The Uninvited Guest

      If you have ever lived in the desert, then you are probably familiar with a scene that unfolded the other night. At around 11:30pm, I was walking towards my room to go to sleep, and through tired eyes, I noticed a familiar shape on the floor next to my bedroom door, inches from where I was standing. No, it was not a spider. A couple of years ago when I still lived in California, a spider would have probably been able to summon a sizeable reaction. But times have changed and the creatures that hide in the dark of my Nevada home have taught me that spiders are nothing to waste screams and heartbeats on compared to a fellow arachnid. Picture a fiend that has dense armor, a will for survival even if you’ve stepped on it several times, nocturnal habits, and the ability to swim, climb, and survive without food or water for up to a couple months. To top it all off, it comes with pinchers and a stinger! Scorpions are proof that evil exists in the world and my new “friend” just stood there in the threshold, daring me to make a move in my vulnerably bare feet.

Now I realize that this is a “first-world problem” and not the worst tragedy to ever befall a person, but the most terrifying part about this encounter was not necessarily the scorpion or the darkness of the night. The most unpleasant feeling in that moment of deciding how to respond was loneliness. I happened to be the only one in the house at the time, and the thought of having no one to share in this little trial, to perhaps even do the dirty deed of effectively smiting the 8-legged demon for me, was saddening.

I am ashamed to say that I took the cowardly approach and just covered the little nemesis with a plastic cup. The cup is clear, of course, so that I can be sure he is still there until someone else can come and rid me of my problem. He is literally staring at me as I write this, and I cannot help but be slightly grateful to him for lending me a nice analogy for this chapter.

For some, singleness can feel like that scorpion, a burden in the room that serves as a constant reminder of your fears. Perhaps it’s the pinch of being a 3rd or 5th wheel all the time. Or maybe it’s the sting of rejection. It could be the creeping feeling of loneliness, and wondering about the future. There are lots of fears associated with being single, and we could list them one by one while revealing the fallacies that underlie them. However, in that approach, you might be surprised to discover a lot of monotonous repetition. You would find that just about every fear a single Believer encounters has the same distorted premise, as well as the same Gospel-saturated remedy. The symptoms are the same as well, for Fear never goes very far without inviting his best pal Discontentment to tag along.

The unfortunate thing about discontentment is that it acts as a blinder. It demands a lot of our attention so that we slowly take our gaze off of truth. Truth is replaced by half-truths that we willingly believe in an attempt to quickly heal our wounds. In time, we will find that half-truths do not ever truly satisfy our discontented hearts. I hope that this chapter causes more soul searching for my single brothers and sisters who have been served unwanted singleness, and I specifically hope to dispel the two common half-truths regarding the cause of singleness and its remedy.

 

The Cause

If someone were to ask you what the cause of singleness is, your gut response might be the obvious “not being married.” While this may be true, there is a better answer to dwell on for followers of Christ. If we get stuck on the natural cause of things, we miss out on seeing what is Supernatural. We are a NEW creation, people! (2 Corinthians 5:17) Our reality needs to be different when it comes to circumstances, and how we view our singleness is not exempt.

The truth is that if you are in Christ and you are currently single, God Himself has called you to that status. 1 Corinthians 7:17a says, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” In His wisdom, he has seen fit to give each of His children a different journey. He is a Master artist and does not make mistakes. In fact, according to Romans 8:28, our own mistakes are not permitted by God to mess up our lives. The wrong strokes that we paint on the portrait are swiftly weaved in to the plan as our Savior covers our shame and the Spirit helps us get back on track. May I also remind you that God is a loving Father who only gives good gifts to His children.

In the words of Jesus: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13) I love this passage for two reasons. First of all, it emphasizes spiritual blessings over temporary ones in how the highlighted gift is the Holy Spirit Himself, and second of all, it hints that God does not wrap up nasty things like scorpions in giftwrap. This is figurative, of course, but in applying the concept to singleness, God wills circumstances for our good and protects us from what we are unprepared for or that which could irreversibly harm us. That relationship that just ended that left you devastated? It could have been a serpent. The unrealized dream of the closeness and blessings associated with marriage? It could be that at this point in time, God is withholding it because He loves you and knows that it would be a scorpion.

We must be careful in talking about good and bad gifts not to confuse God’s idea of good with a humanistic view of good. This can be a tricky topic, for many feel stings in life and wonder at how the Bible can talk about God as a loving Father. There are three points I will say in response to someone feeling hurt in their singleness or in any other, perhaps more heartbreaking, situation. Please know that I do not treat this topic lightly and that there are teachers who have spoken in greater detail and with much more eloquence than I, who would prove to be a better resource. First of all, I must point out that we do not see the big picture, so faith plays a huge role in trusting that God really does know best. Secondly, God’s definition of good has more to do with our holiness than our happiness, and holiness brings a deeper joy because we are functioning how God created us to (James 1:2-4). Lastly, when we begin to doubt God’s goodness, it could be that somewhere, we have held on more dearly to a created thing over Creator God (Romans 1:18-23).

If and when God chooses to give us certain earthly gifts, we must realize that they are only given for a time. But spiritual blessings are always eternal, which is why Jesus does not encourage us to store up treasures on earth but in heaven (Matthew 6:20). Additionally, our Father assures us that He has given us absolutely everything we need “pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Those are the gifts to relish and hold onto with clenched fists, for they are offered freely to all of God’s children and cannot be taken away. They are ours for eternity!

 

The Remedy

Simply using the word “remedy” implies that singleness itself is the problem, but I hope by now you understand that not having a spouse is not a problem in God’s Kingdom and may, in fact, be a bit of an upgrade. A better but wordier title might be “The remedy to the fears and struggles associated with being single.” The typical remedy to this would be marriage, wouldn’t it? That is what people might tell us or what our hearts want to hold onto. To solve our discontentment with singleness, to fix our loneliness or fears about the future, we should just try harder to get married. But perhaps there are not really any marriageable candidates in our sphere. In that case, it is much easier to think on the future and hold out for Mr. or Mrs. Right than to actually deal with the discontentment or to face the possibility of perpetual singleness. And so the scorpion gets to take up a potentially permanent spot outside our bedroom.

Do we really want to settle for that outlook? Marriage would take away our title as singles, but the catch with half-truths is that they do not fix the heart of the matter. Divorce rates alone should be enough to tell us that singles do not have the monopoly on loneliness and discontentment. The true answer is not something we have to wait for. The solution is in rewiring how we think about marriage and discovering that even if we got everything we wanted in life, we would leave it empty-handed if Christ is not our foundation. Some of us have been so brainwashed about what true love is that we are often blind to the love that is already ours in Christ. He is our remedy, and until you taste and see that He truly is the Bread of Life, the Living Water offered to the Samaritan woman at the well, and the only Vine worth anchoring to, you will always be waiting for your discontentment to leave.

This answer is not necessarily new or profound, and it will require more effort to grasp than any half-truth would. You could turn to a Buzzfeed article about how to be more dateable or spend time agonizing over whether each new member of the opposite sex at church is single. Some of you may have the subtle ring-check mastered, but until Christ is our true foundation, there will be no actual fix. For those who choose this narrow road, it will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

 

In the course of writing this chapter, I was convicted early on about using the scorpion analogy. In adopting this real-life story to prove my points about untruths we believe about singleness, I knew that at some juncture, I would need to be the one to smash him, or else forfeit the chapter and start from scratch. If I do not follow my own advice, then how can I expect you to? By letting him sit there, I was believing lies about my capabilities, our size differences, and that the ONLY solution is help from someone else. So let it be known that on August 9th, 2014 at 3:51pm, a scorpion bit the dust. By not believing the lies bred out of fear, I was able to remove the discontentment associated with knowing an evil, uninvited guest was in the room, watching my every move from his plastic prison.

For this shunner of all that is creepy and crawly, that was quite a task, but it is nowhere near the difficulty that will come with rewiring our brains in regards to the cause and remedy of singleness. In a moment of struggle, it is much easier to demonize singleness as a plight to endure or to take comfort in the thought that someday, your match will come. Hopefully, you see now that those half-truths can do more damage in the long run than embracing the glorious truths that Scripture has to offer about what it means to be singly part of God’s Kingdom.

Thanks as always for joining the conversation! Any questions or comments? Feel free to type them out below!

So far, we’ve set the stage for this series with a little vulnerability, we talked about the reason marriage was created in the first place (hint: NOT to cause despair for those lacking in the earthly variety), and then we discussed enticing lies that distract us from better Gospel truths about love. Next week, my post will be directed at the church as a whole, offering advice on how to allow for the flourishing of singles in our communities. I will be answering questions like, “Is matchmaking ok?” and “How can I best be an encouragement to a single Believer who really really REALLY wants to be married?”. Stay tuned! 🙂

–>LINK FOR NEXT POST IN SERIES: https://notsingledout.com/category/6-week-singleness-series/week-5/