Q & A

Thursday Q & A // on singleness

Last week I got a Facebook message from an old friend who is recently engaged and planning her wedding. She emailed several of us single women because, as the thoughtful, intentional woman that she is, she wants to care well for the younger, single women who will be attending her bridal shower— to give them encouragement, and advice on being single. And she wanted to add to what she had to say by hearing from other older single women, as well.

I was blessed beyond words to be included in that message. Singleness hasn’t always been a sweet, easy road for me (as witnessed here and here and here and here and here and here and here… and here). But I have found God’s grace always sufficient, and His plan for me so incredibly sweet, that at the end of the day, I can’t argue with His direction, or even begrudge the way He has led. He has always led me well, and is always kind in His dealings with His children. I am grateful, and so, so blessed.

Here are a few thoughts I had in response to her message:

  • The most helpful thing phrase ever spoken to me was something my pastor said a year and a half ago at a single womens’ talk at my church— “The basic posture of the Christian life is waiting. Either we’re waiting on a spouse, or waiting for children, or waiting for a job promotion, or a bigger house, or our children’s salvation, or retirement… and ultimately every Christian is simply waiting for Heaven, for Christ’s return.” That gave so much perspective to me, to help me realize that contentment is a heart attitude that translates across the entire spectrum of my life, not simply something to be practiced in my single years. Waiting, and learning to love Christ in the midst of waiting, is something I’ll always do, and it’s good to learn it now.
  • Our culture says that having unfulfilled longings and desires is a bad thing, that it’s harmful for us to live that way. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. Instead, it teaches us that to long for something, and to not have it, somehow it actually teaches us how to long for Christ more, and how to fix our hearts on Heaven. That’s helpful for me to remember. Culture tells us that the desire for sex is like hunger pains— you’re hungry, you eat; you have sexual desires, you fill them. But that’s not what God teaches. He teaches us that learning self-control, training our minds and our hearts and our bodies to submit to Christ, that is a good thing, and that it actually serves to cultivate affection for Christ.
  • Psalm 84:11— when God says that He will not withhold any good thing, He means that, and He means it for now. When there is something that I want that I don’t have (like marriage), it’s tempting to think that either: a) It is a good thing that God is withholding, and so we doubt God’s goodness; or b) that it is a good thing withheld now that we’re promised in the future, so we begin to hope in and hold onto the “someday” of marriage instead of hoping in God. The TRUTH is that when God says He does not withhold any good thing, it applies to today, to right now. “Everything is needful that He sends; nothing can be needful that He withholds,” said John Newton. It’s just another take on Ps. 84:11, but it essentially reminds me that if it was good for me for now, then I would have it. If I don’t have it, it’s not good for me for right now.
  • To those who are single and want to be married, read more good books on good theology, and fewer books on singleness, dating, and relationships. If we think rightly of God, it will influence the way that we think about everything else. I think it would well serve most single women, in particular, to think much less about marriage, and much more about God. My top three recommendations: Knowing God, by J. I. Packer; Practical Theology for Women, by Wendy Alsup; and All Loves’ Excelling, by John Bunyan.
  • As another friend said, ask God to show you the glory in singleness. I’m dating right now (a mature, godly Christian man who is blowing my mind and humbling me every single day… I don’t have words to describe how sweet this is), and frankly, I’ve been shocked by how much I actually miss being single. PLEASE don’t get me wrong— I’m totally crazy about my boyfriend, and totally crazy about dating him, and we’re dating with purpose, and I certainly don’t wish to be single again. But there’s something indescribably sweet about that “just me and the Lord” phase of life that, even when dating someone as wonderful as he is, just isn’t there anymore. To any other single women reading this: please, please, please cherish the time you have with the Lord now. Don’t spend your single years begging Him to end them— they are a gift. Five or six years ago I rolled my eyes when my dating & married friends said that. Then I learned how sweet and tender the Lord is, and contentment was less of a fight. The last few years of my life have, by God’s grace, been characterized by joy and contentment and sweet trust in God and in His timing, and I have no regrets about time used or emotions wrestled with. And now? Now I’m learning contentment in a different way, and learning how to love Christ in a different context (which, frankly, is harder than I expected it to be).

How about you? If you’re single, what questions or challenges have you faced in this phase of life? If you’re no longer single, what advice would you have to other single men and women out there?

comments +

  1. JennyRain

    November 29th, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Sarah – this is absolutely beautiful and sharing your heart will undoubtedly encourage others in this season of life…

  2. Faith Christine

    November 29th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Wow, Sarah. You hit the nail right on the head. This has been a hard struggle for me. Ever since I was 14 or so, I’ve wanted to be married. I’ve wanted to be a mom. Now that I’m 19, which is the age that my older brother entered into a courtship, I was asking God, “Hey, where’s my guy?” It’s been a hard struggle for me, but the Lord has finally brought me to the place of full and complete surrender of this area of my life. I have come to the point where I am actually happy single. Singleness is a treasure, one that I am learning to love more. When that guy does come along, I will be thrilled to pieces, but until then, I have learned to love my singleness, and love it just being me and the Lord. It’s been a hard journey, especially over the last year for me, but God has been faithful, and has done a complete heart transformation in me. I’m excited, now that I have found contentment, to see how God is going to use me for His kingdom. He has already brought a mission trip to Taiwan this coming January into my life. Something that I know I wouldn’t be doing if I were in a relationship.
    One thing that helped me greatly was reading the book “Sacred Singleness” by Leslie Ludy. She talks about how Mary poured out her most precious perfume, something that was very costly, and very dear, and very fragrant to her, on the feet of Jesus. She made the parallel that we should be willing to pour out the thing that is most precious to us at the feet of Jesus, sacrificing it to Him. That helped to lead me to the point of complete surrender, because I realized that I wanted to love Jesus more than the idea of getting married. And I do! I look at my life just five months ago, and I was so miserable, and so anxious to get married. But now? I am so happy, and so peaceful, and so content single, right where God has me. I have made the decision that wherever God has me, that is where I will choose to be content.
    I love how you pointed out that concept from Psalm 84:11. Singleness is good for me right now, especially since it is teaching me to love Jesus more, and to be more dependent upon Him than ever.
    So this has been a lengthy posting, but thank you so much Sarah for sharing this! It is encouraging to find other young ladies who are finding contentment in Jesus, and not jumping at the first guy that comes along, even if he is a total jerk. Hold fast to Jesus! He loves you, and never forget that!

  3. Leah E.

    November 29th, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Sarah, yes. Especially your first, third, and last points. So much truth. Thank you for sharing the good things God is teaching you.

    Leah

  4. Laura Gordon

    November 29th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Girl! This was so awesome. Thank you! I think that I think about this too much. Your advice is amazing and beautiful. xo!

  5. Amy Hamilton

    November 29th, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Sarah, I just want to print this out and hang this on my wall somewhere! (I think I might!) Thank you for not being afraid to share truth, even if it’s countercultural and even contrary to what Christian women hear from the church.
    You don’t know how much I have been struggling with being single lately. This was such an encouragement and I’m sharing it with friends. Thank you for sharing your heart with us! I love these really personal posts of yours 🙂

  6. Alison Mish

    November 29th, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    I absolutely love your openness about life and Christ on your blog!

  7. Sharon L.

    November 29th, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Sarah, these are truths that are discovered by the grace of God. God’s grace _abounds_ when we are in the place of want and need. The times in my life where I’ve had to wait (and wait for BIG things and GOOD things for a LONG time) are now so sweet to me because I always remember the times when God met me and gave to me my greater soul-want…His presence and consolation. “For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow in our lives, so also our consolation overflows.” 2 Cor 1:5 (Now, I do not claim that I suffered like Paul or the like, but the principle is the same.) God does not withhold his Holy Spirit E.V.E.R. if we ask for his presence and his consolation is deep, and sweet, and real. I am so grateful that I can reflect on those times of waiting and they are marked with sweetness and grace and not bitterness. This is indeed a gift. In fact, it makes the fulfilment of those wants even more enjoyable. [Thank you for giving me cause to remember those times again.]

    Also, here is what I just wrote in my journal last week about Psalm 84:11:

    “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

    But how can this be true, when God often times withholds riches and honors, and health of body from men though they walk ever so uprightly? We therefore know that that the honors and riches and bodily strength are none of the good things; they are the number of things indifferent which God bestows promiscuously upon the just and the unjust, just as the rain to fall and the sun to shine.

    The good things of God are chiefly peace of conscience and the joy in the Holy Spirit in this life; fruition of God’s presence, and vision of his blessed face in the next. And these good things God never bestows on the wicked, never withholds from the godly, and they are all cast up in one sum where it is said, “Blessed are the pure in heart (and such are only they that walk uprightly) for they shall see God.”

    – Sir Richard Baker
    Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David

  8. Lauren

    November 30th, 2012 at 1:26 am

    I found this from your pinterest, and, wow, I am so encouraged! Thank you so much for sharing such an impactful testimony on such an intensely personal topic. You share wisdom that I never thought of, like your take on God giving what is good for me now, and learning to love this sweet time of singleness with the Lord. I will definitely pursue reading those books you recommended as well! Thank you, sister in Christ!

  9. Stephanie

    November 30th, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    “To those who are single and want to be married, read more good books on good theology, and fewer books on singleness, dating, and relationships. If we think rightly of God, it will influence the way that we think about everything else.”
    Thank you so, so, SO MUCH for being bold and saying things like this. It’s very encouraging to hear words like these. =]

    Totally agree on the last point you made, too. I grew up thinking having a boyfriend would be the best thing ever (but I never dated)…. and shortly after my fiance and I entered into a relationship I was like, “wow. Umm. This isn’t as magical as I always imagined.” (not that HE isn’t great, he really is. But the whole concept of being in a relationship is a lot of work.)– our single years really are a fantastic gift from the Lord and I wish I had of realized that earlier!

    =] I’m glad you exist.

    Stephanie

  10. Melissa Jill

    December 2nd, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Sarah, thank you SO much for sharing from your heart. You have an incredible gift for writing from a very genuine place. I’m 36 and single (not dating and haven’t for years) and in love with the Lord, and I kept saying, “yes!” “yes!” “yes!” while reading this. There was a definite shift in my heart attitude toward God and my singleness when I shifted my focus to him as my good Father and God and not the God who I am waiting on to bless me with marriage. It wasn’t an easy road, but I truly trust in God’s goodness for me and that right now that includes singleness. There are so many blessings in life, and life and eternity are so much bigger than our marital status. Thank you for sharing. I love this post.

  11. Today I feel… » Ampersand Photography | Blog

    December 3rd, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    […] for any bit of news I can possibly get. But it reminds me of what my pastor says (as you’ve heard me quote before), “The basic posture of the Christian life is waiting.” Today is reminding me, […]

  12. Andrea

    December 3rd, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Thanks for posting this Sarah. One of my friends shared this with me because she knows I’ve been struggling a lot with this lately. Sometimes I feel kind of silly, because I’m only a freshman in college, but every year I age makes marriage seem more and more important. God’s really been working on me, helping to change my perspective. It’s posts like this from the wise women who came before me that help me adjust my thinking and soften my heart to God’s timing. So, again, just thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  13. Rebekah

    April 30th, 2013 at 5:13 am

    Was reminded of this post after talking last night, and I’ve just read it again with fresh eyes and a grateful heart. Your life has been lived in a way that clearly points others to the only lasting goodness, and I’m so thankful for you <3

  14. An Introduction & Announcement » Ampersand Photography | Blog

    May 15th, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    […] Learning trust & waiting well: Buck’s carefulness was really hard for me. I liked him— a lot— but I had no reason to believe that he liked me, and that was hard to deal with. But it wasn’t the first time I’d been in this spot. And if there’s anything that I’ve learned over the past 28 years of my life, it’s that love for Christ is infinitely more important than having things that I want, and often God uses my desires to teach me to love Him more. My attraction to Buck was a sweet practice for me to trust God with unknowns (as He says here), believing that He has good planned for His children (as He says here and here and here), uprooting idolatry (as He says here), and waiting on Him for whatever He chose to do (as He says here and here and here and here). Was it hard? Heck yeah. Did it hurt sometimes? Yes— by  March of 2011 it got so hard that I decided I couldn’t really be around him anymore and needed to distance myself, because I liked him too much, and I needed to care well for my heart. Did I get frustrated with God, and wonder why on earth did you even let me like this guy in the first place??!? Yes. Often. But the bottom line is this: I trust God with my life, and the full course of it. I believe that He is fully sovereign, good, wise, and kind, and deals tenderly with His children. He has planned out my days, and does all things for His glory and my good. So even when I don’t understand what’s going on, I trust that my God sees all things, and controls all things, and I can rest in that. I wrote about a lot of this in a Q & A post on singleness, here. […]

  15. Hannah Forsberg

    September 1st, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Dear Sarah, late-night thoughts lead also to seeking late-night truths. I was reading Psalm 130 and thinking about singleness and about your story with Buck. So grateful for this post and its push to never grow weary & the reminder that this, right now, where I am at, is my calling– that Jesus is always always good and He is enough.

  16. Delight and Be » {Be Featured} Sarah Bradshaw Photography

    February 28th, 2015 at 9:06 am

    […] wrote a long blog post about singleness, in case you want to read it here. (And if you want to know more of our story, read my posts here and […]

  17. Christina Bieber

    November 5th, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    Good to know. Thanks for the sharing, I also found a useful service for docs merging. By the way, if anyone is facing a problem of merging PDF files, I’ve found a free service here https://goo.gl/wts8Rp.

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