Every Wednesday leading up to that Holiday-Beginning-With-A-V-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named -- inspirational, hilarious, and ridiculously-relatable Christian Post contributor Joy Beth Smith is offering a fresh perspective on flying solo, in a 5-part series, based on her upcoming book Party of One: Truth, Longing, and the Subtle Art of Singleness (available for pre-order now, and wherever books are sold on February 6). This week... The Hardest Part of Being Single Is Being a Single Christian.
"The hardest part of being single is being a single Christian," my friend Katelyn said. "Mainstream culture has more positive models of living a full life as a person who's not married. In the evangelical Christian community, we perpetuate messages like 'marriage is God's best for you' or 'marriage is a reward for your faithfulness,' or we center our churches on married families.
All these things start to raise really hard questions about God's goodness and providence. In some ways, there's an additional level of pain or spiritual woundedness that can arise when you start asking, 'Where is God in all of this?' and you're met with silence from a church culture that doesn't always know how to answer that question in a helpful, constructive, or freeing way."
If God's not withholding a man to make me ready, what is he waiting on? And what does it say about God that he's keeping a good thing from me, despite my fervent desires? How do I honor and serve a God who has the power to change my circumstances but chooses not to, causing me immense loneliness and pain?
As I sit alone, without any prospective date for Valentine's Day (in fact, I don't think I've ever had a date for Valentine's Day, and that thought only makes me sadder), these are my questions, and I don't have any answers—except to say God is good and God is in control. Some days those are enough for me to help me nod my head, take a deep breath, and keep plugging along. And some days they're not. Some days those answers leave me throwing my pillow against a wall or weeping into the phone while my brother anxiously tries to decipher my wails and pauses as if they were Morse code.
But at the end of the day, those are the two pillars that hold up my entire faith: God is good. God is in control. In 2016 I was let go from a job, twice, and in both instances people came to support me with the same predictable phrases: "There's something better headed your way!" and "When God closes one door, he opens a window."
But the tough reality is that there are people who love the Lord and honor him with their lives, and they've been out of work for more than a year, or they had to take a demotion and pay cut to get another job. There are single women who will serve God with everything, desperately desire companionship, and never be "rewarded" with an earthly marriage—and God is still good.
I take comfort that Jesus never encouraged us to deny the cross we're called to carry. He never tells us to ignore the cross, to imagine the cross as being featherlight, or to try to pass it off to someone else. No, he simply says, "Take up your cross, and follow me." You don't have to deny the existence of your cross, whatever it may be—you only have to take it up.
I don't have to deny that I desire marriage or that in my singleness there is suffering. But I am called to endure this time with grace, humility, patience, and joy. Some days I'm convinced singleness is too great a thing to ask of someone who wants to be married, but I take up my cross and continue on, day by day, step by step. And as I stumble under the weight of the wood and scrape my knees, and it feels too heavy to bear, there in those moments, crumpled under the cross, Jesus finds me. And he'll find you too.
If you're single, you're called to be single today, and I will grieve and celebrate that calling with you. We must embrace it. But that doesn't mean our hearts won't want more. Own that pain and heartache. Don't deny it. Don't push it aside. Sit in it. And then, when you're able, look up. Find God in the longing.
Find a way to grieve and celebrate this Valentine's Day. Find your safe people, recruit them to enter into this space with you. Grab some balloons (or pop some balloons!), whatever you need to do. It's okay not to be okay today.
Joy Beth Smith (@JBsTwoCents) is the author of Party of One: Truth, Longing, and the Subtle Art of Singleness (Thomas Nelson, February 2018). She is a managing editor with Christianity Today and winner of the Evangelical Press Association's Higher Goals in Christian Journalism Award. For more information, a free chapter download, and LOL-worthy memes, visit www.PartyofOnetheBook.com.