The singles in your church are hurting. Many (dare I say most?) of them have a strained relationship with the church.
There’s Pain in Your Pews
Since writing a book on singleness, I hear from singles often. Here’s what one thirty-nine-year-old woman has to say:
I’m convinced there is something very wrong with me! I feel like a complete outcast in each and every church. The weird thing is I don’t feel that way at work, which is a completely secular environment. Lately I’ve been crying all weekend and so grateful to be able to go to work on Monday morning because I know I’m valued and wanted there and I know I am contributing something as well.
This woman isn’t the only single who feels like an oddity in church. You might be tempted to think, Oh, toughen up! You think marriage is easy? But here’s why their hurt is our problem, too.
It’s a Family Responsibility
If you’ve placed all your trust in Christ as your righteousness, you’re now a tiny but vital member of His family and of His Body. There are millions upon millions of other members, and what impacts each of these people impacts you because we’re one now. Paul tells us:
But God has so composed the body . . . that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Cor. 12:24–26, emphasis added).
We have a responsibility to care for singles as we would our own families, because we’re not independent individuals anymore. We’re a part of something so much larger. Besides, in heaven there will be no individual marriage or families other than the family of God (Matt. 22:30).
So how can we care for singles as we ought? It starts with how we think about singleness.
Singleness Isn’t a Disease to Be Healed
Many people view singleness as a disease to be healed. I’ve been guilty of this myself. God’s Word, however, has quite a different perspective.
In 1 Corinthians 7, the apostle Paul addresses the whole church about the advantages and benefits of singleness. Singles, he says, are spared anxieties and troubles. (If you told a single that, they’d probably think, Ha! Paul obviously didn’t have a clue. I have plenty of troubles, and plenty to be anxious about!)
I don’t think Paul intends to minimize everything a single has to juggle in life. His point is that they’re not distracted by needing to please the Lord and their spouse. They have the freedom to be singularly devoted to the Lord.
Let’s be careful that we don’t adopt a “woe is you because you’re single” mindset when God celebrates singleness.
Let’s also be careful about how we “encourage” singles.
Have you lost your parents’ trust? It’s a crummy place to be, I know. I lost my parents’ trust my eighth grade year, and it felt like it took eons to regain it.
That summer, my family moved to a different state, and soon I started attending a new school. I felt like I didn’t have a lot of options when it came to choosing wise friends (there were only fourteen students in my whole grade!). It wasn’t long before my new friends were encouraging me to date a guy I liked behind my parents’ backs. I was all too happy to listen to them. Life was going well until . . .
One horrible, rotten day, a letter was delivered to our home (yep, that was before Facebook!). A friend from my old school had written me. But instead of addressing the envelope to “Paula Hendricks,” she wrote my nickname on the front. When my parents saw the letter, they didn’t know who it was for. So they opened it. And this is what they saw: “I can’t believe you’re dating Neil behind your parents’ backs!” (Busted!)
That was probably the first seed of distrust that was (rightfully) planted in my parents’ hearts. And then guess what they went and did? They prayed that God would help them find out whenever I was covering up my sin. He seemed to answer their prayer time and time again. It wasn’t long before they knew I couldn’t be trusted.
As much as I hated my parents at the time for reading my mail and being so strict, looking back I have to say they were right to not trust me. I was a deceiver. I lied. A lot.
Have You Lost Your Parents’ Trust, Too?
I wonder if you can relate. Have you given your parents (or others) any valid reason not to trust you? Are you one person around them and a different person entirely when you think they’re not looking?
Are you always wondering if you’ll be found out? And then when you are, do you know the feeling of having the people closest to you not know if anything you say is true? We both know that’s not a fun way to live. So what can you do?
How To Get Your Parents’ Trust Back
If you’re one of those girls who has been walking on eggshells around a couple of suspicious parents, here’s how you can regain their trust.
Four months ago our little family moved into my in-laws’ house, and our home renovation began.
As home renovations go, this one has taken longer and cost more than we expected. Our contractor told us he has seen couples divorce over home renovations. I get it. The stress is high. The decisions are unending.
It’s not just the home renovation. We feel like we’ve been in a pressure cooker for months now.
When Life Doesn’t Give You a Break
Sometimes life just doesn’t give you a break. It’s the need to finally bite the bullet and buy a new car, even as you’re dishing out money right and left for your home renovation.
It’s the trip to the emergency room in the wee hours of the morning . . . and a subsequent hospital admission. (Iren was wheezing and struggling to breathe.)
It’s urging people in our lives to turn from sin and pursue Christ. It’s that ridiculous relational squabble. And on and on and on.
My husband and I are weary. I’ve had a meltdown or two. It usually goes like this, [Sob . . . sniffle . . . “I have no friends!”] Trevor assures me I do, but I have yet to figure out how to find time to hang out with any of them in the midst of all the other demands and responsibilities.
But in the midst of all the pressure, I continue to catch glimpses of just how much God caresfor me. For example, here’s how I saw it yesterday.
I was taking Iren on a walk when I looked up and saw an acquaintance. I fell into step with her and told her I need to prepare three messages for a mother-daughter retreat next week. One message is for moms, and I’ve never been a mom of a daughter. So I asked this pastors’ wife of four children what she would say to these women.
Her thoughts sparked several ideas, so I pulled out my phone and took notes as we walked. It was a reminder that God sees my overflowing to-do list, that blank Google document, the impending deadline . . . and He cares.
Would You Pray for Us?
I share all this with you to ask you to pray for us. Pray:
God would send us help as we move back home. Our house is far from move-in ready, but we are ready to be home, even if it means dust and disorganization for a season.
I’m the writer who married the accountant, or so they say. But I’ll let you in on a secret: Trevor is the real writer in this family.
Words are as familiar to him as numbers are. (Numbers and I, on the other hand, just don’t jive. In a recent game of Wits and Wagers, I guessed that the longest highway in the U.S. was 800,000 miles long–or was it 800,000,000 miles long? I have a habit of liberally throwing in zeros as if they’re chocolate chips going into cookie batter–the more the merrier.)
This man, though . . . he can not only crunch numbers, he can whip up poems and hymns lickety-split.
Trevor often texts me a short poem to start our day. Here’s a stanza he wrote recently based on this sermon we’d listened to the night before:
Lord we confess that deep within Desires blur and mix with sin Wholly incline our hearts today To seek your kingdom this we pray
And then there’s this hymn he wrote based on Romans 5 that needs to published and sung, in my humble-but-proud-wifey opinion:
In the beginning, God made man,
Adam lived with God in peace.
But through that man came sin and death;
Adam died and so shall we.
The seed of death, the stain of guilt,
Deep in Adam’s progeny,
But Second Adam surely brings
Death to sin, how can this be?
The Second Adam came to us,
Grace to end sin’s tyranny,
He to conquer death by death,
As You died, Lord, so shall we.
United to the risen Lord,
Bound to Him eternally,
The king of old is now dethroned.
As You live, Lord, so shall we.
Now Lord we give ourselves to You,
Christ, our Life, who set us free.
To sin we died, for You we live;
Slaves of God now shall we be.
There’s more though. He doesn’t just write hymns to express spiritual truth. This month I’ll share three poems he wrote and used to get:
A wife (yup, that’s me).
Chick-fil-A for his wedding reception free-of-charge.
PPS: To be sure you don’t miss these three poems from my hubby, type your email in the box to the right under “Don’t Miss a Post!” and you’ll receive my blog posts in your inbox. (If you’re reading this on your phone, click on the menu button at the top and choose “Subscribe by Email.”) You can unsubscribe at any time.
Is it okay to keep praying . . . and praying . . . and praying some more for a husband? This is a question I wrestled with when I was single. After all, I’d been praying for a husband for years, yet God seemed to thwart my desire for marriage at every turn.
I’m not the only one who wrestled with whether it’s okay to continue praying for a husband. A thirty-two-year-old recently wrote me:
For as long as I can remember, I have desired marriage. Though my heart aches in this season of prolonged singleness, I know that the Lord has given me this time as a gift to serve Him without any relational constraints. Therefore, I am not sure how to pray.
I don’t want to pray half-heartedly or without faith. Yet there is no guarantee the Lord has marriage in His plan for me. I do not want to stuff this desire and pretend it doesn’t exist. Nor do I want to hyperfocus on this longing and believe contentment requires its fulfillment.
What is the biblical solution? How can I honor God in my prayer life in this season, rejoicing in His faithfulness while also grieving this unfulfilled longing?
If you have a similar question about an unfulfilled longing in your life or in the life of a single friend, this post is for you. Today we’re going to eavesdrop on Jesus’ prayers to the Father on one of the darkest nights of His life. I think you just might find your answer tucked right there in the olive groves of Gethsemane. Let’s join Him.
Then, I’d love to hear from you. Have you wrestled with this dilemma? If so, what have you learned? Whether it’s asking God for a husband—or something else entirely—are you demanding your desires, or are you bringing them to your Father?
If I have the story right, after my dad asked my mom out, she commented to a friend, “Why do the creepy guys always ask me out?” (Obviously she changed her mind about my dad not too long after that!)
Maybe you feel like my mom felt all those years ago. Why does it seem the guys you don’t like are always the ones pursuing you?
I can’t answer that question for you (except to assume that you’re lovely, and they’re smart enough to realize it!). Instead, may I throw an important question out there?
When a “creepy guy” asks you out, how can you turn him down in a way that glorifies God? More specifically, how can you love a guy well while turning him down?
I’m so glad you asked! Let’s look at a few ways you can love him before, when, and after you turn him down.
Love Him Before You Turn Him Down . . .
Remember that this guy has worth. You might think he’s creepy, but everyone—including this guy—is made in the image of God. That means he has great value and worth in God’s eyes, and he should to you, too—even if you don’t like him “like that.”
Go to God rather than gossiping about him to your friends.Ask God to give you wisdom to lovingly but truthfully communicate with this guy. Ask God to draw this guy closer to Himself through this disappointment. Pray that this guy wouldn’t believe lies about his worth. Pray for wisdom in your interactions with him. You get the idea.
Accept this as God’s assignment for you. You might be frustrated because you don’t want to deal with this. I get that. But God is sovereign, and He has allowed this to happen. So can you receive it from Him?
Don’t rush. You might want to get this guy out of your life ASAP. A quick text might seem like the simplest solution. But is it really best? Pause. Breathe. Pray. There’s no need to freak out about this. You’ve got this, girl, and you can do it in a way that honors God and loves this guy.
Love Him When You Turn Him Down . . .
Own it. Don’t blame God by saying something like, “God hasn’t given me a green light,” or “I just don’t have peace,” or “I don’t feel God wants me to date right now.” Say it like it is: You don’t want to date him. (I mean, come on. If a hot, godly guy came along right now who liked you, would you really tell him you didn’t think God wants you to date right now?)
Tell the truth. When I was a teen, I thought covering up the real reason I didn’t like a guy would protect him. Wrong! “Not hurting his feelings” never justifies lying. Proverbs 24:26 says it like this: “Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.” So give him a “kiss” of truth—lol. It’s the least you can give him. Don’t tell him what you think he wants to hear. I’m not saying you can just blurt out whatever you’re thinking and be oblivious to his feelings. Use wisdom, but be truthful. If you’re not attracted to him, tell him you’re just not feeling anything beyond friendship. If there’s a deeper reason—a reason that would help him know where he needs to grow—share that with him in a direct, loving way. You get the picture.
Affirm him where you can. Even if you don’t like him, you can let him know it’s an honor that he would take an interest in you! More than that, he demonstrated an enormous amount of courage in putting his feelings out there and asking you out. Tell him how much you admire that and that you hope your response won’t keep him from pursuing the right girl at the right time.
“The Christian life is simple. Love God, love people, and repent and believe the gospel when you fail.”
This sentence has lodged in my gut and changed my days—possibly even my life—since I heard it.
The Christian Life Made Simple
A pastor spoke these words simply as I sat in a circle of complete strangers (you can read that story here). But that’s not the point of this post.
What I want to communicate is that this truth has been changing my thoughts and actions since I heard them. And I think they’ll do the same for you.
See, for years I’ve scurried around trying to chip away at my to-do list. But just when I’d eliminate one task, three more would pop up.
So I’ve lived with the mentality that “after my work is done, I’ll rest.” (All that did was result in a giant physical and emotional crash several years ago.) But recently God has used other means—as well as this one, simple sentence—to calm my anxious heart and change my whole approach to the Christian life.
Instead of hitting the ground running each morning in an effort to tame my beastly to-do list, I’ve realized that my task for each day is simple: Love God, love people, and repent and believe the gospel when I fail.
Then, I’d love to hear from you. How does this simple summary of the Christian life focus and/or redirect your hectic life? Do you need to repent of not loving God and others and believe the gospel—that in Christ you are forgiven? What can you do today to cooperate with the Spirit in you in loving God and others?
“Titanic Sinks Four Hours After Hitting Iceberg” . . . “ON THE MOON! And It’s ‘One Giant Leap for Mankind’” . . . “Diana Dead.” All these headlines were breaking news at one time, but now they’re . . . old news.
For many Christians, the gospel isn’t much different. I don’t know about you, but for most of my life, I thought of the gospel as good news for unbelievers but old news for believers.
Boy, was I wrong.
The Gospel Is Still for You, Believer
News flash: The gospel isn’t mainly for your unbeliving neighbors!
But don’t just take my word for it. In Romans 16:25, Paul writes to believers, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.”
Did you catch that? It’s the gospel that strengthens us as believers. The simple, familiar story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection on our behalf.
Here’s another verse, written about believers, that clues us in that the gospel isn’t mainly for our lost neighbors: “The gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:5–6).
Is the gospel bearing fruit and increasing in you and me? (Hint: If we’re not regularly rehearsing gospel truths, it probably isn’t.)
I like how Tim Keller puts it: “The gospel is not just the ABCs but the A-to-Z of the Christian life.”
Today I’m writing over on TrueWoman.com. Catch the rest of this post there.
Then, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you tended to think of the gospel as good but old news . . . or as good news for today and tomorrow and the day after?
The American church tends to get a bad rap—and often with good reason. That’s why I want to tell you about a gem of a church that Trevor and I stumbled across on our way to Illinois this past Thanksgiving. A church that shattered the negative stereotypes of what the American church is all about. A hospitable church.
Happening Upon a Hospitable Church
Up until the day before, we planned to attend a different local church. But when my friend invited us to her church and then over for lunch at her pastor’s house, we were intrigued.
“You’re totally welcome,” she said. “We do it every Sunday. We spend the whole afternoon together, go back for a 5:30 p.m. service, and then make supper there. Leftovers, pizza rolls . . . nothing fancy.”
I wasn’t terribly keen on the idea of spending the entire day with strangers (I like my alone time!). But Trevor was excited about attending a church that made it easy for us to corporately set aside the Lord’s Day. So we said “yes.”
And that’s how we ended up spending all Sunday with perfect strangers. Believe it or not, I didn’t miss my alone time. That day was the highlight of our vacation . . . and even one of the top highlights of 2017 for us.
What made it so great? Yes, the songs and sermon were meaty and rich. Yes, the people were friendly. And boy, those homemade salted caramel cookies they served after service . . .
But what really sealed the deal was the hospitality we experienced after the church doors were shut.
Walking Into a Hospitable Home
We felt right at home from the moment we walked into the house and the kids took our coats at the door. The mom of the house showed me a messy but private bedroom where I could nurse Iren.
Trevor and the pastor talked and ate while I fed Iren. Then I came down, and different kids held Iren while I chowed down and talked with my friend.
I noted that the pastor was down-to-earth and accessible. He seemed a bit shy, but he was present with us all afternoon. He didn’t lead the conversation; he just sat on the couch with a drink, obviously enjoying the conversation and people.
Kids of all ages sat crosslegged on the floor. Men and women sat around the room in chairs—one woman knitting.
Conversation meandered here and there until I started a group conversation on parenting and rules. I was amazed to hear they’re not big on adding rules to their kids’ lives but on focusing on God’s two greatest commands: loving Him and loving others. I took lots of mental notes for when Iren gets a little bigger.
We went back to the church for evening service and then joined these same people in the kitchen for pizza and more fun, deep conversation.
Becoming a Hospitable Church
Trevor and I exited those church doors late that evening saying, “We want that kind of love, community, and hospitality at our church.”
“Let’s pray for that,” I said.
“Yes,” he replied, “and it starts with us.”
I am so grateful for his perspective. We are the church (Eph. 1:22-23). There is no need to sit around waiting for someone else to take action—not even the leaders. We can and should take ownership, initiate, and invite others into our lives and home.
How about you? Are you waiting for someone else to set the tone at your local church, or are you welcoming others into your life and home? Let’s be a hospitable church!
PPS: Come back to the blog next Friday, February 2, to read about the one sentence this pastor shared that has lodged in my gut and changed my days—possibly even the course of my life—ever since I heard it.
PPPS: To make it easier on you, type your email in the box to the right under “Don’t Miss a Post!” and you’ll receive Friday’s post in your inbox. (If you’re reading this on your phone, click on the menu button at the top and choose “Subscribe by Email.”) I generally post once a week, though next week it will be twice. Oh, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
My dear friend Martha became Mrs. McCallops earlier this month. I choked up as her husband, Chris, began to dance the mother-son dance at the reception. As he drew his mother near and whispered in her ear, I squeezed Iren just a little bit closer.
“That will be Iren before we know it,” I told Trevor.
“No, I want him to be tiny, bald, and toothless forever!” he replied.
But we both know that can’t be. Iren’s not tiny (still 99th percentile for length!). He’s sprouted feathery light hair all over his head, and his two top teeth have made their appearance. More than that, he’s constantly on the move. Our baby has bid us goodbye; we are already seeing all boy.
Born to Leave
Much as we might be tempted to squeeze him just a bit tighter sometimes, we know he’s not ours to keep. He was made by and for God, and our goal is to raise an independent man who will leave home one day. Our greatest desire for him is that he will both know and make God known wherever he goes.
And so I’m preparing for our mother-son dance already, should he marry one day. Iren has been to at least two weddings since he was born, and both times I’ve brought him out to the dance floor to sway and then “get jiggy with it.”
He was born to leave, and I will do my best to release him well.
I love you, my son. And because I do, I hold you with open hands. Someday we may dance our own mother-son dance, and then I will give you to another woman. Should you not marry, I will share you with the world.
Because you never ultimately belonged to me. You belong to God. Go and make Him known.