By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. (Hebrews 11:17)
I have walked in the season of singleness long past the day I expected. In my 20’s being single was common and considered to be the time to experience life to the full. The 30’s brought a bit more anxiety in my heart, but somewhere in the late 30’s to mid 40’s a new fear unexpectedly gripped me. It dawned on me that the days for me to have my own children were slowly fading away. There is an unspoken grief in the lives of singles as we not only have a void from the lack of a husband, but we also face barrenness and the loss of children not to be.
Over two decades, I struggled and wrestled with God as I desperately prayed for a husband and children. A slow burn of bitterness crept into my heart as well as a discontentment toward God. A deep ache and longing for a family and children became an ever-present albatross I carried around my neck, and I walked in a state of grief and mourning that was always lingering just below the surface.
Somewhere in the midst of this storm of emotions and grief, God pulled me out of the depths to remind me: My life is not my own. I have been bought at a price.
I am called and redeemed by God to be His daughter and ambassador to share the Good News of Jesus to those who do not know Him. My primary purpose and mission is not to have a little girl with my hair and eyes, but to grow the Kingdom and expand the family of God.
When I reflect on the majesty and glory of our Creator God, who brought the earth into existence with the words, “Let there be… and there was” – it is incumbent upon me to see myself humbly in relation to Him. Who am I to say to God, “You should give me a child”? Our Creator God has the sovereignty and power to knit together humanity and our lineage as He wishes.
There are still days that I battle to take captive intrusive thoughts that whisper in my mind about how God is withholding goodness from me. He must not love me. I am missing out on something wonderful. These thoughts are reminiscent of those that went through the minds of Adam and Eve in the Garden, are they not? God kept them from the fruit of the Tree of Life, and they saw it as missing out on something wonderful. God was withholding from them. My struggle is the same conflict that took place in Genesis 3.
The crux of this inner battle is trust. Do I trust that God is good and His plan is best for me? Do I trust that God loves me and desires to bring fullness into my life for my good and His glory? Do I trust that God is enough?
"No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly"(Psalm 84:11). But, what if the very best thing for me [and for His glory] is for God to withhold something??
I had fixated for so many years upon what I perceived as missing or incomplete in my life, that I was not able to shake myself loose from holding onto my plans in a death grip. One day, a dear friend asked me a question that changed the trajectory of my prayers and attitude toward God. Rather than encouraging me and saying all the warm enduing things that people usually say to me about getting married and having children, she simply asked, “What if God says, ‘No?’ How are you going to live your life if He says, ‘No?’”
Prior to this moment I had always brushed that thought quickly out of my mind feeling sure that God would honor my desires. My friend’s candid and loving question began a new journey of surrender pressing me to release my death grip and commit new areas of my life to the Lord. When I gave my life to Christ as a teenager, I boldly proclaimed that I would follow Christ wherever He led me. But, I wondered now if I was able to muster the courage and faith to follow in places I do not want to go. This is true faith. Following into the unknown, unseen, and sometimes unsavory places – for my good and His ultimate glory. My cry to the Lord is like the father who asked Jesus to heal his son, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
In my limited understanding, the prospect of living a life of singleness and barrenness was (and sometimes still is) terrible. I had to be willing to lay my hopes and longings down to sacrifice them for God’s rule and reign in my life; this has been agonizing and beautiful at the same time. I am not going to tell you that this is the life that I would have chosen. But, I can tell you that I have come to a place where I trust God more than I trust myself, and I will try to embrace and rejoice in all that God has purposed for my life. This is a thankful sacrifice.
Ultimately, we are all asked to lay our dreams and plans for this life on the altar like Abraham did with Isaac. We demonstrate our faith and trust in God by sacrificing and giving Him the most cherished beloved pieces of our hearts. God may indeed resurrect the dream and breathe life into it. Or, in His Sovereignty, He may have a different plan for us.
But the test of our faith remains.
We must truly die to ourselves and give our lives to Him (our time, money, dreams, plans, desires…. Our entire being) – because we are His disciples. The cost of discipleship is that we die to ourselves to live for Him.
God Himself is the prize.
He is the goal. Nothing on earth (husband, children included) compares to Him.
God has the ultimate authority and sovereignty in my heart and life to do with it what He wishes. He has earned the right to be sovereign in my life, has He not? He is my Creator, my Lord, my King, my Redeemer, my Rock, my Provider, my Shepherd, my Father, and my Savior.
So, what do we do with these unfulfilled desires and longings that we have? Embrace them and walk through the grief and loss to the other side. Grieving, loss, and pain are real – but so is the hope we have in Jesus as our ultimate and complete sufficiency. John Piper said, "Occasionally, weep deeply over the life that you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life that he’s given you."
May God take our longings, both fulfilled and unfulfilled, and use them to drive us toward Himself to cultivate a heart of thankfulness and joy that surpasses all understanding. May we embrace Paul’s exhortation to “let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, to which indeed we were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15). Go and give God a thankful sacrifice.