WiW: A quest for Joy

The Week in Words

There’s a pang in my heart, a rumbling in my gut, a nagging in my mind.

Something in my soul says this can’t be all there is.

Somewhere deep inside, I have an insatiable, unquenchable thirst.

I’m not sure exactly what it signifies–but one thing is sure.

THIS will not satisfy.

Is this what Lewis spoke of when he talks of his quest for Joy?

“Even when he first experienced Joy as a child, Lewis recognized that the feeling was not mere nostalgia or love of nature. It was a desire, then, for what? Trying to answer that became a kind of personal grail quest for Jack, a quest he would recount first in his highly autobiographical allegory, The Pilgrim’s Regress, and again in his memoir, Surprised by Joy. Both books are organized around the search for Joy, trying and setting aside many false objects of “Sweet Desire,” until one finally comes to rest in humble recognition of the true Object one has been seeking since childhood.”
~David Downing in The Most Reluctant Convert

I can identify with Lewis’s grail, his quest to capture the elusive Joy.

I think we all can.

What was Solomon’s story but a search for Joy? Spending every resource at his disposal, seeking a Joy that none of his resources could give.

Money. Fame. Women. Wisdom. Work.

The same things I try to find meaning and purpose, Joy, in.

“Solomon had the resources to do whatever he wanted, which is exactly what he did. He gorged himself on pleasure and filled himself with wine. He poured himself into great architectural projects and bought hordes of slaves…He had money, sex, power, fame, a big house, and entertainment. He was a test case for human happiness.

If the things of the world could satisfy, then Solomon should have been the happiest man to have ever lived. And yet, after standing at the pinnacle of life and surveying all that he had accomplished and accumulated, he came to one conclusion: ‘All is vanity.’

In reality, we’re not that different from Solomon. We have our vision of what would make us happy, of what would finally give us satisfaction. And so we pursue our dreams…

And you know what? Sometimes dreams come true. We get married, have children, land the new job, buy the new house. But we’re not cured of our madness. One dream replaces another, and the circle of discontentment starts all over.”

~Stephen Altrogge in The Greener Grass Conspiracy

Joy, the elusive fulfillment of my inner longing.

The flavor I taste in a thousand things, but can only satiate in One.

“You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of Joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
~Psalm 16:11

Don’t forget to take a look at Barbara H’s meme “The Week in Words”, where bloggers collect quotes they’ve read throughout the week.

Envying the Wicked

It’s easy to envy the wicked, to covet the peace and prosperity the godless seem to enjoy. I look at their houses, their husbands, their children, their jobs. Why cannot I have such things as they?

Because I have one thing far better.

I have God.

He’ll never leave.

Their houses and goods, friendships and family could all vanish–my God will always remain.

Their possessions are always subject to loss.

Mine, if Christ is my all, is eternally secure.

He will never leave me.

He will never forsake me.

What are a thousand earthly possessions compared to that?

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
~Hebrews 13:5

Always a guest, never a bride (Guest post)

I asked my sister to write a guest post for Love Month because I think her perspective as a single woman is valuable. At first, Anna shied away from the prospect, thinking that she had little to share that I wouldn’t have already shared–but I think you’ll agree that her story adds greatly to this month’s topic.

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It seems like I’ve been attending weddings all my life. It all began with my mother’s siblings. Many of my friends attended their first wedding as a teenager, but I can remember 10 different wedding that I attended before age 16. As a child, weddings were a time to see cousins and eat cake. I was happy to celebrate and occasionally had a role to play: flower girl, punch server, gift receiver. During my teenage years I spent some time dreaming of what my own wedding would be like, who my bridesmaids would be, what colors and songs I would choose. But that wedding never came about. Many of my high school and college friends are married, and half of my Physician Assistant class got married during the time we were in school. Still, there is no relationship for me. Am I destined to be single for the rest of my life? Always a guest, never a bride?

Two weddings stand out to me. The first was that of a close high school friend. She had been dating for several years, but when I heard of the engagement, bitterness filled my heart. I remember driving home from a card party, sobbing, desperately praying the words of a song that “just happened” to be playing.

“All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough.” Enough by Chris Tomlin

I didn’t believe at that point that God was all I need. I was envious of my sister in Christ, bitter that “life was passing me by.” Absurd, I know. I was only 19!

The second wedding has not yet occurred. It is that of my brother and his fiancée this summer. Here I am, 26 without a man in sight, ecstatic that my little brother is getting married. When I heard the news, I screamed with joy. I actually woke up one roommate and thoroughly scared the other one with all the racket! There was no thought of myself in that moment, no sorrow that I would be attending another wedding as a single woman. What a difference in my attitude!

Paul admonishes the church to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) While this includes outward actions, most of rejoicing with people has to do with the heart. My ability to rejoice with my friends in their marriage depends directly on my trust that God IS all I need.

Contentment in singleness while attending weddings is difficult. I don’t like RSVPing for one, being pushed to the front for the bouquet toss, not having a dance partner. I do wish to be married one day! But if that was my focus, life would be miserable. I could waste time searching for that “perfect someone”, but I would miss out on the purpose God has for me today.

A turning point for me was reading Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? by Carolyn McCulley. Carolyn encourages women to regard singleness as a gift from God and to find purpose in fulfilling a unique role in the church. I encourage each person, male or female, single or married, to read this book. If it doesn’t apply to you, it will help you in relationship with the single women you know.

Is contentment in singleness easy? No, it is a constant struggle. I doubt I will ever be completely content with my singleness. I am not promised I will ever be married in this life. But I do know one thing. There is coming a day when I will be dressed in white awaiting my Bridegroom. “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:6-7

Always a guest, one day a Bride!

I don’t feel…

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I don’t feel like talking about being single today.

I don’t feel like talking about being content today.

‘Cause today I don’t feel particularly content. Today I’d rather not be single.

The apostle Paul speaks of learning contentment. And it certainly is something that must be learned.

“For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:11-13

How has Paul learned to be content? I dare say that he learned to be content by having ample opportunity for discontent. He had been placed in each of those situations that required contentment.

And how did he do it? How did he become content in each of those situations? He did it “through Christ who strengthens [him].”

He didn’t learn contentment by relying on his own strength. He didn’t learn contentment by trusting in his feelings. He learned contentment by relying upon Christ’s strength, by trusting God’s direction.

I’ve had ups and downs in my single journey, as I’m sure many of you have. I’ve had times where I experienced, where I felt incredible peace and purpose and contentment in my singleness. And I’ve had times where I felt conflicted, torn, overwhelmed, and utterly desirous of anything but singleness.

One thing has enable me to continue in this journey to contentment. That is, that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Through Christ who gives me strength, I can repent of the sin of coveting my neighbor’s home, her children…her husband. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can take deliberate steps to bless her and to avoid temptation. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can choose to be obedient to the word of God above my feelings.

Through Christ who gives me strength, I can resist the temptation to lust. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can put down the book with the engaging story-line, but with sexual or emotional content that arouses my body and heart. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Through Christ who gives me strength, I can honor God with this season of my life. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can serve the body and the lost in this time. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can budget and change my oil and work a job.

Through Christ who gives me strength, I can rejoice with those who rejoice in their engagements, weddings, children. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can bless the well-intentioned but hurtful comments that others make about my singleness. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can bear up under the misconstrued assumption others make that I’d rather be a career woman. Through Christ who gives me strength, I can do all things.

The problem comes in when we focus on our circumstances rather than on Christ. The problem comes in when I look at all the things I don’t have–instead of the One I do have. The problem comes in when I look at the paths God has closed to me–instead of trusting Him with the path He has chosen for me.

Earlier this week, I was reading the story of the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt and I was struck by the purposefulness of God.

When God delivered the people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, He didn’t take them by the most direct route. He led them by a longer, more circuitous route. Can’t you just see the people questioning? “This isn’t the way,” they must have muttered under their breath. “What on earth is God thinking?”

They didn’t know, but Scripture tells us what God was thinking. “God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.'” (Exodus 13:17) God knew that the test along the “direct route” would be too much for the people to bear. It would induce them to return to slavery. And God didn’t want them back in slavery–so He led them by an alternate route.

Yet opposition came along this alternate route too. With the sea at their front and their pursuers behind them, the Israelites were stuck in an impossible situation.

Unable to see God’s plan, the people complained that it would have been better for them to stay enslaved than to taste freedom only to be destroyed.

But God had a purpose, a reason for choosing this particular route. He knew that Egypt would pursue. He knew that the way would be blocked. He planned it that way–so that “I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 14:4)

God deliberately chose to place Israel in an impossible situation so that He could show Himself as God by doing the impossible for them.

God had a purpose both in the path that He closed and in the path that He chose.

If God has you as a single person right now, there is a reason for that. There is a reason that He has closed the door to marriage and chosen singleness for this season of your life.

If God has you as a married person right now, there is a reason for that. There is a reason that He has closed the door to singleness and chosen marriage for this season of your life. (Don’t whack out on me about this season thing–I’m not intimating that marriage is not for life. However, you have no way of knowing when the Lord might call your spouse home. You may very well find yourself in a new season–you just can’t know. You have to rely on God for the season He has for you right now.)

You and I don’t often know what purposes God has in the events of our lives. Often we don’t see God’s plan. Sometimes we are tempted to doubt either God’s sovereignty or His goodness. But let’s not give in to the temptation.

We may not always see God’s purposes. We may not always feel that He is sovereign and good. But, in Christ, we can be sure that He does have a purpose–and that His purpose is for His glory and our greatest good.

So I don’t feel like a contented single right now. Right now, I don’t see God’s purpose in the path He has closed to me–or in the path He has chosen for me. But, through Christ who strengthens me, I can be a contented single right now, regardless of my feelings. Regardless of my feelings, I can trust that God has a purpose in this season of my life–and that His purpose is for His greatest glory and my greatest good.

Chasing After My Wild-Man Lover

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Yesterday, I told you about willing to give God my husband.

Fast forward two years. I’m now in a Bible program that has a no-dating policy. But I’m talking with this guy online. Talking with him a lot. Like hours and hours every day.

And God got jealous. I experienced His pursuit especially during times of worship when I sang songs like “All I want is to know You, Jesus” and “And I…I’m desperate for You.”

“Really?” God would question. “Do you really want Me? Are you really desperate for Me? Do you love Me more than him?” He started convicting me about my response to Him versus my response to this guy. “Why don’t you spend hours talking to Me like you spend hours talking to him? Why don’t you read My letters over and over again like you read his?”

So when my parents approached me about my relationship with this guy, I wasn’t surprised. And when they told me they didn’t want me chatting online with him, I knew I needed to obey.

But that didn’t mean that this experience hadn’t reawakened all sorts of desires within me. I enjoyed the companionship, the camaraderie, the emotional intimacy with this guy.

Add to this that I was making college plans, organizing my life, dreaming my dreams for the future.

It was in the midst of this time of reevaluation that I went on a retreat with the others in my Bible program. We took one afternoon as a personal time with God–and I took off into the woods for my quiet time.

I was discussing all the plans and desires of my heart with God, and whining a bit over the unpredictability of things. Then God spoke directly to my heart. “You have tame dreams.” He told me. “Tame dreams of a husband and children and trips to Europe and a nice little house.” And then He started revealing Himself to me. He told me that He’s not a tame God–and that His dreams aren’t tame dreams. Isaiah 55:8–“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are our ways My ways,’ says the Lord.”

I had been dreaming my little dreams, building fantasy castles in the sky–but God was inviting me to become a part of His great dreams. My heart had become intent again on pursuing my tame dreams, the familiar, the comfortable.

And now God was inviting me into something different.

A tree branch curved down, forming a door that reminded me of Aslan’s door in Prince Caspian.

“At one end of the glade Aslan had caused to be set up two stakes of wood, higher than a man’s head and about three feet apart. A third, and lighter, piece of wood was bound across them at the top, uniting them, so the whole thing looked like a doorway from nowhere into nowhere….Everyone’s eyes were fixed on [the Telmarine]. They saw the three pieces of wood, and through them the trees and grass of Narnia. They saw the man between the doorposts: then, in one second, he had vanished utterly…”

When the Telmarine stepped through that door, he disappeared from the land of Narnia and entered into the world of Earth–a completely different world, for a completely different life.

I felt the Word of the Lord drawing me. Drawing me to a different life. On this side of the door lay my comfortable dreams–a nice tame husband, nice tame children, a nice tame home, and an uneventful life. Through the door, there was only the unknown, the wild.

The God who had jealously pursued me while I chased after my own desires now invited me into the wild, to chase after Him. The wild was not comfortable, it was far from tame. The little glimpse I saw scared me half to death.

But through the door, a wild-man beckoned. A wild-man who loved me and had pursued me. Now He begged me to join with Him in the wild.

I looked at my comfortable dreams. I looked through the door into the wild. I saw the face of my Wild-Man Lover, and I stepped through the door.

I chose to chase after my wild-man Lover.

The Journey to Contentment

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For most of us, contentment in singleness doesn’t come in one fell swoop. It’s a journey, a battle, a day to day (or at least week to week or year to year) struggle.

My journey towards contentment in singleness began the summer before my junior year of high school. Marriage was on my mind–and had been for years–but this year, I was pursuing it with unparalleled abandon. No, I wasn’t tossing myself recklessly into the world of dating. By then, I’d officially(?) “kissed dating goodbye” (a sentiment I’ve since rethought a bit, more on that later.) No, instead, I was eagerly preparing myself for the life of a homemaker, taking over the family menu planning and gardening, trying to acquire as much “wifely” knowledge and skill as I could, determined to be ready as soon as God gave the okay.

My sister went to China that year, and when Mom and Dad and I picked her up at the airport, she started telling us about what God had done in her heart there. She told of how God had asked her if she’d be willing to give up her lifelong dream of being a missionary in Africa to serve the children of China. And as Anna told her story, I heard God’s voice–there in the back of my parents’ station wagon. “Rebekah, will you give Me your husband?”

I knew it was Him, there could be no doubt–and in a knee-jerk reaction, I answered Him: “Sure, You can have my husband–as long as You don’t take him.”

You see, I’d read the stories–all those amazing stories of women who’d learned contentment in singleness only to have God “surprise” them with a spouse. That I could take.

But that wasn’t what God was asking. He asked me again. “Rebekah, will you give Me your husband?”

I wrestled with God’s question for months. I begged Him to rescind the question. I tried to bargain with Him. He would have none of it. He only repeated His question: “Rebekah, will you give Me your husband?”

And, after months of wrestling, I made my decision. I didn’t want to give God my husband, but I chose to do it.

I willed to give God my husband.


I know that it’s the end of the school year because I’m listless. I’m not interested in watching a movie, in reading a book, in cleaning, in surfing the web, in cooking, in researching. I don’t want to do anything but I don’t want to be doing nothing. So I flit from thing to thing–reading a chapter of a book here, watching the beginning of a movie there, downloading a journal article and never reading it. I draw a picture just to see if I can and I’m discontent with the outcome but unwilling to change it. We’ve had too much rain to go outside, and none of my normal time wasters–spider solitaire or sudoku–seem interesting. I have cabin fever at the end of April and it’s driving me crazy.

I remind myself of Sunny in Lori Wick’s The Hawk and the Jewel. She runs from one escapade to another, never satisfied unless she’s doing something crazy. And as soon as she is discovered or she has been at her escapade for more than a week, she loses interest and is at a loss for what to do or how to handle herself. Her niece confronts her, telling her that she must stop running from thing to thing. She must find rest in God.

Is that my problem? Of course it is. It always has been. It is my always struggle. I must learn to rely on God, to rest in Him, to not have to have something else filling my time.

Lord, help me not to seek a “quick fix” in busyness. May I instead choose to enjoy each season of my life–the busy seasons and the boring ones. Instead of this restless energy, may I find rest in the midst of the times of not doing things. And may I find refuge in You in the times of overwhelming busyness. Teach me each day to rely more and more on You.