I have just returned from a trip to another country in the Middle East where a group of fellow believers and I had the privilege to meet with members of the persecuted church. Hearing their stories and their perspective on hardships and suffering made me think long and hard about my own theology of suffering and waiting and hoping. Some of the stories we heard were so encouraging and the believers we met were so faithful to the Lord, others however were stories of just surviving and of seeing no point to the many sufferings that they had endured at the hands of ISIS. It was clear though that everyone had suffered to one degree or another but it was also clear that the severity of their suffering was in no way linked to their current levels of faith and hope. If anything I would almost argue that those who had suffered the most had the most hope. Suffering is not confined to persecuted Christians, around the world hundreds of millions of people live in unspeakable circumstances and suffer a lack of food, clean water, security, a place to sleep at night, a job to go to in the day or perhaps a person to love them. Suffering comes to most of us in one way or another. But it has become clearer to me that it is not suffering that is the problem, it is what we do with it. After all Jesus himself said, ‘in the world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world’.
For those of us who have been waiting any decent length of time for our spouse to enter stage left, we can have periods when we feel just so tired of waiting. Periods when we may start to doubt God’s good plans for us and when we start to look around to see is there anyone, anyone vaguely suitable on the near horizon. Sometimes a person appears in our lives who we know is pretty far from what a God-loving, dependable, kind, decent, Christian man looks like, but we start to entertain romantic thoughts about them regardless, particularly if they have shown some reciprocal interest in us.
Last year I spent nearly 30 vacation days in my home country and at the end of the year I felt more tired and discouraged about family after than I did at the beginning. So I asked the Lord to help me think about how is the family portrayed in the Bible and what can I learn from this about my own family and my expectations of them. I also asked Him how can I stay in relationship with difficult family members but not continually get hurt? And finally, what does it mean to part of the family of God and how can this help me in making sense of my biological family?
I am currently reading a great book by Max Lucado called Anxious for Nothing, in this book, and so many others like it, the author talks about how we should respond when the ‘storms of life’ come. But I have to say that it is not the storms that worry me. Storms come and go as most of us know, and while it is good to be reminded in the stormy times to keep our eyes on the Lord, I think that far more dangerous to our faith and our Christian walk are perpetual clouds that never seem to lift.
About two years ago I read a great little book called It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons Why You Are Still Single. While not written by a Christian, or for Christians in particular, it is a refreshing, and often highly amusing, look at 27 common reasons that coupled people give single people, either to their faces or in print, for why they are still single. For those of us who have been single for any length of time many of these will ring true. In this post I wanted to give you my thoughts on the four that resonate with me the most and look at them from a Christian perspective.
A few years ago I became quite convinced that the reason I was single was that there were no suitable single, Christian men. At least none remotely close to my age. This perception was largely informed by my experiences at the various churches I had attended...
Although I have shied away from writing about this topic I think that this blog will not be complete without an honest discussion of loneliness. There is such stigma and shame attached to loneliness that most of us, myself included, struggle to admit it even to our friends let alone to anyone else.
The funny thing about having a dream or an unfulfilled longing is that we can become so fixed on obtaining this that we can lose sight of almost everything else. It may be a longing for a spouse, for a child, to own our own home, for our children to be successful, to finally find a meaningful job or perhaps to be financially independent. Whatever it is though when it is something outside of ourselves, something that is not in our control, there is the danger that it becomes an end in itself rather than just one part of our story.
So I am not sure about how you would feel, but when I received the 'uplifting' news at 25 (see previous post) that maybe I had been given the (unwanted) gift of singleness I was pretty upset. I couldn't understand why God would give me something that I did not want at all and I wondered how God decided which people he 'called' to be married and which he 'called' to be single (whether they wanted it or not). It is interesting to ponder the point that nobody ever called marriage the unwanted gift...