Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Glorifying God Through Singleness

Leslie Basham: Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When you're single and really want to be married, it can sound like just pious words, but it really is true that there is no one and nothing apart from Christ who can fill the innermost parts of my heart. A husband will not do that, and all the married women are nodding their heads because they know I'm right.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, July 30.

A group of ministry workers met over lunch one day for a question and answer time with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, author of the booklet called Singled Out for Him. The focus was on glorifying God through singleness, but as you'll hear the married women in the room got a lot out of this discussion as well. All of us will benefit from Nancy's focus on living all of life for God's glory. Let's listen.

Woman 1: Nancy, I have a daughter who has thought that all she wanted to do was be a wife and a mother. Even as a little girl, she was Miss Susie Homemaker. My other daughter who was the tomboy is the one who is married. I have watched my Donna evolve over time dealing with her singleness with the Lord. In a talk she and I had, I said, “Donna, what I see is you and your friends are putting your lives on hold and waiting for some time for that to begin. God has you in this place for a reason.”

What have you in your experience being single and dealing with other single women, what would you say to them?

Nancy: Well, you just gave some wise words yourself there. I think what you said is actually the answer to everything in life. You talked about dealing with singleness with the Lord. About half in this room I understand are single; the other half are married. They have to deal with marriage with the Lord because marriage or singleness, children or barrenness, youth or age, wealth or poverty, every situation in life requires crucifixion. It requires the cross. 

The only way you can walk through loss (and every one of those seasons of life involves different types of loss), the only way you can walk through pain, (and every aspect and season of life involves in some way pain), is to walk through it with the Lord.

Now that doesn't mean that you don't experience loss or that you don't experience pain, but you face it with the Lord and you embrace it. But I do think it's unwise and a mistake to put our life on hold rather than enjoy the moment where God has me, and embracing the moment where God has me and saying, “God has me in this place at this moment, at this season for a purpose that I could not fulfill if I were in any other place or any other season. This place and this season is God's will for me right now."

I can either go kicking and screaming through it, or I can go embracing it, but I will go through it. There's no option. I mean, I’m not married, and I’m not likely to be married by this time next week or the following week. I'm going to walk through this season. I'm going to be single for at least the next week for sure and probably a lot more weeks beyond that. So why in the light of something that isn't here miss what is here?

I can embrace whatever season of life God has put me in and whatever that requires. Some of you are empty nesters, and you're dealing with the grandchildren season of life. Then there are others in this ministry who have lots of young children and that can be a very stressful, busy season of life. I think I’m busy, but then I see mothers with these bunches of children and I think, “I don't know what busy is.” It's easy in that season of life to just be waiting for those children to be grown up.

But then we miss out on the fact that today in this moment, in this season, is a gift. I will go through it, but I can choose how I go through it and to make the most of it, to lift that season up with its challenges to the Lord and to say, “I give this to you, even my unfulfilled longings, as a sacrifice.”

This is as Elisabeth Elliot and Amy Carmichael and others have reminded us, it's material for sacrifice: the loneliness, the unfulfilled longings, the desires that may never be met this side of heaven. It's not wrong to have the unfulfilled longing. What is wrong is to become demanding that God fulfill my longings in my way and in my time.

I know it sounds when you're single and really want to be married, it can sound like just pious words. But it really is true that there is no one and nothing apart from Christ who can fill the innermost parts of my heart, and a husband will not do that. All the married women are nodding their heads because they know I’m right. The most wonderful husband cannot fill the innermost part. There are aspects of ministry and relationship that you single women are free to enjoy that the married women aren't.

You say, “Well, I’d trade my problems over theirs.” God may let you do that at some point, but I’ve had enough married women cry on my shoulder to know that marriage is not the answer. Nothing is the answer, and no one is the answer except for Christ.

Now having Christ doesn't mean I don't have moments of real pain and loneliness, but you take it to the cross. You lift it up to Him. You embrace it. You accept it and you say, “This is good that I should have to walk through this." I'm walking through some of the toughest waters of my life right now in other issues, and I have to keep reminding myself of God's perspective that pain is good. Now we don't think that way.

  • I can't grow without pain.
  • I can't become like Jesus without pain.
  • I can't be fitted for heaven without pain.

So I have to keep counseling my heart according to what I know is true and that is pain is good. Now that doesn't mean you walk in a hospital and say, “I'd like to have surgery” if you don't need it. We're not asking to be martyrs. But we're knowing that part of growth and grace requires pain. It requires denying self and releasing and relinquishing our natural and in some cases good desires and say, “Lord I desire this, but I desire You more than this. I'm willing to accept that You are enough for me.”

Woman 2: On the opposite side of waiting in your life and embracing that, a lot of times I think a lot of single women go to the opposite extreme and embrace it so much that they come to a place of complete independence, and they don't have to lean on anyone. They embrace it to the point where they're being controlling. I control my own life. I do my own thing. I own my home. I own my own this. I have my own business maybe perhaps. Or even if they don't own it, they're in their career; they know what they want to do.

I'm afraid that if I embrace my singleness too much that I would end up being that way, that I would want to remain in control. Then if I did meet someone that I loved or wanted to marry, I would have a hard time being submissive to that person or letting him lead my life. So the question is what are practical ways to keep balance when you’re single? What can I do now in my life not to wait, not to be on hold, to embrace singleness? But what can I do to embrace it in a way that prepares me for a future that may not ever contain a man, to where I have to be self-sufficient and a future that may contain marriage? How do you prepare for both without becoming hardened or without waiting?

Nancy: You've touched on something that I think is a more major issue in our generation, in our culture than maybe any other time in history because we as women are now in a position where we can be financially independent. And this is as you say, the other extreme. It is a danger. That is why it's not singleness that we embrace, and it's not marriage that we embrace. It's the Lord that we embrace, ultimately.

My goal in life is to be pleasing to Him. That should be your goal. If you know the Lord, there's something in your heart that wants to please the Lord. What pleases the Lord is for us as women to be womanly, to be gracious women as Proverbs says. So whether married or single we need to study the Word of God, to study the ways of God and say, “What is it that God considers pleasing in a woman?”

We know for example from 1 Peter 3 that God says He looks at a woman and says she's beautiful when He sees in that woman the internal beauty of a gentle and a quiet spirit, a meekness, a freedom from anger, a freedom from demandingness, a releasing of rights, not controlling, a quiet spirit. That doesn't necessarily mean a quiet personality. But it does mean a trusting spirit, that I don't have to manipulate. I don't have to strive. I don't have to control. I don't have to have it my way. The Scripture says that's beautiful in a woman whether she's married or single. So I want to develop a meek spirit and a quiet spirit.

God made the woman according to Genesis 3 to be a helper to the man. Now that's obvious or it's more obvious how that plays out when you're talking about a married woman She’s to be a helper to her husband But I believe there's a part of that description that is defining of my role as a single woman. God made me not to be independent but to be interdependent, to need the Body and to be a helper, a servant.

Now should men not be servants also? Yes. Christ was a servant. We all want to have servant's hearts. But I think there is something particularly important about us as women developing a servant's heart.

In the New Testament the word serving or servant in the gospels where service was rendered to Jesus was always rendered either by angels or by women. This is a high and a holy calling to be a servant. So I look for practical ways in my role, in the ministry where I serve, in the relationships I have to say, “How can I be a helper to my fellow servants in ministry? How can I serve them?” not just looking to them to serve and assist me.

I think about the families that I have relationships with. How can I be a servant and a helper to those families? How can I be a giver of grace? Then I look for ways to go against my natural independence, my natural tendency to be independent. And so I look for ways to express need, to ask for prayer, to say I am not self-sufficient, I need help, I need prayer, I need grace, and to express need to others.

For me it's important to let others who want to have a part in my life in serving in practical ways sometimes to let them do that so that I'm not always doing everything on my own. I try hard to ask for counsel, to look at the men God has put around me—pastors and godly men, spiritual leaders—and to get with those men and their wives, couples many times, and to ask for input. I ask for counsel and suggestions about different practical or spiritual areas in my life. It puts me in a position of saying I'm not functioning alone. I'm part of a Body.

Then if God is ever to have me married, I feel I'm better prepared to enter into marriage and be a part of a whole rather than functioning so independently.

Woman 3: Up until a year ago, I have been surrounded by men. All my friends were guys. I learned the lingo and dressed accordingly. And this whole year I have been able to be blessed by a group of girls who have surrounded me and encouraged me to be that woman of God. They have been a model and spoke to me about community and friendships with these women. I had never learned what it meant to have a woman as a friend, and it's been really difficult because I never knew what it meant. I'm still learning day by day how to talk to women and how to grow as a woman.

I want to know what those fine lines are with your relationships with men and women because I've had a hard time cutting a lot of those ties from men as a single woman and knowing where the conversation ends. What do you not say? What part of your life can you not share with these men so they won't get the wrong idea, so you're not leading them on and creating those bonds with men when you should be creating those bonds with women?

Nancy: Two things come to mind. One is a concept that is very little heard today and that's the whole Scriptural idea of discretion, to be discreet, to be prudent. Proverbs says the "prudent man foresees evil and hides himself" (22:3, NKJV). He looks ahead and sees what are going to be the consequences of his decisions and his choices, and he makes wise choices in light of what will be the outcome.

I think very few of us as men or women today are prudent and discreet. We don't know what it means to be appropriate. We're living in this culture where everything is just open. We've lost a sense of what's appropriate in terms of conversation, in terms of behavior, in terms of dress when as women we are with men.

Those of you who are married women, there are certain kinds of conversation that is appropriate for you to have with your husband that is not appropriate for you to have with other men or even other women. Now the other thought that is helpful to me is that if you are a child of God, you are a part of a family. That means we are to deal with each other as men and women as family. So Paul says to Timothy, “In your relationships with women, with younger, with older, with younger men, with older men, think of it as a family relationship.” And so he says, “Treat the men as fathers. Treat the women as sisters” (see 1 Timothy 5:1-2). 

So if we think of each other not as sexual objects but as family members and say, “What would be the appropriate way?” Now I know in this day of very dysfunctional families for some people that's hard to really understand what an appropriate family relationship is, which is why we have to go to the Word of God and find out how should brothers feel about each other. How should they deal with each other?

So in my relationships with women I want to think, “What is an appropriate, proper relationship for sisters to have?” There should be freedom there. There should be a level of intimacy and oneness that is appropriate. With my relationships with men, I want to treat those men as brothers and older men as fathers, which means there is respect. There is wisdom in letting some of those guards be up. Not in a way that we don't give the love of Christ, but in a way that we're not inviting men to partake of something that doesn't belong to them.

Woman 4: I'm a mother. I have two teenage sons. I have a husband. I work. I'm involved in my church. I find that I desperately would love to use my spiritual gifts more often. But I'd like to find out how do I balance the gifts God has given me to what my real life is?

Nancy: How do you balance the gifts God has given you with your real life? Well, let me say that God being all wise would not give you gifts that can't be balanced with your real life. The gifts He's given you are intended to be used in real life in your role as a mother, in your role as a wife, in your relationship with Him.

So we have to just keep going back to the Scripture and saying, “What are our priorities as women?” Whether you're married or not, your relationship with the Lord is the number one priority in your life. If you are a married woman, your relationship with your husband is the second most important priority in your life, not your relationship with your children. For many who are in the childbearing years of life, their role as a mother overtakes their role as a wife. So if you're a wife, that comes first. Then you will have with your husband what is needed to pour into your children.

Then the Body of Christ, the extended family of God, becomes your priority. Your job is not equal to any of those priorities. If you can't fulfill those priorities adequately, then you need to get out of your job. I mean that sounds very bottom line, but you say, “There is no way I could do that.” Well, there is always a way to obey God. There is always a way to live out biblical priorities.

Balancing priorities and fulfilling God's calling on my life in various fronts is one of the hardest things I have to do every single day. It's always keeping balls in the air that I drop a lot, so I'm not speaking out of any sense of having this down. But I always have to go back to, it is possible to live out God's priorities for my life. The spiritual gifts God has given to me are not separate from my real life. They're gifts that I'm exercising in the course of life, in the course of my relationships and my serving and my working. I'm living out those gifts.

So whatever your spiritual gift is, God has given it to you as a gift to serve, as a gift that can be given up to the Body, offered to the Body for the building up of the Body of Christ. It's intended to be offered in the context of the relationships where God has placed you. Now there are some resources and tools that can help you think through what some of those gifts are. But I think there are some practical ways: Ask others who know you and who see you in the context of life, “What are the ways that you see God using me?”

I had an interesting illustration of this last week. A woman who had been the coordinator for one of our Revive Our Hearts' conferences a few years came up to me (I hadn't seen her since the conference). She said, “I learned from that conference that God did not make me to be an administrator.” She said, “It took me a year to recover from all that was involved in putting that conference together.” She was real thankful she had done the conference, but it helped her to realize that that wasn't really her niche and that there are other women who God has wired and gifted to provide that kind of leadership.

She said since then she has discovered the ways that God does use her. She's now focusing on fulfilling those ways and releasing those expectations. The way she did that conference was a more upfront task than the tasks she has now. But now she's being better utilized doing the things God's really called her to do.

Woman 5: I went through a period in my life (I'm 30; I'll be 31 in March) where my parents put a lot of pressure on me to get married. Almost every time I talked to my dad it was, “Do you have a boyfriend yet?” I didn't quite know how to respond to that. I think after I turned 30 they kind of gave up. It's not been that much of a big deal anymore. But I just want to know what is a wise response to parents (they don’t have a real strong spiritual walk so it can't be in spiritual terms). I want to know just in practical things I could say to my parents or even let some of the single women here know how to tell their parents if they are feeling a lot of pressure to be married.

Nancy: I think what you experienced there is probably not unusual. How many of you single women have had something along that line that you've to deal with? A number. Your parents love you, and they want you to be happy. Your dads in particular want you to be secure. They want you to be taken care of.

So I think if we can hear those kinds of comments as representing a heart of concern, a heart of wanting our best. In my case my parents had a good marriage, and my dad's been with the Lord for many years. But my mother—I can't say she put pressure on me—but I know two things. One, she wants more grandchildren. She has three single daughters who aren't helping with that cause. But also I think she wants for us to experience what she felt was such a happy marriage and hates for us to be missing out on that.

So I think for us to express appreciation for their interest, for their concern. But I tell you if they can see we're walking in trust, and maybe they can't understand it from a spiritual standpoint, but that our lives are full (not too full if God brings a husband), but that we are living meaningful lives and that we are walking with joy and with peace, then they may tease but I think it won't be something that's a core conviction on their part that they have to help us get married.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been sharing from her experience as a single woman devoted to God's will. That question and answer time has a lot to offer everybody because ultimately the issue isn't singleness; it's God's glory. She's challenged you to embrace the life God has called you to live.

Nancy's written about these issues in a booklet called Singled Out for Him. I hope you'll get a copy for yourself or someone you know who would benefit from it. Walking through the pages of this book will help you devote yourself to God with a renewed energy. We''ll send you Nancy's booklet Singled Out for Him when you send any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Just call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

A declaration can be powerful. Just look at the founders of the United States who put their life on the line to sign the Declaration of Independence. On Monday hear why making a declaration can also be powerful in building God's kingdom. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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