God’s Ways Are Perfect
In this insightful letter to a friend, the author shares her experiences of dealing with the issues of marriage and singleness, and how, like Paul, she found the “secret of being content in every and any situation,” (Phil. 4:12).
I’m aware we have had similar struggles, so I want to share some of the things God has graciously showed me in my own life related to having a right perspective of singleness and marriage. As women, we have a natural, normal tendency to find a mate and marry. It is how God designed us and intended us to be. As Christians, the point of marriage is to be joined as one to represent Christ and work together for God’s will, as a representation of our union with God (the two shall become one). We are ever bombarded with worldly views of marriage along with our own normal desires for self-worth and completeness, pressure to fit in to normal society, find purpose in life, avoid loneliness, etc. While these are all normal thoughts to have, they are not the sole purpose or foundation for a Godly marriage.
The idea of marriage and singleness is something I’ve struggled with for many years of my life, because my view was very different than God’s, and I preferred my own thinking about it. It wasn’t until far into adulthood when my view was corrected, and I finally accepted His view over mine. Most of my life I was driven (although not so much in an outgoing way) by the desire to find my wholeness and completeness externally, believing a relationship with a man and the hope of marriage would make my life worth living. I also didn’t have strong marital modeling at home and found that I trusted little in people–particularly males. I’m sure this relates to my relationship with my own father, as we had little trust on either side of our relationship. I mention this because it’s important to understand the origins of our belief systems, not to place blame or avoid responsibility. It is certainly my own godless, stubborn way of seeing myself and my circumstances independently (unbelief/sin) that led me further into a godless lifestyle, resulting in desperation and a keen awareness that my life didn’t work.
After years of searching in all the wrong places, nothing filled the void I knew I had. Even a serious relationship that was leading to marriage couldn’t touch that void. I became more desperate and truly wanted an answer for myself. I was a born again Christian and the Holy Spirit has already come into my heart, yet I’m a miserable failure at life. What is the problem, and what is the solution? The answer became loud and clear eventually.
I’ll take a few moments to explain what I have come to believe, as it is the foundation for my changing perspective about life overall and my struggle with marriage and singleness. After reaching a point of desperation and searching (although not passionately searching in the right places like some Godly people I know), God answered my desperate call for help and gave me the clear answer! The container isn’t the problem, and the contents aren’t the problem (because after all I had accepted Christ and was “joined to Him one in spirit”). The problem stemmed from what I believed about myself. God showed me through an illustration my mother shared with me at a time when her life had noticeably changed for the better: that as a person, we are made up of three parts: a body, a soul, and a spirit. The body is the outer realm
our physical being. The soul is where we have thoughts and feelings. And the spirit (what REALLY matters) is where we reason and choose, and where we are joined to one of two spirits: Christ (the spirit of truth) or Satan (the spirit of error). Since the fall of man, Satan gained entrance into our inner spirit realm, and we were born joined to him in spirit (Romans 5:12). When we become born again, the spirit of error is kicked out and replaced by the Spirit of Truth/Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, Satan can (and does) tempt us from outside the realm of spirit–through our body and soul. He is the “accuser of the brethren,” who exercises his God-given right to tempt us. So he bombards us with lies, as this is his only weapon against us. While Satan can only misuse us in our members (our body and soul), he tries to use our body and soul reactions to help aid his lies–as supporting evidence. For me it usually sounds like my own thought: “I’m just a hopeless failure, and I’m no different than I’ve ever been and will never be able to change.” The problem comes the moment “I” buy the lie: that I’m just myself, an alone “I,” who is independent/apart from God. By doing this, I have agreed with Satan and inadvertently (although still accountable for my independent choice/sin) allow him to misuse my members (body and soul). This choice precedes any other outer act of sin. This finally, fully identified my problem.
Thankfully, God provided a perfect solution to our problem. First of all, we defeat Satan by saying no to his lies, and instead say yes to God’s truth. The Bible simply reads “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). The victory comes when we confess our sin, admit our failure of having any hope to live right in and of ourselves, and trust another (Jesus Christ) to live the right life for us that we could not live. My life changed for the better when I began to BELIEVE differently about myself and see that I am joined to Christ. God says this is true, while Satan say that I’m independent. Right believing plus faith action made the impossible in life possible. I now know that there is another here, Christ in me, doing the action in and through me. My job is to dare to take God at his word and believe he really can and will and IS taking over my life. When we do this, nothing may seem different at the moment and we may see no apparent changes overnight (although often times we do), but a change of believing results in the change of operators and a life that moves from bondage to freedom! Once I saw myself as God sees me, I could begin to dare to say things about myself that were true of Christ, because this is who God tells us we are in the Bible: “As He is so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). Our faith is no longer in our independent selves (which is a lie) but in the trustworthy, competent, complete, perfect One who is joined to us. This is great news!
Although this is great news, I didn’t take it as good news in all areas of my life. I mentioned my stubbornness, and I have been a passive aggressive force to reckon with in order to keep my original independent view. Why would I resist if changing my believing results in freedom? For starters, the lies I believed were well familiar since childhood. Another reason is that I preferred to see myself as a special case by having an overly negative view. God showed me the truth behind this: If we make ourselves up to be anything other than vessels, we are disobedient and in doing so are calling God a liar. Tearing ourselves down or building ourselves up yield the same results: an elevated view, where we seem “important” to ourselves. To be just a vessel like everyone else would mean we have to give up any sense of specialness and importance. When I finally laid down my view and took God’s much later in life, I experienced such a relief and grace to be free of it! Satan does not want to give up the ground he has established in our members, and will do all he can to promote his lie of an “independent self” and play it up as if it’s the better way to be. Once free of Satan’s bondage, we see clearly (like scales falling off our eyes) and often wonder how we lived in it so long now that we know our freedom in Christ!
I hope this background helps explain the view I had of marriage and singleness and why I held onto my view for so long. I agreed with Satan and then he could do my seeing, which was independent. He does not want to give up any ground he has established and works to keep us in bondage. I live in freedom today with a right, Godly perspective when I agree with God and He does my seeing. He sees through all circumstances to a perfect union with God. Because I was single, I would look at marriage as if it were the preferred status and be envious of those around me who have the privilege of marriage. Even if I were married, I would then be longing for the freedom of singleness. Always longing and never satisfied. How miserable! Of course my view of marriage included only positives: a Cinderella/Happily Ever After complex that would make me better. I preferred to overlook the challenges that come with marriage and the sad statistics today that only half of marriages last.
I have learned that both positions of singleness and marriage are a privilege, and both should be seen as a present blessing that could change. Marital status may change for reasons of choice or circumstance. Seeing this has been one of several defining moments about marriage/singleness through the years. Another defining moment came during a significant crossroads in my life. God placed a man in my life, we became friends and were interested in dating each other. I was waiting for God’s green light to proceed with a relationship, but instead got a red light. I bargained with God for a very long time over this issue, and couldn’t understand why He would put someone in my life like this, why my desires couldn’t line up with God’s desires, and on top of that, why friends and peers my age would get the very thing I wanted so much yet God withheld from me. I simply refused to see anything beyond my own view, let alone be settled into God’s will. I fought this to a degree that I pulled away from close family and friends who have been a significant part of my life, who have always wanted God’s highest and best for me, and who have significantly helped me live right. I did not want to accept that God’s highest and best did not include what I thought I wanted at the time. I contemplated many alternatives, but in the end, I had to honestly admit that I would not be OK with anything in my life outside of God’s will. When God’s perfect way for us it doesn’t line up with what we think we want at the time is when we seem to struggle the most.
It struck me that even if I got what I thought I wanted at the time (to date and possibly marry this person), and something happened to him (let’s say death or injury), then what? I definitely would not be OK and would probably be worse off than my current single status! I realized that if I were to have gotten married at all to anyone without having a right Godly perspective, marriage would have resulted in misery to me and to any spouse. My view of marriage was for my own selfish gain anyway–to make me OK, feel complete, and avoid loneliness. To put that burden on another person is not fair, nor how God intended the sacred union of marriage to be. Another defining moment came with the question: “Why would I want something in my life that God does not want there?,” which led to the realization that anything outside of God’s not only will never satisfy us, it will result in misery, separation from Him, and irrevocable consequences. Finally I admitted “God is the only thing I can bank on” sealed the deal for me. I was done for, finally let it go and let God’s will rule the day, whatever that would be. When faced with situations like this when we are struggling because what we think we want is not in line with God’s will, it is only our temporary soul and body reactions we are experiencing in the present moment. Although intense, they are NOT the REALITY. They are temporary, only God is eternal, which is who we all truly desire to be joined to. God always has His highest and best for us. I thought “Who am I to get to pick and choose what’s going to be true for me. He created us, He knows best.” And as the hymn goes, “Those that trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.” He is the only One who is worthy of our trust!
I have been blessed in many ways, most importantly with the freedom I have in Christ. I am relieved today to be a vessel operated by Christ, period. We don’t have to know life beyond this moment, and it is our present moment that we claim the truth for ourselves. This privilege and victory over bondage is always ours for the taking. It’s a matter of agreeing with God, the creator of the universe and everything in it, who loves us, is pleased to live in us, and lives perfectly through us as willing vessels. It is freeing to know that there’s another here to handle whatever He needs to now and in the future. There’s not one thing that can be added on to us, because in Christ, we are whole and complete lacking in NOTHING and nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).
I understand that you have and may still be wrestling with some of these same issues and how to determine if what you want is God’s will for you. God is not the author of confusion and He gives us clear green lights, especially on such a life-long, life-changing commitment as marriage. I encourage you to accept his red light until He provides a clear green light, and accept that it is His highest and best. God is the one who knows all and sees all. So if He’s not providing for us what we think we want or need, it is because He sees the whole plan of our lives and is working out the details as He sees fit for His perfect purpose. I hope you will not make the same stubborn choices I did to resist this. It is only His will that satisfies us–a satisfaction that reaches into eternity (far beyond any of our present and temporary longings and desires). He knows us and told us to “trust in Him–and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
I hope this helps you and I look forward to talking more with you soon!