In my lifetime, I’ve been the recipient of a lot of bad advice on being single. Some of the most common:
- “When you stop wanting it, it will come.” (If I stop wanting it, when it comes I won't want it, so why stop wanting it?)
- “Be yourself.” (This one isn’t bad advice. It’s just that some of the same people who told me this 20 years ago have since told me I should lose weight, be more feminine, show more cleavage. So I guess they were really telling me “Be yourself, but change”?)
- “Marriage is a lot of work.” (I’ve never shied away from hard work, and I’d like to add being single is a lot of work, too).
- My personal favorite, and thus the focus of this post -“God is protecting you.”
From what exactly is God protecting me? The implication is by keeping me single, God is protecting me from a bad relationship and heartache. But I experience heartache every day and I know many faithful believers who have been in bad relationships. Has God not been protecting us?
Calamity or lack of is not the best indicator of God’s protection. Far too many Christians experience tragedy – illness, death of loved ones, persecution and even torture. Is God not protecting any of these people? Of course He is!
The Word speaks of many examples of God’s protection. The word “protect” appears over twenty times in the Bible. Add in the words protection, refuge and fortress and the number is higher than I care to take the time to count. Suffice it to say – a lot.
That God is protecting me, or any of us, is not in question. It’s the question that is under review. I asked “From what is God protecting me?” when I should have asked “What is God protecting?”
As I was saying the LORD’s Prayer the other day, I was struck by the words “lead me not in to temptation”. Thousands of times I’ve prayed that prayer and repeated that phrase. The temptation I was thinking about was along the lines of lying, cheating, and stealing to name a few. I was praying I would not succumb to the temptation of impatience, anger, gluttony or vanity. This time a different temptation came to light “Lord, let me not be tempted to make any one or any thing more important than You.” Then I understood what exactly God has been protecting; He’s protecting my relationship with Him.
Everything He does (or doesn’t do), everything that happens (or doesn’t happen) to me was carefully designed and planned by God to keep me with Him; to keep me reaching for and relying on Him. The world is filled with distractions good and bad. Work, finances, and friendships can all divert my attention from my God, when in fact He wants to be intimately involved in every one of those and more.
In that oft quoted verse, the Apostle Paul described singleness as a gift. I haven’t been able to fully wrap my head around that yet. If it’s a gift then its socks and underwear; singleness is “good for me” like lima beans and Brussels sprouts when what I really wanted was wedding cake.
But I now have a clearer understanding of God’s protection. Instead of standing behind that invisible wall, looking out at the world and all I’d like to have but can’t, instead of trying to break through that force field I need to turn my back on it and towards my God and embrace Him. It’s not easy. It’s really hard. Yet, the alternative – banging myself against that wall – is exhausting. And the possibility of living outside is protection is too frightening (a story for another time). So I will try. God’s grace has gotten me this far, in spite of myself. And for those times when I screw up, because of Jesus, His new-every-morning mercies are readily available until He leads me home