Fear can be a powerful motivator.

Whether you’re single or married.  Or considering marriage.

For single believers, fear of the future can represent a significant, even chronic factor affecting how we pursue relationships.  What might our old age look like the longer we remain single?

People have jumped into relationships just to try and avoid answering that question.

The future can seem especially scary to singles not just because Social Security, traditional pensions, and even housing values have proven to be woefully unreliable.  We’re living longer, meaning that cancer, dementia, and other old-age diseases will become more common.  Will we end up like old people we sometimes hear about, found alone days after they’ve passed away, after years of solitary decline?

We tend to look at married people and figure that as they age, regardless of their finances, or the size of our own extended families, they’ll be better off than ourselves.  Doesn’t matrimony at least provides a built-in caregiver if we get sick, and double a family unit’s earning potential to help pay for elder care?  At least having a spouse will keep us from getting lonely, right?

Usually, somewhere in the middle of our pity party, God will graciously remind us that just because people are married, they have no right to expect a blissful old age any more or less than His beloved who don’t have a spouse.  Besides, in almost all marriages, one spouse will pass away first, leaving the other spouse alone, which means that as we age, singlehood becomes a relative concept.  

Sound depressing?  It doesn’t have to.  As followers of Christ, none of us are to fear the future in general, or old age specifically, no matter how grim it might look.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalms 46:2-3).

Our faith walk should be one of hope and promise, not fear and trepidation.  These aren’t simply religious platitudes; they’re part of God’s holy, inspired Gospel of Grace.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him [God], because He cares for you"  (1 Peter 5:7).

Those who hope in me will not be disappointed"  (Isaiah 49:23b).

If you struggle with these fears about aging alone, you’re actually not alone.  Nor does the Bible ignore the topic.  Naomi, for example, trusted God for her future, and ended up being part of Christ’s lineage.  Even Christ, dying for our sins on the cross, arranged for John to care for His aging mother.    

It’s natural to wonder what our old age might look like, and to a certain extent, God gives us wisdom to help plan for it.  Making rational preparations for potential feasibilities is being prudent, not sinful.  But since we can’t possibly plan for every contingency, just like married people can’t, we need to rely primarily, purposefully, and persistently on our Lord.

After all, “a man cannot discover anything about his future” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”  (Luke 12:25)

Even if medical theory suggests that we have a good chance of developing certain diseases based on our family’s health history, we can adopt healthier lifestyles to try and mitigate those chances, but can’t we do so without fearing them?

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go"  (Joshua 1:9).

“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life”  (Revelation 2:10).

“For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love”  (Lamentations 3:31-32).

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me”  (Psalms 138:7).

If we journey through life and its experiences by faith and not by sight, even if those things that we suspect may happen to us really do happen, we can have confidence in our Savior. 

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”  (Psalms 73:23-26).

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust”  (Psalms 103:13-14).

God knows what will happen to us as we age, and He already knows whether we’ll be married in our old age, as well as any number of other contingencies that could surprise us – both negatively and positively – along the way.  Our job isn’t to anticipate whatever joys or challenges may be in store, but to wait on God’s timing and His provision for us.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD”  (Psalms 27:14).

“No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame”  (Psalms 25:3a).

“Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame”  (Isaiah 50:7).

Sometimes we need to simply rest in God’s truth, and allow His Holy Spirit to cultivate in our brain a proper perspective on the issues troubling us.  Based on these truths and the peace that comes from them, we can find a freedom from fear’s shackles.  Yes, it may need periodic refreshening, since the Devil doesn’t give up easily.  But can’t his evil persistence itself represent a testament to God’s greater power and sovereignty?  

"I [Jesus] have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world"  (John 16:33).  

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Let’s claim these scriptures for ourselves!  For God’s glory, and our peace.

Amen?

From his smorgasboard of church experience, ranging from the Christian and Missionary Alliance to the Presbyterian Church in America, Tim Laitinen brings a range of observations to his perspective on how we Americans worship, fellowship, and minister among our communities of faith. As a one-time employee of a Bible church in suburban Fort Worth, Texas and a former volunteer director of the contemporary Christian music ministry at New York City's legendary Calvary Baptist, he's seen our church culture from the inside out. You can read about his unique viewpoints at o-l-i.blogspot.com.

Publication date: October 30, 2012