it’s still powerfully true: Jesus is enough. Like you, my struggle to find satisfaction in Christ alone was so very real. And His promise to me is that His power is made perfect in my weakness.
My good (and single) friend Bethany Jenkins has wisely said that if Jesus isn’t sufficient for her when she is single, He won’t be sufficient for her when she is married. And she is spot on. Contentment isn’t a one and done achievement. It’s a struggle we will battle in some area of our lives until glory. As a single, we struggle to be content as singles. Once married, we might struggle to be content with the person we married, or whether we have children or not, or the level of income we have, and on it goes. Satan will make certain to move the prize just before we capture it. Contentment requires constant guarding. Learn to avail yourself of the things that feed it and avoid the things that trouble it. It can take discernment and perhaps a good friend to help you determine what feeds your contentment and what troubles it.
Fall into the Savior’s Arms
Still, on the dark days when despite your fiercest prayers and best efforts to fight the good fight your heart just aches, fall into the arms of your Savior. He knows and loves you like no other. Trust that He is not withholding any good thing from you, and let that be your testimony even when you cannot see His plan. If you could see all His ways clearly and know every detail to the very end, it wouldn’t be faith.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).