Hard Questions, Godward Answers
- 2004 24 Nov
People can say some really thoughtless – even stupid – things.
I have a friend whose husband committed suicide. Her pastor wisely prepared her by telling her she was going to be greatly tested in responding graciously during grief. There’s something about death, especially by suicide, that seems to elicit careless comments and remarks. “My pastor was so right,” she said later. “Someone actually asked me if I knew my husband was going to kill himself! As though my answer was going to be, ‘Why, yes, and I let him!’”
Another friend, pregnant with a Down’s Syndrome child, was still reeling from the news when an acquaintance began to muse aloud about how hard it would be to go to restaurants with a handicapped child. “Everyone would always be staring at you! Would you be able to handle that for the rest of your life?” she asked.
I offer these true stories to help single women everywhere remember that there are much harder questions to handle than “Why aren’t you married yet?” and “So, are you dating anyone now?” I’m not saying it’s easy to hear these unhelpful questions or comments over and over again. I’m just saying that, unfortunately, it’s not a problem exclusive to being single. Scripture tells us it’s hard to control our tongues (James 3:2), so we shouldn’t be surprised when we encounter someone losing a grip on theirs.
The questions others ask us, however, can’t compare to the kinds of questions that we ask ourselves. When faced with extended singleness, it’s tempting to ask what’s wrong with us. Worse are the questions that bubble up from within during a lonely moment at a wedding or late at night, when the house is still but the emotions rage: “Does God really know what He’s doing? Is He really in control? Can I trust Him with my desires? Has He forgotten me?”
Where can we find the answers to such questions? Let’s begin with a mystery found in Proverbs:
“There are three things that are too amazing for me,
four that I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden.”
(Proverbs 30:18-19 NIV, emphasis added)
This biblical passage shows us that there are things too amazing, too wonderful for even a wise man to understand. Now you may say to yourself that modern science can explain the first three items – what’s the big deal? Number four still has us, though. Wise men and women remain confounded by the mystery of attraction and romance. We really don’t know why some relationships bud and bloom, and others do not. It takes humility – a sober recognition of our limitations – to be comfortable with that mystery.
But I have some good news for you: There is One who does know.
We don’t know the ways of the heart, but God does. He perfectly understands the things that are too amazing for us to understand. He created the eagle, the snake, the high seas, and men and women. He knows how everything operates, and nothing is a mystery to Him.
Even better, He is lovingly involved in His creation – with the eagles, the snakes, the ships, and also our wily hearts. He didn’t just make us all and then stand back to have a good laugh. He is Lord over His creation, lovingly ruling over all things to accomplish His purposes – even (especially!) in the affairs of the heart: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).
Are you tracking with me here? This means if the Lord can direct the heart of an absolute monarch, He can certainly turn the affections of our future husbands to us.
(Crickets: brrrpp, brrrppp.)
“Uh … well, does that mean God is holding out on us?” you might ask.
It can feel that way, can’t it?
But only if you forget whose heart He has already changed – yours.
If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, if your life has been radically changed by a personal relationship with Him, then you know this to be true. He softened your once hardened, rebellious heart and gave you affection for His Word and His people. You may remember what you were like before your Christian conversion. I certainly remember what I was like! I mocked Christians. They made no sense to me.
I didn’t know then I needed a Savior, but that wasn’t a mystery to God. I didn’t know then that my heart needed to be changed, but that wasn’t a mystery to God – nor was it impossible for Him to do. What we can’t control, what we don’t even understand, is clear to Him. As hard as it can be at times to be single, doesn’t that put it all in perspective?
Dear friends, the whole Bible testifies of God’s faithfulness to us, even in the face of our own faithlessness to Him. God has not forgotten anything at all. The gentle words of my pastor, C.J. Mahaney, are a good reminder: “Your greatest need is not a spouse. Your greatest need is to be delivered from the wrath of God – and that has already been accomplished for you through the death and resurrection of Christ. So why doubt that God will provide a much, much lesser need? Trust His sovereignty, trust His wisdom, trust His love.”
So the infamous question about why we’re not married is the wrong question to ask. It implies lack. But our heavenly Father has said He withholds no good thing from His children (Psalm 84:11, Matthew 7:11). The better question to ask ourselves is: What is God doing with and through my singleness?
As we face the holidays, let’s not let the joy of our salvation be dampened by thoughtless questions. Instead of cringing when the extended family asks about our dating life, let’s be prepared to give an answer about what God is doing in our life. Instead of worrying about not having someone to bring home for Thanksgiving, let’s think about how we could minister to those around us at that table. It takes some advance planning to prepare our emotions and think about gracious, Godward answers, but it’s well worth it to glorify our Lord and Savior!
P.S. There really is no one-size-fits-all answer to every question about our singleness, but there is definitely one reason why we’re single now. We’ll look at that next, Lord willing.
This column starts a series adapted from "Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred" (Crossway, 2004) by Carolyn McCulley © 2004. (Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.gnpcb.org.) The book is addressed to single women, but male readers are still welcome to learn more about their sisters in Christ.