By Beth Doohan
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1
“Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living” ~ Jim Elliot
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When you read the title of this article, you may have thought, “Singleness a gift? I just want to be married!” For those of you with this response, you are not alone. The desire to marry (and bear children) is a healthy, God-given longing. From the very beginning, God determined that it was not good for Adam to be alone. And so He created Eve, a woman, to be a companion, partner and helpmate for Adam. In saying that singleness is a gift, we are not claiming that a woman should not desire to marry, nor that one state is better than another. Rather, that a woman’s time of singleness is a season of unfettered, passionate devotion to the Lord when He is the one who fills our deepest longings with His love.
In Isaiah 56, God promises that He will bless unmarried people who remain faithful to Him. “I will give them—within the walls of my house—a memorial and a name far greater than sons and daughters could give” (verse 5, NLT). What a beautiful gift from the Lord! Again, we see in I Corinthians 7:34 that an unmarried woman, “can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and spirit.” God promises a uniquely intimate experience with Him during our singleness that not even marriage can bring! Amazing!
In a world that values sexual identity above any other concern, God’s promises are certainly counter-cultural. To say that a life of celibacy is valuable and to be enjoyed as a woman of God is indeed shocking in today’s society. But as we see in God’s Word, the single, celibate life for a Christian can bring such a deep, profound devotion to the Lord. And through that devotion, God draws near and speaks to us about the desires of our hearts, ministers His love and companionship and calls us to follow Him in extraordinary ways.
Entrusting Your Dreams to God
During the season of singleness, it is easy to become jaded or hurt by the disappointment we feel when a dating relationship ends, when we are lonely, or when others are falling in love and we are not being pursued. When this happens, it is easy to forget that God is trustworthy with our dreams. But Wholehearted Women, can we just remind you that you are oh-so-valuable in the sight of God and man? He has a plan and purpose for your life and specific timing to fulfill the dreams in your heart. And while He calls you to singleness, He will meet your needs right where you are at! God knows us so deeply and intimately and longs for you to entrust your dreams to Him, seeking Him for wisdom about your future spouse and His timing.
Before I met my husband Corey, I went through a season of disappointment as one after another of potential relationships didn’t go anywhere, or I wasn’t being pursued. I remember the vexation I felt and even at one point saying, “I give up on relationships.” Sometimes this response is easiest; our desires are unfulfilled, so we become tempted to give up on them. However, as women, God created us with this longing for companionship in marriage and He asks us to trust Him with this dream. I recall having to bring my heart back to a place of surrender to God, asking Him to minister to my heart in areas of disappointment and hurt. When I did, He faithfully came and encouraged my heart, even speaking wisdom about the type of man I would marry (more on this in an upcoming article!). If you are feeling discouraged, ask God today to help you entrust your dreams to Him and to show you what He has in store.
Intimacy with God
As women of God, we are beckoned to a place of wholehearted surrender, no matter what season we are in. At a time when she had been single or widowed for over 40 years, Elisabeth Elliot shared about the single life to her daughter Valerie in Let Me Be a Woman. She wrote that singleness can truly be a gift, not one sought-after or chosen, but given by our divine Giver who ultimately longs to give Himself to us. Elliot said, “It is within the sphere of the circumstances He chooses for us—single, married, widowed—that we receive Him. It is there and nowhere else that He makes Himself known to us. It is there we are allowed to serve Him” (Let Me Be a Woman, p. 25-26).
Whether single, married, or single again for one reason or another, we all go through seasons where our heart’s desires seem so deep, yet so far away and intangible. When this happens, God asks us to hide our hearts in Him, drawing close to Him so that He can minister to us. God wants our whole hearts and longs for us to come to Him with our deepest desires, hurts and pains, longings and dissatisfaction. When we do, our loving Heavenly Father will bring healing, wholeness and love to our hearts. And as Elisabeth Elliot shared, we will receive from Him so we can give back to the Lord and to others.
An Extraordinary Calling
As a single woman, you are uniquely called by our Lord to seek and serve Him. Jim Elliot wrote to Elisabeth Elliot while they were not yet engaged to “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living” (p. 33) This means we have no excuses not to serve God and enjoy life right now. Elisabeth Elliot wrote “We accept and thank God for what is given, not allowing the not-given to spoil it.” (p. 33). In Christ, we can have true fulfillment and joy, even as we wait for our deepest desires to be fulfilled. We are called to live on-mission, using the unique gifts and talents God has equipped us with to serve Him and others.
So what is God calling you to in your season of singleness? What plans and purposes does He have for your life that you can pursue right now? And how do you think your future spouse and you will continue living out this calling as a union? Spend some time journaling and seeking God about these questions. Remember, God is faithful to answer as we seek Him and gives wisdom to those who ask for it.
As we conclude, let’s look at a biblical example of a woman named Anna, who after only seven years of marriage was widowed. While she could have remarried, Anna instead remained single for the rest of her life. But rather than spending her days as a spinster and in isolation, Anna poured herself out day after day in the temple of the Lord, praying and praising Him. Because of this, her heart was full, and God rewarded her faithfulness to Him by allowing her to witness the birth of His son, Jesus, the Messiah. At the age of 84, Luke 2:39 says that, “She (Anna) came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.” Because Anna sought intimacy with the Lord every day and remained close to Him, she was given the gift of seeing Jesus. Her heart was the Lord’s, wholly and without restraint. What a beautiful picture of wholehearted womanhood! Over the next few articles, we will explore other topics such as dating relationships and facing loneliness, but we hope this article has refreshed your perspective on the single life. It is truly a gift, this season of singleness, and a time to entrust God with our dreams, seek intimate closeness with Him and live out an extraordinary calling. Take some time today to seek Him and enjoy closeness with our Lord.
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Our next article will feature conversations about facing loneliness. Whatever season you are in romantically, we pray these articles build encouragement, hope and a vision for your current or future marriage.