The Single’s Psalm

In God's presence is joy

Quite a few years ago a good friend of mine referred to Psalm 16 as The Single’s Psalm. I’ve claimed it as such ever since, turning to it again and again.

As I type that, though, I have to chuckle at my annoyance in the past when others have made claim to a passage of Scripture as being specifically for their particular walk of life. Over time that annoyance has turned to amazement as I realize a passage that speaks so specifically to one person speaks just as specifically to another in a completely different lifestyle. Isn’t the Bible’s Author amazing? That Author is none other than our Heavenly Father, who loves us each the same, and knew what truths His children would need for every walk of life!

That said, let’s take a look at Psalm 16 and what it says to the single Christian. Although my friend never elaborated why she thought Psalm 16 was The Single’s Psalm, as I’ve read it over the years, it has spoken to me regarding two topics: Who God is to me, and my future.

Who God is to Me

It’s probably safe to say that most singles, whether single by choice or otherwise, at various times miss the presence of a life companion. Sometimes we imagine that person would be more for us than what mere mortals actually can be. But regardless if our imaginations are accurate or not, we do have Someone who is amazing things to us, according to this Psalm and other Scripture. He is:

Our Protector

“Protect me, God, for I take refuge in You.” (v. 1)

Whether it is physical, spiritual, or emotional protection we need, God is our refuge. We can turn to Him and know that in His sovereignty nothing will touch us that He doesn’t allow for a reason for our ultimate good. This gives us much freedom to live our lives to the full, taking “risks” as needed to move forward, knowing He has our backs.

When my father was a young single serving as a missionary in Nepal, he often traveled mountainous trails alone with all the possible dangers of wild animals, river crossings, and steep paths. He also traveled alone by train to India for supplies and to exchange money for the mission, with all the possible dangers of personal attack and theft. But amazingly he felt no fear. He knew God was his Protector!

Our Provider

“I said to Yahweh, “You are my Lord; I have nothing good besides You.” (v. 2)

“LORD, You are my portion and my cup of blessing; You hold my future. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” (v. 5-6)

Someone recently mentioned to me that trusting God to provide for our needs should be the easiest of His promises to believe. After all, He mentions it so frequently in Scripture with so many examples of His provision – food for over five thousand people multiplied from just five loaves and two fish, the widow’s bottle of oil that didn’t run out, food (manna) falling from the sky for the Israelites, a sacrificial lamb in the bushes for Abraham to sacrifice in place of Isaac, a coin found in the mouth of a fish to pay Jesus’ and the disciples’ taxes.

When we consider that our inheritance comes from Him, and that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, why do we ever worry if we’ll have enough? No matter the limitations of our circumstances or even our own physical abilities, He will provide. What an adventure to see how He’ll accomplish that! If the accounts in the Bible are any indication, He can be quite creative in His provision!

Our Counselor

“I will praise the LORD who counsels me – even at night my conscience instructs me. I keep the LORD in mind always. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely.”  (v. 7-9)

I don’t know about you, but for me, things bother me most at night – so much so that I once made a rule for myself: Don’t listen to your fears in the middle of the night. I had learned that almost everything looks worse in the wee hours of the night than they do in broad daylight. Over the years those hours alone in bed when I can’t sleep have become precious times of talking with the Lord and hearing from Him. It’s often during those times that I’ve received clarity to help me move forward when daylight comes. With God as our Counselor we will not be shaken, and we can be at peace.

Our Companion

“You will not abandon me to Sheol; You will not allow Your Faithful One to see decay. You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.” (v. 10-11)

One of the pluses of being alone is that we become more aware of God’s presence with us. Minus the distraction of others’ voices we learn to hear His. Once in a group of women, mostly married, the question was asked: how much time do you spend praying each day? I realized in that moment that I couldn’t measure my daily prayer time by minutes, as I tend to carry on a running conversation with the Lord all day long. I hadn’t always done this. When my days were filled with a lot of interaction with people, I turned to them for conversation, and not as much to the Lord. As it dwindled I was somewhat lonely until I learned that God was always present and available to talk. Now conversing with Him comes as second nature. It’s a privilege to be able to enjoy His presence so much!

A Bright Future

This Psalm also speaks to the future we have to look forward to:

“You hold my future. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance…. You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.” (v. 5b, 6, 11)

in Your right hand are eternal pleasures

We know with certainty that as believers in Jesus we have a wonderful eternity waiting for us. But what about here? For the rest of our time on this earth we’re usually not as optimistic. But all our worries can be answered by the assurance of Who God is to us, as we’ve just seen in this Psalm. Just as He is our Protector, Provider, Counselor, and Companion now, so He will be for us all our days. Singles tend to worry about getting old: Will we be alone, forgotten by all who know us? Who will take care of us? I’m not sure why we think our Heavenly Father, who has cared for us all our lives, will abandon us in old age. He won’t!

In His presence is “abundant joy.” That “path of life” is not just being physically alive, it is the abundant life that Jesus came to give us! It’s not dependent on lifestyle, circumstances, or the presence or absence of other people. God is our joy, and we can rest assured that He does hold our future, and that it will be good!

 

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The Ultimate Relationship

Easter - Crosses - Abundant Life

When the scene opens in Genesis, God creates the heavens and the earth, all living creatures, and man and woman. He then pronounces it all good. It was perfect.

The very best part of all that perfection was the in person, face-to-face, close relationship God had with Adam and Eve. He had no lists of rules for them to follow, no “to do” lists of work to do for Him, no lists of “shoulds” – just Him and them in relationship. He loved them immensely, and they Him.

Something Horrible

But then something horrible happened. Satan told them God was withholding something good by telling them not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan convinced Adam and Eve that there was still one more good thing they could have, if only they would just take it, even though God had told them not to.

But it wasn’t something good – God never meant for them (or us) to have that knowledge of good and evil and to have to struggle with trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong. He intended for them to live in freedom and innocence, and to be in the kind of relationship with Him where He would tell them what to do, or not to do, as they needed to know it. He wanted them to eat from the Tree of Life instead and experience Abundant Life!

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from that tree, their innocence died. Suddenly they were aware of evil and they experienced shame – a feeling God never intended for them to ever experience. And now, since evil had entered their world and their very beings, God could no longer relate to them face-to-face. They had to leave their beautiful perfect Garden and live by lists of rules and work hard to survive, and no matter how hard they tried to be perfect, they knew they weren’t and they felt shame. The worst part was that they no longer had the kind of relationship with God where they could talk with Him in person, and He with them. They would struggle, doubting His love for them, questioning His actions – and then feeling more shame for their doubts and struggles. Sound familiar? Those struggles were passed down through the centuries right to us.

The Good News

The good news

The good news we are celebrating this coming Easter weekend is that Jesus died to pay for all that shame and evil that entered our world the day Adam and Eve sinned. He then rose from the dead to conquer the physical death that also entered our world that day. Although physical death is still a given, we will actually never die, as Jesus said in John 11:25, “The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” At the death of our physical bodies our spirits will be set free to again be with God in His physical presence, where we can talk to Him face to face!

But Jesus didn’t come just to restore this relationship after we die, or to just give us an extraordinary life after death. He also came to restore our direct access to God now, even if we can’t see His face, and to give us extraordinary life now. He told His disciples in John 10:10 that He came so that we can have life, and have it abundantly – to the full!

Why the Struggle?

If all this is true, though, why do we struggle so much with this life? Why do we get so bogged down with our lists – the lists of right and wrong, the lists of “shoulds,” the lists of things we need to do – all lists that bring us shame because we can never, ever check every item off those lists to perfection?

I believe it’s because we lose sight of the most important gift God ever gave to humans, and the gift Jesus came to restore: a close relationship with Him. We try to have abundant life through our human relationships, by our efforts to live for Him, by doing everything just right, or by filling our bank accounts. But all of that is idolatry because we’re trying to find abundant life through those things, rather than through Him. He wants us to simply bask in His presence and in His love and trust that He’ll provide all that we need, as we need it – even knowing what is right and what is wrong.

Some of the shame many singles struggle with, especially those who wish to be married, is wondering why they are still single. Is it because they haven’t trusted God enough? Is it because of sexual sin, past or present? Is it because they haven’t prayed exactly right? Is it because they haven’t figured out God’s “perfect will” and missed meeting the Right One?

I assure you it is none of these things. God has a plan and purpose for our lives, and the most important aspect of His plan He gives to all who will accept it – a close relationship with Him. Everything else pales in comparison – human relationships, careers, ministry, success, health, knowledge, recreation and pleasure. All these aspects of life vary from person to person in unique combinations that create frameworks for His purpose and plan to be fulfilled in our lives. When we allow our relationship with Him to grow and deepen, no matter what that framework is, we will experience the abundant life – life to the full!

Will the abundant life be free of struggles and difficulties? Of course not. But the closer we grow in relationship with God, the more we’ll understand those struggles and difficulties from His perspective, and when we don’t understand, experience the peace of simply knowing that ultimately they are His divine appointments for good.

No Shame, No Condemnation!

From your responses I know many of you are already living the abundant life, even without a spouse or family or the things that others think are of utmost importance to having a great life.

And from your responses I know many of you are struggling to find abundant life. I just want to leave you with this to ponder as we celebrate Easter: have you fully received the gift of a deep relationship with God that Jesus died so that you could have? Have you chosen to focus on your relationship with God above all else? That’s the only way to experience life to the full – fuller than any human relationship, ministry involvement, or bank account could ever give you.

If you’re not there yet, or struggle to stay there, remember this: there is no shame in not being there yet – just a loving Heavenly Father smiling and beckoning to you, inviting you into an ever deeper relationship with Him.

Have a most Blessed Easter, celebrating the Abundant Life – a wonderful gift from your Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus, who willingly laid down His life for you.

Abundant Life

 

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The Life-Changing Truth About Our Identity

We are beloved children of God

“Who am I?”

It’s a question we all ask ourselves. More than once. Some of us spend years seeking its answer.

We look to our relationships, to our education, to our occupation, to our accomplishments – or to the lack of these. We listen to others, to our feelings, to our faulty interpretation of God’s Word – or others’ faulty interpretations. And no matter what, we always find ourselves coming up short, with an identity that never seems enough.

Beloved child of God

We then spend countless sleepless nights wondering: how can I find more time to do enough? Accomplish enough. Be enough? Can I get to that place of enough – of perfection – before the final shoe drops and I’m standing before the Alimighty who demands an account of everything I’ve ever said or done?

Our identity is at the core of our perspective of ourselves, our lives, the people and world around us, and, interestingly enough, of God Himself. It ultimately determines our behavior, and most certainly affects our feelings and sense of worth. At the end of the day, it also determines whether we live the abundant life Jesus came to give us!

The Identity that Trumps All Others

Beyond the identities of being a friend, sibling, parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle; and beyond the identities of being male or female, young or old, single or married, educated or uneducated, rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful, lies a much more important and significant identity that trumps all other identities:

We are beloved children of God. He is our Father. Our Abba. Our Papa. Our Daddy.

Yours and mine.

This, above anything else, is our identity.

And, when we come to faith in Jesus, believing that He is God’s Son, that He died as payment for our sins and sinfulness, and that He gained victory over the finality of death by rising from the dead – we also become co-heirs with Jesus!

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’  The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:15-17 HCSB)

Our Transformation

Being heirs of God means that what Jesus receives from the Father we also receive: His approval, His acceptance, His love, His delight, and most of all – the Holy Spirit who begins to transform us from the inside out. This transformation, though seemingly slow to us, in God’s eyes is instantaneous. Because when He looks at us, He sees the perfection of our Brother Jesus which was transferred to us by His work on the cross and our acceptance of His sacrifice for us. While we may be flawed and disobedient at times, God accepts Jesus’ perfection and obedience as our own.

Fully accepted child of God

When we come to this understanding  and realization, this truth transforms us. We are God’s – much loved and delighted in. He finds no fault in us. We bring Him delight by being who He created us to be, and by accepting His love without question as a little child does who is nestled in the arms of his or her Daddy.

Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! (1 John 3:1 HCSB)

Finally we have found an identity and a place of belonging that is never lacking, no matter what we are or aren’t, or do or don’t do.

A Helper for Our Helplessness

We are helpless in the sinfulness of our human flesh. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves perfect, try as we might. We live to honor our Abba, but when we fall down, as children do, the Holy Spirit – who is part of our inheritance and lives within us – helps us get back up. He is always with us. Always helping us with whatever is before us to live out. There is no condemnation. Only grace – a magnificent gift given to us by our Abba Father who loves us without qualification, other than we are simply His child.

Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6 HCSB)

When the Final Shoe Does Drop

On that day that we stand before the Alimighty, Who we now know is our loving Abba Father – all He will see is His child whom He loves and delights in, with all the perfection that Jesus transferred to us, and He will say to us with arms opened wide, “Welcome Home, my beloved child.”

 “And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent His Son as the world’s Savior. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God — God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:14-18 HCSB)

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Dealing with Well-Meaning People

Best end result

Just recently I received an email asking me to address a certain topic here on Purposeful Singleness. I’m happy to do that in today’s post. If you would like to see a topic addressed let me know either in the comments below or by using the contact form. I won’t promise to answer them all, but I’ll gladly consider each one.

Here was the recent request:

“Hi, thanks so much for this website it has been a huge help for me. This type of stuff is rarely talked about in the church and because if that it can be isolating sometimes. I myself am decidedly single. Anyway, I was wondering if you can write a post about how to deal with well-meaning people who assume you want to be ‘introduced’ to people. It is something that has frustrated me recently. I can understand why someone would assume that a single person is looking for a relationship since so many singles hate their status but not everyone is the same. Not all singles are looking to be un-single. Personally, I would appreciate it if people would ask me first before taking it upon themselves to match me up. Thank you!”

First of all, thanks so much for your kinds words about the website! It’s always encouraging to hear that the content here is a help and encouragement to those reading it.

Dealing with Well-Meaning People

I’m not sure there is any one right technique for dealing with those dear people in our lives who mean well, but sometimes create problems rather than solving any. Responding and relating to them depends on the personality of the person, your own personality, the relationship between the two of you, and what was actually said or done. Most of all, it depends on what God is leading you to do or not do. I’m always amazed how the Holy Spirit can give us words and responses in the moment that we would never have thought of on our own, even if we’d had plenty of time to think it over!

Our Inward Response

Well-meaning matchmaker

It’s easy to let our default feelings take over and react negatively to people who say or do things we don’t like. It always helps me to consider what their motives might be, though I admit to frequently reacting – inwardly, at least, if not outwardly. If I can view things from their perspective, though, it always helps.

In this case, the well-meaning person likely enjoys being married, and wants the same for you. Or, they assume getting married would be your dream come true, and wants to help move things along to that assumed goal. Bottom line is, this person likely cares a lot about you, so they want to help you find what they assume will make you happy. If you think this is likely the case, be grateful to have a friend that cares about you, even if it is a bit misguided.

Our Outward Response

If you find yourself being unwillingly introduced to someone for a potential relationship – even with the best of intentions – things can get awkward quickly, depending on what is said by the well-meaning matchmaker. Treating others as we’d like to be treated, though, is always a good policy. We can be pleasant and polite without committing to something we don’t want. Who knows what new thing God might be orchestrating through this introduction – a great friend, a ministry or business opportunity, or a link to someone or something else God wants to bring into your life for whatever cool reason He has up His sleeve!

There’s nothing wrong, though, after the dust has settled a bit, with talking things over with the wannabe matchmaker. Depending  on what your relationship is with them, their personality, and the likelihood of their pulling such a stunt again, it might not hurt to let them know you’re not interested in being introduced to potential spouses and why. Unless you tell them otherwise, they’ll continue to assume marriage is your intention, just like it was likely theirs. After all, they can’t read your mind! Sometimes people who are happily (or even unhappily) married can’t comprehend someone being happy and content unmarried. You may not convince them, but at least you’ll have given them something to think about.

God has given us so many different people in our lives – some easy to get along with, others not so easy. Often when encountering unpleasant people or situations, I remember His promise to work everything together for good for those who love Him.[1] I realize that, after all, the One who created me and the purpose for my life truly does know what will bring about the best end result. We can trust Him for grace to deal with the unpleasant parts of that plan – even well-meaning matchmakers!

[1] Romans 8:28

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