Our Calling in Singleness

Calling in Singleness

Purpose. Calling. Mission. These words get thrown around and we don’t always know what they mean or how to differentiate between them.

When God created us He designed us for a unique purpose – one that is different from anyone else who has ever lived or ever will live. It is part of who we are – who He created us to be. It is something we can fulfill no matter our age or physical ability. As long as we have breath in these earthly bodies, we can be living our purpose. I’ve observed that when people know their life purpose and consciously live it, they experience freedom, fulfillment, and contentment. And that feelings of loneliness, defeat, and discouragement make only fleeting appearances, and usually only when one loses sight of their God-given purpose.

So what, then, is a Calling?

While our purpose has more to do with who we are, our calling or mission has more to do with what we do. Our purpose is lifelong and doesn’t change, from the time we take our first breath until we take our last. A calling or mission is God’s assignment for a specific period of time or to a certain group of people.

Lately, as I’ve written about before, I’ve become aware through reading Barry Danylak’s excellent book, Redeeming Singleness, that single Christians have a unique testimony to give the world: that a relationship with Jesus is all-sufficient and all-satisfying.

After reading Redeeming Singleness, I knew this intellectually and it excited me. But I didn’t actually own it until one night I woke with a jolt and a feeling of aloneness overwhelming me. I hadn’t felt that in a long time. Immediately I asked the Lord, “Why this feeling now, and why DID You choose singleness for me when I would have enjoyed the companionship of marriage?”

Immediately He replied, “So you could demonstrate to others that I am all-sufficient. That I am enough.” His presence was so real, and the feeling of aloneness disappeared. I was satisfied with His answer, and soon fell contentedly back to sleep.

Sometime soon after I wrote this in my journal:

My calling in singleness is to give witness that a relationship with Jesus is all-sufficient and all-satisfying and provides immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine!

 In reality, this is God’s calling to every Christian, single and married alike. Expecting anyone or anything else to provide what we need, rather than God alone, is idolatry. God alone is our Provider. Sometimes – in fact, often – He uses another person as His instrument to meet our needs. But our needs being fulfilled isn’t dependent on the person God is using as His instrument, but rather on God Himself. If that person would disappear for whatever reason, God is still our Provider and will provide our needs by some other means.

But while all Christians are called to rely on God alone, single Christians have an especially effective testimony when they demonstrate that Jesus truly is all-sufficient in the absence of what most of the world considers to be a necessity for a satisfying life: a romantic or sexual relationship. When Christians remain celibate without a spouse or family and live joyful and purposeful lives sold out to Jesus, they give witness that Jesus is truly is all-sufficient and all-satisfying. Those who have lost spouses by death or divorce have incredibly powerful testimonies to Jesus’ all-sufficiency when they continue joyfully onward with the life purpose God has given them.

This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t grieve, or that never-married singles shouldn’t grieve over what never was. Grief is a God-given process for healing and it’s important we walk through it when we lose someone or something significant to us, including dreams that never come true.

Does Jesus Being All-sufficient Mean We Don’t Need People?

I know this can be a bit confusing, because we do need people! We don’t need marriage, but we do need relationships with others. After all, God said in Genesis 2:18 that it’s not good for man to be alone. At the time Adam had a face-to-face relationship with God, so he truly was experiencing God’s all-sufficiency, but God said he also needed other humans. Some think God meant it wasn’t good for Adam to not have a spouse, and if that were true for Adam in a perfect relationship with God, it’s true for all the rest of us, too.

But that’s not what God said. Adam was the only human being on the planet at the time. He needed another human to converse with and relate to in ways he couldn’t with the other creatures God had already created.

In Redeeming Singleness, Danylak writes:

Paul is not affirming [in 1 Corinthians 7] that it is good to be alone but only that, in appropriate circumstances, it is good not to marry. Conversely, when Genesis 2: 18 affirms that it is not good to live alone, marriage is given as a provision. But this does not imply that marriage was designed to be the sole provision for one’s aloneness. We recall that Jesus was a single man but not a man alone, one devoid of family and relationships. Although Paul may have had some extended time of solitude immediately after his conversion, he, like Jesus, was a man immersed in new family relationships. We are struck by how many different companions, partners, co-laborers, and underlings are mentioned from the period of his Gentile ministry. His use of family language is robust as he addresses those in his church constantly as “brothers” (Rom. 1:13; 1 Cor. 3:1; Gal. 4:12; Phil. 1:12; 1 Thess. 1:4), and “sisters” (Philem. 2), “children” (Gal. 4:19; 1 Cor. 4:14), “legitimate sons” (1 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4), and “kinsmen” (Rom. 16:7)…. Though Paul did not have his own wife and family, he experienced profound familial intimacy within the spiritual family of God in which he had utterly invested himself. [1]

Danylak goes on to explain the difference between these intimate relationships and the intimacy of marriage:

As men free to invest all their time and energy in advancing the kingdom of God, neither Paul nor Jesus lived a life alone. This is not to suggest that the relationships that come through the new family of God are a substitute for a spouse, a way to fill the relational gap of not having a spouse and family. There is something unique in God’s joining man and wife in “one flesh” that is never replicated in other types of human relationships. In remaining single, one sacrifices such physical intimacy.

But intimacy has other dimensions, beyond the physical. A bond of spiritual unity as brothers and sisters in Christ can emerge through a oneness of mind in corporate prayer and worship, a shared eternal hope, and a common mission of proclaiming the gospel and making disciples that also powerfully transcends human day-to-day experience. The freedom and flexibility of the single life will often open access to levels and opportunities of spiritual intimacy with other believers that those who are married do not have available in the same way and to the same degree.[2]

This, I believe, is part of the “immeasurably more” part of the singles’ calling (to give witness that a relationship with Jesus is all-sufficient and all-satisfying and provides immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine). It is in reference to Ephesians 3:20-21 that says,

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Of course it means so much more, too! “Immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” means it’s not definable, predictable, or measurable. After all, the Sovereign God is our Provider, who has the resources of the universe and beyond at His disposal to provide all that we need – in abundance!

How to Experience the All-sufficiency of Jesus

You may be wondering, “This all sounds wonderful, but I’m not feeling it. How do I make it a reality in my life?”

I totally get that! We often understand things in our heads, but can’t feel them in our hearts. Faith, after all, is not knowing things intellectually but experiencing them.

The key to experiencing the all-sufficiency of Jesus is simple, but it may be one of the most difficult things ever: full surrender to God – your will, your plans, your desires given in exchange for His. We can’t experience Jesus to be all-satisfying until we relinquish our goals and dreams in exchange for His for us. The incredible thing is, no matter how wonderful we think our goals and dreams are, His goals and dreams for us are incredibly more wonderful – immeasurably more, in fact!

Oswald Chambers says it this way in My Utmost for His Highest:

‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself.’ The surrender here is of my self to Jesus, my self with His rest at the heart of it. ‘If you would be My disciple, give up your right to yourself to Me.’ Then the remainder of the life is nothing but the manifestation of this surrender. When once the surrender has taken place we never need ‘suppose’ anything. We do not need to care what our circumstances are, Jesus is amply sufficient.[3]

Amply sufficient. Can you give witness that Jesus is amply sufficient and more? That He is all-satisfying? If you haven’t yet experienced this abundant life in Jesus, take a look at what you might be holding back. Are you hanging onto a specific dream or goal? Perhaps one you’ve had since childhood? I know I was! The abundant life is found in relinquishing those dreams and saying, “God, I don’t know what You have planned for me, but I KNOW that it is good, and that it is ‘immeasurably more than all I could ever ask or imagine!’”

[1] Danylak, Barry. Redeeming Singleness (Foreword by John Piper): How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life (pp. 201-202). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

[2] Danylak, Barry. Redeeming Singleness (Foreword by John Piper): How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life(pp. 202-203). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

[3] Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest, Classic Edition (Kindle Locations 4142-4145). Discovery House. Kindle Edition.

 

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Coping Through Rejection and Divorce

By Betty Troyer

I am thankful for the healing and restoring work of Jesus in my life. Going through the trauma of separation and divorce is indescribable! There was a time I could not have shared an encouraging word with others regarding my experience. I was torn inwardly to bits and pieces. I wondered why me? Why our marriage? Why our family? I wondered why God didn’t come quickly to change everything. Many times I felt like Job when his family was ripped apart in death. Life seemed so hopeless, so meaningless. What did life have to offer now? What was left for me to do?

Because of the mercy and grace of God, I truly rejoice to tell you that God is greater than any problem. I marvel how God has had so much patience with me in my healing process. I promised the Lord that if He would keep me from going into deep depression, and would keep my mind sane, that I would be faithful to Him in helping others who may be in need. I prayed, “If I have to go through this, then work through it to make me a blessing.” Realizing that God had previously spared my life when I was at death’s door, I knew God must have a purpose for my life.

My most severe trial came when I realized that there was someone who was coveting my treasured one — my husband. She was bold and out to get him.

She did not seem to care who she was hurting or what family she may be tearing apart. I soon realized the rejection of my husband was real.

Rejection and Divorce

Rejection is a cruel and degrading experience. Self-worth goes down the drain. You are torn to bits and pieces and you wonder if any of the pieces will fit again. I wondered who cares, who understands? I’m a failure, and why do I exist?

Let me tell you, though, very honestly: rejection is one thing, but divorce is another. It is everything of rejection and still more. It is a cruel death to marriage. No funeral service is held. No friends gather to express their heartfelt sympathy. Really, how could anybody know what to say to me? I was at my wit’s end; I wanted or wished to be put eight feet deep and out of this hurt. I blamed myself; how could I have worked on the situation differently?

Divorce is one of the most humiliating things that can happen, as your life seems to be a complete failure and you believe that everyone else sees you this way, too. It seems that all eyes are looking at you condemning .

I felt like a misfit in any group or public occasion I was hurt so severely by many sermons. In fact, it was easier for me to go to a funeral than to a wedding.

Often I didn’t want to go to church, but the realization that I must keep on and not give up, kept me going. These are some of those things one must give over completely to the Lord.

Rejection and then divorce are such negative experiences and can become very depressive. A heavy spirit must be dealt with. We must allow God to take charge and completely take over in our lives or else we may be completely devastated.

God Is Bigger

Even though I felt unloved and unwanted, God seemed to call my name. He longed for me to turn my eyes on Him. As I meditated on His Word and prayed for Him to move the mountain of pain as well as the obstacles in our marriage, He revealed Himself so clearly that I no longer saw the mountain, but I saw Jesus. He took my hand in His and He began to lead me. He wanted me to lean on Him. God brought me to my knees as I cried for mercy, His forgiveness, and His presence. My emotions had to be brought under control and given over to Jesus. I needed the reality of His presence and nearness for the long lonely hours and nights that followed. When I was willing to see God as bigger, greater, and stronger than my burdens and problems, I was able to see a ray of hope as I turned my eyes upon Him, as the song goes: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” Just lately one of my friends who is feeling rejection from her husband, said, “Oh, I’ve prayed to God, but where is He? I don’t feel Him, I don’t hear Him, and where is He now when I’m needing Him most?” This is a typical feeling at a time when the enemy attacks us, but God is right beside us and we need to recognize His hand, His nearness. God brought many things to my mind during the long lonely hours of the nights and days. The following are some of them.

Isaiah 53:3-4 says that Jesus was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and familiar with grief. He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. Jesus had a real healing ministry when He lived among men. He wept. He prayed and showed His love to children, to the sick, to the widows, to the Marys and Marthas. Now, He’s right here to touch and heal our hurts also — physically, spiritually, and emotionally. We know He is touched by our hurts and rejection, because He too experienced this from His very own. He too suffered when He was tempted (Heb. 2:17-18). Through all this He is able to help those who are tempted.

He will not give us more than we can bear and He will provide a way out so we can stand up under it (I Cor. 10:13). I needed these verses. I needed to know someone really understands and cares when I was feeling unloved, unwanted, and rejected by the one I had entrusted my life to — the one closest to me.

My dear companion turned his back to me and rejected my love and all commitments ever made, and chose to leave me all alone.

But, just as I assured my friend who wasn’t feeling Jesus’ nearness, God is always beside us with outstretched arms ready to enfold us and love us and heal our hurts. Our feelings are so unstable. We need to continually focus on Jesus. He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. He dwells within us by His spirit. His promises fail not!

Jesus will remove many a mountain for us when we focus on Him and realize He is greater than any of our hurts or problems. He is greater. He is with me.

We need to assure ourselves of this constantly. No human, regardless how dear he or she may be to us, should ever mar or destroy our relationship with Jesus Christ. Nor should we feel our life cannot go on without them, or without their love and support.

We can soon feel sorry for our circumstances and for ourselves, and see others who have it so much easier or so much better. The devil loves self-pity.

He can produce sin in us such as bitterness, resentment, also anger against those who have hurt us. We dare not allow this to take place.

My children were also going through many struggles and hurts. This was almost unbearable for me. I was so blessed as a child by a strong Christian family with much love and acceptance. Never had I thought of my children facing such a trauma as this. I prayed many, many times for God Himself to be a father and mother to them when I could not be with them. God could meet their needs so much better than I. It was very comforting to me to know my heavenly Father was watching over them. God has proven Himself so faithful and true to me. He has now given me the joy and closeness of my children and grandchildren.

Choices

There are some choices we must make. We can choose to go on carrying our heavy hurt, refuse to smile through it, refuse to let God do a new work in us.

Or we can make choices to move forward. I knew I had the freedom to choose to go forth with a smile, or live in defeat We need to choose to guard our subconscious minds at all times. We need to choose to practice the presence of Jesus with us constantly. Even though I could not understand why God allowed this to happen to me, to our marriage, to our children. I knew God had not left me, nor turned His back on me.

Forgiveness is another choice we need to make: forgiving ourselves as well as forgiving those who hurt us. I blamed myself on many shortcomings as having caused my marriage to fail. I am grateful to one particular friend who prayed me through on this one! Jesus did do the forgiving for me. A deep settled peace and acceptance followed when I experienced the freedom of forgiveness.

The Lord led many Christian sisters and brothers into my life to encourage me during this time. I needed to choose to listen to them and receive their counsel. I didn’t want people to pity me but to pray for me! The self-pity comes so easily anyway.

Positive Steps to Take

I’d like to share some additional ways I coped as an encouragement for those who are struggling with life’s hurts:

  1. Be very open with God — tell Him your feelings, your needs. David in the Psalms is a good example for us.
  2. Read your Bible and mark promises or anything that strikes you. Find verses of God’s nearness, His power, and guidance.
  3. Write down your prayers on paper. It may be easier to concentrate on paper, especially when it seems impossible to concentrate to pray.
  4. Be willing to have others pray for you and with you.
  5. Collect quotes, poems, and songs which are an encouragement to you.
  6. Be open to God to give you a new outlook in life. Be open to His leading. Entrust yourself to new opportunities He may have for you.
  7. Praise the Lord through it all!

A Ministry and Purpose Restored

My husband and I had served as missionaries in Germany, a calling I felt strongly and deeply about. This was also part of the difficulty of my divorce as I had a longing to return to the mission field and I wondered how I could now serve the Lord. Doors soon opened for my own mission field here. I started working in the local Christian bookstore, and was then promoted to store manager. I worked there for almost 20 years until retirement. It was through this ministry that I again found the purpose God had for me. I know God has used me and I long to continue to be faithful to Him.

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Handling the Holidays

By Fern Horst

Holidays. Days you look forward to with excited anticipation, or face with a growing dread? Whichever emotion is attached to the holidays for you, or something on the spectrum in between, focusing on something and Someone beyond feelings is what God calls each of us to, no matter our circumstances.

Jeremiah, one of the single men in the Bible, had to do this to get beyond his despairing thoughts and feelings. Perhaps you can identify with some of them which were recorded in the third chapter of Lamentations in the Bible:

I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long.

Many singles know what it’s like to be the brunt of relatives’ and friends’ thoughtless comments and jokes during holiday get-togethers. Perhaps this wasn’t what made Jeremiah a “laughingstock,” but his feelings must have been similar.

I have been deprived of peace….My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.

How many present-day singles feel this way, too! A painful breakup or divorce may have robbed some of you of your “splendor” this year. Perhaps it was the death of a spouse that deprived you of your peace. It may be that you had hoped and prayed that this would be the year that the “right one” came along. But listen to what else Jeremiah had to say:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him.

It is with this same confidence that we can face the holidays with joy. We have as our Companion one whose compassions never fail and whose faithfulness is great.

In addition, we have the many gifts He has given us. We can recognize these gifts by realizing that not only is every good gift from God, but every gift from God is good. We can then agree not only with Jeremiah, but also with Abraham who said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25) and with Job when he said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).

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Overcoming Lust: Victory in a Widow’s Story

By Anonymous

I was approaching middle age when my husband passed away. Several months later I found myself struggling with my sexuality like I never had before. What had been a beautiful part of married life was no more. I became almost obsessed with thoughts of sex. I had to learn how to handle these thoughts.

Knowing God made us with sexual desires and that what He made is good helped me to not feel guilty for having those desires. I realized it is what we do with them which determines whether they fulfill God’s purposes, or whether they lead into sin. Realizing this helped me to put things into perspective.

I finally learned I had to keep a tight rein on my thought life and not permit myself to indulge in sexual fantasy. It is a whole lot easier to turn away the first thought than to get rid of them after I have indulged in them for awhile.

I discovered that what I feed my mind is essential in this battle. I don’t own a television, but reading is one of my hobbies. I had to learn to be careful about what I read, especially during certain times of the month. Anything that made it easy to fantasize about sex gave me problems. I found I even needed to avoid some Christian novels if they focused too heavily on romantic relationships.

The turning point was when I finally decided to make myself accountable to the ladies in my small prayer group. They were very understanding and this accountability helped me to gain control of this area of my life. I knew that I could not keep my mind pure if I continued to indulge in it.

When my husband died, I had determined that I would not indulge in self pity. Some years later I was having more difficulty than usual in missing the sexual part of marriage until I realized that the source of my struggle was self pity rearing its ugly head.

There were times when I desperately missed a husband’s companionship, and there was nowhere to go with it, except to the Lord. He somehow filled that emptiness with Himself in a way I had never experienced before. He became much more real to me. I would not take anything in exchange for the personal relationship I now have with the Lord, born out of my struggle.

But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof. (Romans 13:14)

Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

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