WiW: Rooting Out Bitterness

In her Laudable Linkage last week, Barbara linked to this article on how to serve “The Singles” in your church.

As a single woman in the church, I appreciate McCulley’s advice to church–and greatly appreciate those individuals who serve singles as McCulley suggests.

For me, one specific section stood out:

“Don’t be afraid to challenge bitterness.

Extended singleness is a form of suffering. There is an appropriate time for mourning with those who mourn. This is especially true for women who see the window of fertility closing on them without the hope of bearing children. Don’t minimize the cumulative years of dashed hopes for unmarried adults.

That said, we single adults need loving challenges when we have allowed a root of bitterness to spring up and block our prayers to God, our fellowship with others, and our service to the church. deferred hopes cannot be allowed to corrode our thankfulness for the gift of salvation.”

~Carolyn McCulley

This section is a double-edged sword. It comforts the single person with the realization that mourning is okay, that sometimes singleness is suffering. But at the same time, it challenges the single person to root out bitterness.

I love this.

I love those who remind me of this.

Those who recognize the suffering that is sometimes present in singleness, who truly mourn with me as I mourn–and those who speak truth into my suffering. Those who remind me of the riches of God poured out on me in Christ Jesus. Those who remind me of the sovereignty of God in all circumstances. Those who encourage me to fix my eyes on Christ instead of on my suffering. Those who come alongside to encourage and to exhort.

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another…Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
~Ephesians 4:25, 31

The Week in WordsDon’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.

Book Review: “Amy Inspired” by Bethany Pierce

Sherry’s review had me quickly placing a hold at my no-longer-local library, to be picked up the next time I was in town. Barbara’s review, read after the book was already in my possession but not yet read, had me itching to find out whose view I would take.

Amy Inspired, by Bethany Pierce, turned out to be everything Sherry had said it was–and everything Barbara described.

Amy is almost thirty, a single adjunct writing instructor who dreams of being a published author. Unfortunately, she is plagued with rejection letters and is in a perpetual state of writer’s block.

She gives an exhausted agreement to her roommate’s proposal to let an out-of-work friend crash at their place while his apartment is being fumigated for bedbugs–and ends up flabbergasted to discover that she’s just obtained a second roommate, a seemingly permanent fixture on the living room futon.

Eli is the typical starving artist, a brooding sort who ekes out a living as a coffee-bar barista while women swoon over his every step. Amy is not immune to his charms, but rather wishes she was, considering that he’s her roommate–and that he has a girlfriend (albeit a girlfriend who’s studying abroad and therefore not around).

As Sherry wrote, Amy Inspired has a very true-to-life ring to it. I couldn’t help but nod my head in recognition as Amy reads yet another freshman essay that makes absolutely no sense:

“Since the dawn of time there have always been forms of entertainments. And like most everything else, entertainment has been criticized since there existed a Being knowledgeable enough to know how to do it. In ancient times, Jesus was criticized by many of the people and even went so far as to crucify him by nailing him to a tree in front of all his fans.”

Yep, that’s freshman (or even sophomore) writing. (Three semesters teaching at the university level is more than enough to make a cynic of this particular lover of the written word.)

I felt as though Amy (er, Bethany Pierce writing as Amy) were writing my own heart when she described her thoughts after watching a marathon of “A Baby Story”:

“It made me want to scream and push, to be part of a miracle. It provoked cravings for the sweet powder smell of a baby’s hair. I told myself this was a biological phase on par with the hormonal revolution that made prepubescent boys ache at the sight of breasts and bucks chase doe tails right into oncoming semis. But still.

I’d tried praying about these feelings, but had a bad habit of praying tangentially…. All the years I’d wanted a husband, I prayed God would make me content as a celibate, confident that if He saw my willingness to remain forever His chaste servant, He would see fit to send me an unexpected blessing of a very handsome man….And now whenever the desire for a family of my own began to gnaw at my heart, I prayed for my students and thanked God for the brood He’d already given me.

Meanwhile, Valerie, who had never waited on God for a blessing in her life, was in the third trimester of her pregnancy and looked positively Rubenesque.”

When Amy goes to dinner with Eli, she orders beer to prove that she’s not the teetotaler he might think her because of her fundamentalist background. The exchange is essentially honest about the predicament that faces my generation of believers. Determined to not be legalists, we sometimes lose our identities trying to be all things to all men. So what if Amy doesn’t like beer? If she doesn’t order it, Eli might think she’s looking down on him, considering him an inferior Christian because he drinks. So she orders a beer, only to discover that the tattooed artist doesn’t drink.

For all that I can identify with in this book, there is certainly plenty that I can’t identify with. Amy’s Christianity is the Christianity I’ve seen in quite a few of my peers. She’s rejected her legalistic upbringing, but hasn’t quite figured out the spirit behind the law–which leaves her with a trembling hodge-podge of religious belief, but no cohesive theology out of which to live her life.

It is this, I think, that leads to some of the “edgy” scenes Barbara pointed out. Amy dates a nonbeliever, has a male roommate (for as long as Eli’s around), and reflects on past experience where she got down to bra and panties before putting a kibosh on sex. These are scenes I haven’t experienced (thank You, Lord!), but ones I’ve seen among the once-churched or quasi-churched of my acquaintance. Throwing off legalism, a young Christian culture has emerged that has little moral foundation except reactionism–resulting in dangerous skates to the edge of a precipice (and beyond).

And then there is Barbara’s objection to Amy’s “fundamentalist” background and its inherent stereotype. In truth, I couldn’t quite make out what the author presumes fundamentalism to entail. Apart from the brief comments about tracts in toilet paper rolls, True Love Waits campaigns, teetotaling, and not dancing, the majority of the references are simply to Amy’s childhood church “First Fundamentalist Church”–leaving the reader to fill in his own stereotypes.

In my opinion, this was the author’s great failing. Throughout the book, she does a fantastic job of showing rather than telling, of describing things so that the reader can experience them. Yet in reference to Amy’s childhood religion, she relies on the hackneyed “fundamentalist” stereotype in lieu of creating a flesh and blood congregation with real-live beliefs and practices. It’s rather disappointing.

Nevertheless, I felt that the upsides of this novel–its realistic depiction of life as a single young Christian and the author’s masterful use of language–definitely outweigh the downsides. This is a novel worth reading, both for enjoyment and as a means of understanding some of the struggles facing today’s single Christian (and the moral ambiguity facing many young believers who have uprooted themselves from legalism without being subsequently replanted in the fertile and stabilizing soil of the gospel of grace.)

Rating: 4 Stars
Category:Christian fiction
Synopsis: Amy, a single almost 30-year-old college-writing-instructor-slash-writer-who-hasn’t-been-published, finds herself thrown off-kilter by Eli, the artist who’s now sleeping on her living room futon.
Recommendation: Lovely writing, accurate depiction of many of the realities facing my generation of church kids, “edgier” (as Barbara put it) than most Christian fiction.

Book Review: “Redeeming Singleness” by Barry Danylak

Christian books about singleness are all the same.

I should know.

I think I’ve read every one of them.

They all have a couple of requisite chapters explaining why singleness is good before getting into the meat: a) how to be content and productive as a single and b) how to get un-single as quickly and in as godly a manner as possible.

Barry Danylak’s Redeeming Singleness stands out like an apple tree in a field of blowing grass.

In other words, it’s not a thing like the rest of the Christian treatments of singleness.

Redeeming Singleness seeks to establish a Biblical theology of singleness–starting from the beginning, when God said “It is not good that man should be alone”, and ending with Paul’s startling (within the Jewish culture, at least) statement that he “wish[es] that all men were even as [he himself].”

The epilogue neatly summarizes the main thesis of the book:

Christianity is distinctive from its monotheistic sibling faiths of Judaism, Islam, and Mormonism in its affirmation of singleness…it differs from the others in distinctively affirming both singleness and marriage as something good within the new family of God. The reason for this difference has its roots in what makes Christianity fundamentally different from its sibling faiths, namely, its affirmation that Jesus Christ has come in human history as God’s offspring and that through him come all the blessings of the new covenant.

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promised seed of Abraham, and in him are Abraham’s true offspring….Since all the blessings of the new covenant are realized through our reconciliation to God through Christ, marriage is no longer a fundamental marker of covenantal blessing as it was in the covenant of Sinai. Singleness lived to the glory of God and the furtherance of his kingdom testifies to the complete sufficiency of Christ for all things. The Christian is fully blessed in Christ, whether he or she is married or single, rich or poor, in comfort or duress…

Paul distinguishes the spiritual gift or charisma of singleness by three elements. First, it is characterized by one who, by the grace of God, lives a continent life apart from marriage…. Second, it is distinguished as a life free from the distractions of a spouse and children, a life characterized by freedom and simplicity…. Third, it is a life enabled for constant service to the King and the kingdom. It emulates the model of the eunuch who is ready and waiting to serve the king whenever and however he is called.

~Redeeming Singleness by Barry Danylak, page 213

This is a robust, Biblically-sound theology of singleness; and it is presented in an engaging and surprisingly (for theology) readable manner.

After reading Danylak’s closing chapter on “The Charisma of Corinth”, I truly desired (perhaps for the first time in my life) to have the gift of singleness. While I can’t say that I have the “charisma” of singleness, Danylak’s description of Christian singleness (the “charisma” or spiritual gift of singleness) as a powerful testimony to the sufficiency of Christ made me long to live out such a testimony. Where previously I had recognized and spoken of marriage as a testimony (in a cosmic play-act) of God’s relationship with His church, I can now see the equally glorious testimony that the single-in-Christ have–the testimony of being complete IN Christ, without need of any other mediating person, action, or state.

This book is a powerful and much-needed look at singleness as seen through the lens of God’s redemptive work. I recommend this book for the single and the married–and especially for the friends of and ministers to single adults. This perspective, lifted straight from the Bible, can help the church to encourage and bless the single among them while avoiding the twin pitfalls of glorifying marriage to the harm of the single adult or denigrating marriage in order to “encourage” the single adult.

Check out Three Star Night’s review of this book. She comes to the same conclusions as I–but expresses her thoughts (and mine?) much better than I.

Rating: 5 stars
Category: Theology of Singleness
Synopsis:Danylak traces a theology of singleness throughout Scripture, seeing singleness within the redemptive framework of the Old and New Testaments.
Recommendation: A much-needed resource in an age where singleness is becoming a new norm–and where the church is struggling to find a holy way of dealing with the “new norm”.


Shelving. Not exactly the most scintillating topic.

But a worthwhile one.

Often the shelves are simply box store prefabs, not particularly spectacular, except for what’s on them.

What’s on a shelf can contain a wealth of knowledge. (This particular shelf is a bit empty because I just moved a slew of reference books into my office at work.)


What’s on a shelf can make a home beautiful, or fill a home with wonderful food. (I forgot to take a picture of my cookbook cupboard–sorry!)


What’s on a shelf can entertain, relax, or inspire thought. (Perhaps you recognize that there are multiple copies of a few books–perils of combining collections with someone who likes many of the same books.)


What’s on a shelf can help one draw near to God.


What’s on a shelf can be beautiful, can speak the words of Scripture.


Of course, up until now, I’ve only spoken of Walmart shelves, Shopko shelves. Particle board pre-fabs put together with dummy proof screws. Shelves that sag under the weight of their contents.

But sometimes the shelf is
made by a craftsman.
Solid and sturdy,
Built to last

Sometimes it’s a gift.


Even if I don’t know exactly where to put it
or what to do with it,
the shelf is a gift.

(This particular shelf was given to me at my “shelf party”. The giver’s husband made it years ago, before he died, leaving my friend a widow.)

Nobody puts Bekah on the Shelf

Remember that line from Dirty Dancing where Patrick Swayze (as Johnny) says: “Nobody puts Baby in a corner”?

That’s what I feel like

…or maybe felt like.

Nobody puts Bekah on the shelf.

Yet, one way or another, that’s where I am.

Who put me here?

Was it the scads of young men (who must be out there somewhere) who have pursued careers or glory or other women while leaving me to gather dust on the shelf?

I want to blame them. Why do you choose all these other things and leave me behind when I want so much to be joined with someone–to pursue God’s glory together.

Or perhaps it was me, pursuing life and career and ministry to the fullest while living out this single life–leading the world to erroneously conclude that I did not want marriage?

I censure myself even as I wonder how I could have done things differently. If I had focused less on school. If I had shown a little less outward contentment with my single life. If I had pursued marriage with the same abandon that I pursued knowledge or even the girls that I ministered to.

But all these conjectures lead me to the One I must not censure, but often want to.


God put me on this shelf.

If I believe that God is truly sovereign (which I do), I can come to no other conclusion.

Yes, the sinful (and righteous) actions of man (and myself) have contributed to the place where I am today.

But ultimately, I am where I am today because God willed it.

Therein lies my struggle.

I see the goodness of marriage “which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church” (as the Book of Common Prayer declares.)

And I see the “not good-ness” of aloneness.

“It is not good that man should be alone.” Genesis 2:18

Yet the God who saw fit to make a helper suitable for Adam in the Garden, who instituted the honourable estate of marriage then, has not seen fit to make a helper suitable for me, has not seen fit to introduce me into said honourable estate.

How am I to reconcile the goodness of God with His withholding goodness from me? How am I to reconcile the goodness of God with His placing good desires in me, but withholding the good fulfillment of those desires?

This is my daily struggle as I sit here on the shelf.

I believe wholeheartedly that God is good. I believe wholeheartedly that He is sovereign.

But every day, as my desires and my reality clash, I am forced to again make peace with the God who is good but looks not. I am forced to make peace with the God who is sovereign but feels not.

I am forced to make peace with the God who has put me on the shelf.


If Regency Romances are to be trusted, a woman who has reached her later years and is beyond reasonable hope of marriage is said to be “on the shelf.”

Accordingly, when I turned twenty-six a few weeks back, I resolved that I would have a shelf party–celebrating my status as one who is “on the shelf.”

It was a joke–but it wasn’t.

Unlike in Regency days, twenty-six is no longer a death knell to hopes of marriage.

Women have a longer shelf-life these days.

Better nutrition, better medical technology, more options for women–all of these mean a woman of twenty-six still has hope for husband and home. And even without husband, single women are not shelved. We can have careers, we can be independent, we can live lives of our own without .

I’ve taken full advantage of this freedom.

I have a career I enjoy, a home I love, a group of friends I delight to spend time with. I have a group of young girls who take great pleasure in coming to my home to craft and sew.

But all the fullness of my single life does not save me from feeling shelved–and feeling that my shelf-life is rapidly coming to a close.

I’ve dreamed of marriage, longed for a family, prayed for a husband for at least fifteen years.

After fifteen years, the hope begins to fade. The dream begins to feel like a pipe dream. The prayers take on a new dimension–desperation and resignation combined.

As much as I love my career, I would give it up in a heart-beat for the profession of my dreams: homeschool mother of a huge brood of children.

Yet my time feels short.

My mom had children about as quickly as you can have them–seven children in ten years. Even if I were to be married tomorrow, my ten years would put me past thirty-five–the age where pregnancy risks dramatically rise.

The much-longed for profession becomes less likely, more risky, with every month that passes. My body wearing out, my remaining years fewer.

The woman who only wants one or two has time at twenty-six. The woman who wants at least half a dozen–as I do–needs more time.

My expiration date looms, my shelf-life wearing down.

On the shelf.



Snapshot: Baby Quilt Square

When I showed my dad the pattern we’d picked for my nephew’s baby quilt, he warned me solemnly:

“You’d best not let this get around or you’ll have women lining up for a chance to be your sister-in-law.”

Square for Dan and Deb's baby's quilt

I told him that was fine with me so long as said women had brothers who were suitable and amenable to the idea.

I don’t think that’s what he meant.

Even so, if you’re drooling for a baby quilt and want to try your chances at becoming my sister-in-law, I’m amenable to set-ups.

Skills in Singleness

Love Month Banner

If God does indeed have a purpose in my singleness, then it probably follows that the best use of my time of singleness is NOT moping over my lack of a husband, a boyfriend, or some other “significant other”.

But what should I be doing while I’m single?

The love months of my youth gave some advice: pray for your future spouse, prepare to be a good spouse yourself. Good advice, but incomplete (in my *humble?* opinion.)

I would propose that while singleness can be used as preparation for marriage, the primary goal in singleness should not be preparation for marriage but… well, glorifying God by being conformed to His image.

You can learn skills in singleness that can bless you, your friends and acquaintances, your family, your church–and ultimately God–whether you remain single or eventually marry.

What are some of these “skills in singleness”?

I think Paul’s letters to Timothy are a good starting point.

  • Learn to be a person of prayer (I Tim 2:1-8)
    Too few of us, myself included, have established strong prayer lives–yet Paul states that this is essential for living a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
  • Learn modesty, good works, and submission (I Tim 2:9-14)
    Women are encouraged to adorn themselves with modesty, with good works, and with submission. This is a skill we can grow in, even as single women.
  • Learn discernment (I Tim 4:7-8, 6:20-21, II Tim 2:15-19)
    Paul commands Timothy to “reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise [himself] toward godliness.” So we too, would do well to develop discernment in doctrine and practice.
  • Learn to walk in purity (I Tim 4:12, 5:22, II Tim 2:21-22)
    Contrary to the depraved world in which we live, where singles are encouraged to do whatever they like, Christian singles are called to live lives of purity.
  • Devote yourself to the Word of God (I Tim 4:13,15-16, II Tim 1:13-14, 4:2-4)
    I believe single adults have a unique opportunity to dig down deep into the Word of God–both reading it, speaking it, and doing it. Paul says singles are not distracted–what better time to “give attention” to the Word?
  • Learn to walk in your giftings (I Tim 4:14, II Tim 1:6, 4:5)
    Singleness is also a great time to learn what your gifts are and to begin to practice them. Don’t sit around and wait until you are married to get involved within your local church and your community. Ask God what role He would have you play–and get doing it. Don’t waste your singleness by living only for your own pleasure.
  • Develop healthy relationships (I Tim 5:1-2)
    Paul encourages Timothy to develop healthy relationship with older men and older women (treating them as parents) and with younger men and women (treating them as brothers and sisters). We can learn how to glorify God and honor others in our relationships.
  • Learn to take care of your physical body (I Tim 5:23)
    Of course, I’d add this part–but Paul says it: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.” We can (and should) learn good health practices while we are still relatively young. Learn good sleep habits. Learn to eat well, to exercise, to get regular medical care.
  • Learn to be good employees (I Tim 6:1-2)
    This is a biggie. We can, and should learn to be good employees within this world. Remember that your reputation as an employee can either bring God glory or blaspheme His name. That’s a big deal.
  • Learn contentment (I Tim 6:6-10)
    I’ve spoken already of contentment with being single–but contentment goes further than that. We can learn to be content with our circumstances, with our possessions, with our relationships.
  • Be discipled and disciple someone (II Tim 2:2)
    Paul encourages Timothy to take what he (Timothy) has learned from him (Paul) and to teach it to others. Timothy is one link in the chain of making disciples. In the same way, we ought to be links in the chain of discipleship. Seek out older believers who can mentor you. Don’t wait until you have kids of your own to begin to pass along what has been entrusted to you. Find a younger man, a younger woman, a child, that you can commit the word of God to. I promise you won’t regret it.
  • Maintain your focus (II Tim 2:3-7, 4:5)
    Endure hardship. Resist temptation. Look forward to the prize. Don’t let either the trials or the pleasures of this world distract you from the treasure that is Christ Jesus.
  • Learn humility (II Tim 2:24-26)

    This one gets me every time. Learn humility–avoiding worthless disputes. Being gentle. It’s tough, but it’s necessary.

Recognize that singleness is not a sit-on-your-hands-until-something-better-comes-along time. Singleness is a time when we should be fully focused on God and on advancing His kingdom. Singleness is a time when we can develop our relationships with God, with His body, and with the lost. Singleness is a time to grow in godly character and to be conformed into the image of Christ. Don’t waste your singleness.

(A few extras I might add from my own experience to the list above: learn to hear the voice of God, learn to trust God with everything, learn to resolve conflicts, learn to serve one another with love, learn to budget your time and money, learn to give sacrificially of time and money, learn to be a member of the body.)

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.

Love Month Banner

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…

Love Month Banner

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.