He Said-She Said: The Desires of Your Heart
- 2010 4 May
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each He Said-She Said column features a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness, please click here to submit (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: I keep coming across Psalms 37:4 that says, "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." I am 43, and I did not have the desire to be married until I accepted the Lord back in '05. From that point on I have wanted to be in a Christian marriage with a God-fearing man. I came to the conclusion that it was not God's will for me to be single, and I have asked him to make his desires for my life my desires and to take away the desires I have that aren't his will for me. It's been two years since my last relationship, and I'm still single with that same desire for marriage—only it is stronger than before. At what point will I know if this desire is from the Lord or my flesh?
HE SAID: This is a great question and one many of us have probably pondered or asked ourselves at some point in our lives—"How do I know if the desires I have are from the Lord or from my flesh?" I go to church, study my Bible, seek wise, godly counsel and pray, yet, at times, I still can't distinguish what the origin of my desire is.
As we search for answers, we can sometimes make the mistake of reading into a situation thinking it must be God's will since "it" hasn't happened yet.
- If God wanted me to be happy, I'd be happy.
- If God's wish for me was to be healed, I'd be healed.
- If God's desire for me was to be married, I'd be married.
Don't fall into the trap of living your life as negative "absolutes" (or the "Eeyore syndrome"). This is part of the enemy's plan to distract us, discourage us, and not live our lives focusing on the goodness of God.
In our search for a biblical perspective to this and other questions, we must be careful to always read a passage as written and in context. Psalms 37:4 does not say, "He will bring you the desires of your heart so delight in the Lord," but rather, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."
It's easy to skip to the latter part of this verse since that's where the "good stuff" is—when WE receive the desires of our heart. However, oftentimes we never get to that part because we are searching with the wrong wants and motives and not living for him.
Preceding and following Psalm 37:4, the Bible says, "Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper" (Psalms 37:3); "Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him and he will help you." (Psalms 37:5).
These are conditional statements. Trust and do, then… Commit, trust and (then) he will…. We must be obedient to his Word (period) and he will decide the rest. I used to read the Bible as a contractual partnership between me and God. If I do this, then he will do what I want. He (and "it") doesn't work like that.
The Bible says we are to trust him, do good, delight ourselves in him, commit everything we do to him, then we will live safely and prosper, then he will bring you the desires of your heart, then he will help you.
When I look at my life and think, I'm not married, my response is not "God wants me to be single," but rather God wants me to still do something—I need to trust him more, I need to do more good, I need to commit more of what I do to him, I need to be more obedient, I need to learn something, maybe my future spouse needs to work on herself or God is protecting me from something at this time.
He has given me the desire to be married since I was young and I don't believe he gives a desire, takes it away and then maybe gives it back. He is not a wishy-washy God.
I believe most Christians probably want what God wants for them, but often in their own time frame and as long as they have final approval. However, if we learn to be more obedient, love him more, love others more, we will grow closer to understanding who he is and begin to discern what his desires are for us.
If we focus and live our life in order to delight in the Lord first (instead of ourselves), our desires will be in line with God's desires, which will be his unimaginable best for our life.
SHE SAID: Finally. An easy question to answer! (Just kidding. Really.) This is a tough one, and I don't think you are alone in asking it. I think many of us have wondered if a particular desire is from the Lord or is just something of our own making.
I believe that if we are seeking God's will for our lives, that he will shape our desires and direct our hearts toward what he wants us to yearn for, to be excited about or ultimately to do in our lives (Proverbs 3:5-6). But when it comes to timing, it's a bit of a mystery, isn't it? God works in ways that are many times not expected and other times are just not very understandable at all to you and I (or to our family or friends who may be praying right along with us for whatever we are desirous of in our lives).
When I think of someone in the Bible who greatly desired something and prayed and waited and waited and waited, I immediately think of Hannah (1 Samuel 1). In this case, while her desire was not for marriage but for a child, I think we can still learn from her example.
What made Hannah's circumstances difficult was the fact that her husband Elkanah was married not only to Hannah but to Peninnah—and Penninah had children, while Hannah had none. I am sure this must have been frustrating for Hannah to see a picture of motherhood right in front of her day after day after day. Also, the Bible tells us that Penninah "kept provoking her in order to irritate her." So, imagine that, if you will. What if you had a close girlfriend (or a sister or another female relative) who had recently gotten married and not so kindly kept reminding you of the fact that she is married and you are not? How would you feel? Would you be disheartened? Would you give up?
Hannah's suffering at the hand of her rival continued, year after year. Her husband even tried to comfort her. "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?" We also read how Hannah poured out her heart to the Lord in the temple. And then later, we see that Hannah did conceive and gave birth to a son named Samuel whom she dedicated to the Lord (just as she had promised she would do).
So what can we, as singles, take away from Hannah?
- She had a strong desire, and she didn't discount it or ignore it.
- She endured suffering and didn't retaliate.
- She continually brought her requests to the Lord.
- She poured out her heart, she wept and she was honest.
- She gave what she wanted (and was given) right back to God for his purposes and his glory.
Just like wanting to have a child, marriage is a wonderful thing to desire. It is natural, it is healthy and it is created by God (purposed not for our "happiness" but to refine us and to glorify him—Ephesians 5:21-33). But while holding on to this desire and seeking God's will for our lives, circumstances might not always be the best and people might not always be kind or sensitive or considerate when you desire something in your life and have not yet seen it come to fruition.
I don't know all the particulars of your situation, but I would be surprised if you were not surrounded by other women who are either already married or are engaged or are at least in promising dating relationships. This can be hard for single women who also desire marriage to be amongst other women who have seemingly easily attained what you desire. It can also be discouraging when those who are married may not be sensitive in their interactions with those who are not. "Why don't you try this?" Or "This worked for me, so you should do it, too." Or how about, "You'll never find a man if you don't ________." Ever heard any of those "suggestions"? Whether they are meant to "help" or to provoke, they can be hard for a single woman to hear and to receive graciously. (And I imagine that infertile women—and/or their husbands—who desire to have children and must endure insensitive comments or invasive questioning might feel the same way, too.)
Again, I'm just speculating. But as one single woman to another, I imagine that you might have also experienced these things or have felt this way, too. Also, in our day and age, if you are not married by a certain age (say, sometime in your mid to late 30s?) then people start to wonder. "What's wrong with you?" "Have you worked through your issues?" "You're too picky." "You have to put yourself out there." "Why don't you ask him out?" "You're not getting any younger." "Your options are only dwindling." And so forth.
The flip side of this could be comments like "You should stop focusing on what you don't have and count your blessings!" Or "At least you're not in a loveless marriage!" Or maybe "Marriage doesn't equal happiness and won't solve all of your problems!" Yes, those are all very true perspectives. But wouldn't it be nice to have someone just give you a virtual hug by acknowledging your suffering and validating whatever loss you are feeling in your life? That's the kind of friend I want when I'm hurting and feeling discouraged—someone who might say:
"I know this must be hard for you to have such a strong desire to marry but are waiting for what seems like forever on God's timing and it's hard to understand what he is doing. I want you to know that I'm here for you, and you can cry on my shoulder. I will continue to pray for you that you will be encouraged and will trust in God and that he will comfort you when you feel alone and give you peace in the midst of your struggle."
Amen? You know, I read in one commentary that during Hannah's time, it was seen as a curse from God if a Hebrew man's wife could not conceive a son (as in, who would carry on the family name?). Also, it was seen as a curse when a woman was barren. So it sounds like Hannah was feeling the societal and cultural pressures that you might be feeling as well. And like you may be doing today, she grieved for something she wished she had in her life, too.
How long, oh Lord? How long?
I don't know "the point" when you will know. But whether God keeps this desire for marriage in your heart or whether he dissipates it, or fashions it into a new desire for something else, you must keep your eyes focused on him and you must be honest with what is going on in your heart (don't ignore it, don't negate it, just give it to God).
"Father, I desire to marry and at times feel discouraged about it. But for now, please show me how you want me to live today. What do you want me to learn? How can I make a difference in the lives of others? Show me how to give my life to you, so that you may use me for your purposes and your glory wherever you have positioned me today."
Believe me, I know that keeping a perspective like that is not easy. You don't just pray one prayer and … poof! … you no longer ever struggle or question or feel bitter about something you desire for your life. We must daily turn our minds to Christ, yield our lives and ask him to help us focus on him and not our circumstances.
One final note: For further reading, may I recommend John MacArthur's Twelve Extraordinary Women? The chapter on Hannah ("Hannah: A Portrait of Feminine Grace")—in addition to the other 11 that explore the lives of some amazing, faithful women of the Bible—are encouraging, enlightening and will hopefully remind you that you are not alone in your questions, your situation or your desires in this life.
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the 21st century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to living the single life, PLEASE SUBMIT HERE (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that He Said-She Said will be an encouragement to you.
**This column first published on May 6, 2010.