Earlier this year, when my relationship with my boyfriend of three years ended, I had a broken heart...for 36 hours. I cried essentially nonstop the first day and for about half of the second day.
Then, I bounced back.
While of course I was praying constantly and dwelling in Scripture during this time, they were not what enabled this seemingly miraculous recovery. The real turnaround came when I suddenly remembered: I am me, with or without him. I have talents, intelligence, skills, and a purpose without him. Even without him, I am complete. Then, I was happy again. In fact, I was so happy I don't think I stopped smiling for a week.
All of this was true, and I hope never to forget it again, but what I was really doing was putting my hope and happiness in my accomplishments, which isn't any better than putting them in a relationship. It was only a temporary Band-Aid on the cuts that naturally result from losing the person you thought you were going to marry. And a few short weeks later, I realized I wasn't as much healed as I thought. In fact, I was more or less still on square one. In daylight, I was blithely happy, studying my heart out, reading a book a day at times, listening to lectures, and expanding my mind. If nothing else, I always thought, I can still learn and I can still write. But at night, when there was no light to read by and when homework was tucked away in my bag, I would think of what I'd lost and it was like someone stabbed me and twisted. It became painfully evident that whatever I was doing was not real healing.
I was so broken, so lost, so fragmented. I felt I had no purpose in life. I hated singleness and I feared for the future. It was then that I began to do the rough, raw, heavy lifting of true healing. It didn't take long to realize that I was in way over my head, and so once again I fell hard into God, not because I was so holy but because I was out of options. He was the only--the only--One Who could comfort me in those dark, still moments when I was truly alone with myself.
Philippians 3:7-9 took on new meaning to me during this time:
"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith..."
With love and grace, the Father showed me that I could not try to bring my own accomplishments to the table if I were to avail myself of Christ's Accomplishment. And when I held my feeble intellectualism, my attempts at scholarly pursuits, in a trembling hand out to Jesus, He gave me something so much better: a robust and nourishing understanding of His sovereignty that carried me over every wave of pain. It sustains me even now and if I never get married, it will be enough until the day I die.
I was a teacher of the Bible during this season of life to a group of beautiful feminine souls. I taught them 1 Peter 1 that spring, only three verses a week, often with tears in my eyes, sometimes biting my tongue so I wouldn't sob, because I was merely telling them what God was teaching me in my bitter pain: any hope we place in anything that isn't Jesus is worthless and empty. 1 Peter 1 was written to believers scattered throughout Asia Minor who were enduring persecution. The Apostle Peter exhorts them to keep their eyes on their eternal hope and not to cherish any shred of worldly hope. Their problems were a lot worse than mine, but the ancient words were like aloe vera on a sunburn to me, stinging with conviction and soothing with cool relief all at once. A reminder to place my hope only in my Redeemer and not in any hope of earthly marriage was exactly what I needed and still do need, every day of my life.
That was how the Lord pulled me back to Himself, but as the old hymn-writer, I am prone to wander and leave the God I love. Every day of my life, I struggle not to keep my hope in attention from men, my so-called intellectual accomplishments, my hope for a husband, or anything else. I would be lying if I said I always or usually or even half the time succeed. It's not like I even particularly want to get married anytime soon, so I can't imagine how much worse I'll be when I get to my mid- or late twenties and actually do feel ready for that. But sufficient for the day is its own troubles.
My writing has afforded me the opportunity to hear from a number of single girls. These conversations have cemented in my mind the reality that I am not the only one to struggle with finding my joy in Christ alone. Many, probably all of us if I had to guess, have, are, or will struggle with the temptation to take our joy from this idea that we will get married, probably soon. The problem with that is obviously that God does not promise or owe any of us husbands. Placing our hope in our dreams of marriage and in thinking that our future husband is right around the corner is worldly hope. Imagine if you lived your life always thinking you were about to meet your future husband, but then you never did. You would feel betrayed by God and perhaps become prone to bitterness.
God never promised you a husband, and to say that He did is cheapening what He actually promises you if you are in Christ. 1 Peter 1 describes our incorruptible inheritance, which is the hope of eternity in heaven. That is far better than any earthly romance, and I know that may be hard to believe because sister, it's hard for me to believe too. 1 Peter 1:4 says that our inheritance won't fade away--this cannot be said of any marriage since marriage is dissolved once one party dies. Imagine what it will be like to be in heaven, united forever with our Savior, freed forever from the curse of sin, with no more sorrow or tears, being taught about God by God Himself (Isaiah 54:13) and with perfect unity among believers of every tribe and tongue. That is your inheritance. No one can take it away from you. In light of eternity, your time is so short. What does it matter if you don't get married when you are waiting with longing for this?