36, Single, Chaste, …and Miserable.

In response to my previous post on the role of chastity in the 21st Century, a dear family friend wrote to me.  After trading a few messages on this subject, she graciously granted me permission to share our conversation here for the benefit of others.  Her identity will remain anonymous:

Hello Nick, I hope you are well.  Thank you for your post about sexual purity.  I appreciate your thoughts and words.  As you know, I am a big fan of you and your beautiful wife.

woman aloneWhat I find tricky in all articles like this is how they fail to address the 36-year-old virgin stuck in a never-ending state of singleness.  I have 14 years of chastity on you and I have to say, it’s becoming increasingly difficult.  The lack of Christian men is so disheartening that just thinking about it brings me to tears.

I have done nothing but save my body and pray for a Godly man for exactly 10 years now and it has not come to pass.  My faith is borderline shattered because of this issue, and I don’t know how to bring myself back.  And these sorts of articles while deeply entrenched in Biblical truth and a way of life that on paper I subscribe to hit a nerve with me every time because they don’t take into account the gut-wrenching loneliness that comes with single life.  Nor can I expect anyone who hasn’t lived this to really understand it.

This is a topic that I challenge the Church on regularly because the single person is so seldom acknowledged.  We are expected to accept our status quo and carry on, and it’s so SO hard…

Please don’t get me wrong, I believe in the words you have written I wouldn’t have made it to 36 a virgin if I didn’t I am just battling to understand why I am still in this space and my prayers are consistently unanswered.  It absolutely breaks my heart on a daily basis.  And I couldn’t be further away from God right now because of it.

I don’t expect you to have the answers, but it is a reaction that comes with these articles that I am sure is experienced by many other Christian thirtysomethings in my position.

The theology is beautiful. So so beautiful. I just don’t know how much longer I can live it out because the loneliness is honestly breaking me.

woman alone 2This is a place I never wanted to be and a place I honestly believed God wouldn’t leave me in.  He knows how sore my heart is.  I’ve spoken to Him about it for a decade now.  Well until now.  I no longer talk to Him about it – I don’t really see the point.  His answer to my prayer for a Godly husband seems loud and clear…

It’s what I do with that space that I don’t know when I deeply want to experience intimacy and closeness with someone and I’m not “allowed to”.  And the one Person who can make that go away seemingly refuses to do so.  How can I continue to believe that that Person listens to my cry?

Urgh, it’s all so frustrating on so many levels.  And I honestly and truly don’t expect you to have the answers in this because there really aren’t any.  My point I think was just that most people who address these really hard issues with really beautiful intentions, haven’t actually lived them out themselves.  My cry to all pastors is that they adopt a sensitivity and acknowledgement around this for those that are living it.  A set of Biblical rules doesn’t often sit well in a space of deep pain.

Nick, you are one of the most sensitive and beautiful people I know, so hear me when I say that this is not targeted at you.  It’s just the response I had, and you may have noticed that my message was sent at midnight before Valentine’s Day, so my sensitivities were on steroids.  I love you and your wife so much.  This is just my truth that I’m sharing that I really don’t hold you responsible for fixing.

After several days of deep thought and prayer about this response, I sent back this reply:

Thank you so much for writing this to me – even though it’s just text, I still feel like I can really “hear” you and how you mean it.  There is no offense here.  I am grateful for your honesty and forthrightness with grace – that has always been something I have appreciated about you.  Much, much love from the Cash Five!

So…  I’ve had about 1001 thoughts swirling in my head to write back to you.  I’ve even started to write some of them down… but then I always stop because they are all unfinished thoughts that would take a lot of words to describe…  On top of all that, I think, “she’s probably already thought about that a million times anyway…” and so I just stop.

There is one thought, though, that is finished, certain, and short.  It has interrupted all the other thoughts that have come into my mind, every single time.  It has been the clear, golden thread that has run through all the other unclear, muddled, and unfinished thoughts.

So, at this time, rather than giving you a hundred-page novel of “what ifs?” and “have you considers?”, I will just give you the one clear thought that will not leave my brain and soul.  Here it is:

DO NOT SETTLE.

dont settleAs much as you may regret and mourn the loneliness and the lack of fulfillment that can accompany the single life, settling invites much more misery and regret than you can now imagine.  Whether that is settling for uncommitted physical intimacy now – or if it is settling into a lifetime of marriage with a man who is less than God’s best for you – both would bring with them a host of regret and misery that far surpasses the agonies of loneliness and unfulfilled intimacy now.

I’ve never heard of a person – in any life circumstance – who was ever glad they lowered their standards and settled for something they knew was less than God’s best for them.

I realize this advice does not cure your singleness.  I regret that it does not shield you from the pain of being alone (I wish it somehow could!).  But I do sincerely believe it will prevent a thousand greater heartaches of various other kinds, from which it sounds you have been protected thus far, by God’s gracious goodness and by your faithful obedience to live according to His standards, despite the pain of doing so.

I am convinced that – in any situation in life – we will never regret doing what we knew was right.  Faithfulness to God’s Word and will does not immunize us from pain, but it does give us the underrated-yet-priceless gift of a clear-and-peaceful conscience and an inner knowledge from the Holy Spirit that our obedience – despite the painfulness of it – is pleasing to God, who, at the end of it all, will delight to look upon us with joy in His heart, that shines out from His face to us, and say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” [and with outstretched arms] “Come!  Enjoy your Master’s happiness!”

Her response back to me:

When I read your message, my instant response was pure relief.

Relief that you hadn’t just thrown back the clichéd pastoral response I tend to get to this.  Relief that your response was so far from what I expected that I knew you had really given it thought and that perhaps God was in your answer to me.

So thank you for that, so so much. It really resonated with me (even though my head is ready to throw in the towel, my heart and my spirit most certainly are not) and made me relax a little again.  So thank you thank you.

And yea of course you can share this.  I know I’m not alone in it.  There are many beautiful woman out there that have walked this road for even longer than I have. 

A voice of knowing and understanding is always nice to hear, so please feel free.

I wrote back:

Thank you for both your transparency and your encouragement.  And thank you for your permission to share this with others.  I think this is a reality that many can identify with – and even though there isn’t a neat and tidy answer or remedy, I think it is still comforting – and even empowering – for people to hear the story of another, and to know that they are not alone.

And finally, to all of you reading this, if this resonates with you in any way, if you are a faithful lover of Jesus who has been praying for something to come to pass for many years – anything, not just marriage – but feel disappointed, or even miserable, by what feels like a “no” or just a lack of response, I truly wish (and pray) all of Father God’s very best for you in any and every circumstance.  I pray you never give up or give in, no matter how hard or exasperating it gets.  He has made you strong.  You are a woman (or man) of strength, dignity, and honor – and not by accident, but by an intentional life of devoted loyalty and faithfulness to Jesus.  Now, I cannot predict what form it will take, but I am convinced from God’s character and Word that there is a reward in Jesus for you for that.  Romans 8:18 assures us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us”.

Dear Readers, I love having your helpful feedback and interaction on LikeTreesPlanted.  Please let me hear from you on this one!  Empty platitudes and unhelpful clichés aside, what real Biblical hope is there for the thirtysometing Christian single who, for years, has agonized in prayer for a spouse with no apparent response from God?

Click here to see what some of our Readers had to say…

7 responses to “36, Single, Chaste, …and Miserable.

  1. Great post, Nick. And thankful for the honesty of your reader. My mind immediately went to Ephesians 3. You are absolutely right, when we wait on the best, the best is what is delivered. The wait can be painful, as your reader expressed, so the only encouragement we can truly rely on is His word. I love the message version of this.
    Ephesians 3:14-21
    My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

    • Thank you for this, Peyton. The promise of Ephesians 3 is so beautiful and unmatched – one we all must cling to as lovers of God in a variety of circumstances.

  2. Pingback: Readers’ Responses to “36, Single, Chaste, …and Miserable” | LikeTreesPlanted·

  3. Thank you so much Nick for sharing. As a almost thirty year old woman who has never had a boyfriend and day after day more of her friends are getting married it’s tough. Living in the rural south you are looked at as an old maid of you aren’t married by the end of college. And if you’re still single by mid-twenties …. *gasp!* there must be something wrong with you! This HAS made me feel like there must be something wrong with me or I’m not worthy of love. I feel like I pray for a husband continually and b/c I have a rapidly approaching birthday placing me in a new decade, I’ve been freaking out a bit lately. Thank you for reminding me that I don’t need to settle. That my timing and God’s timing differ. He has it perfectly planned and I just have to sit back and enjoy the ride. Oh, and I am most definitely worthy of love!!! Who cares what old south standards say!!! 😁

    • Thank you for sharing this, Kari. I appreciate your honesty and perspective – thank you! For you, I am praying the words of 1 Corinthians 15:58 & Galatians 6:8-9 today :-)

  4. Family friend – “We are expected to accept our status quo and carry on, and it’s so SO hard…” One of the biggest problems we’re facing today is that the church has become the world. There’s hardly any distinction. We’re expected to accept our status quo because the church views singles as people who “got their cake and ate it too.” We’re just waiting on marriage to make it right. They couldn’t comprehend a life of chastity because most churches idolize marriage and family. For many of thtem, that’s the only way to salvation. I encourage you to remain on the road your own. Don’t compromise. Sexual purity and the loneliness that comes with it is indeed gut wrenching. I know that well because I’m on the same road, only about three decades older. Keep talking to God, like you’re doing now, and continue to discern his will for your life. It could be that he has something bigger than marriage in store for you. Because, when you get down to it, romance does not represent the ultimate love in this universe.

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