Sunday, April 6, 2014

Count Your Single Blessings

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

I find I’m most content with my singleness when I focus more on all the blessings God has given me than on the blessings He has given others.

Now if you think this is going to be a post designed to make you feel guilty for being dissatisfied with singleness – an “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet” kind of story – or yet another sermon about how we singles should be grateful for all the extra time we have to do things the married people can’t, think again.  I’m weary of those, too.   No, I have been greatly encouraged by seeing my singleness from a different viewpoint.  You see, I’ve grown accustomed to viewing my single status as a mistake, a dreadful, unwanted tragedy in my life.  “If I had only gone to that college instead of this one, moved to that city, taken that job, gone to this church instead of that one, taken a left instead of taking a right at that street…..surely I’d be married by now”, my mind often tells me.  But the One True God of infinite knowledge, strength, and power is in no way limited by my choices.  Even if I did go to the wrong college, moved to the wrong city, or took the wrong job, it would still be child’s play for the Creator and Sustainer of the universe to arrange a marriage for me if He wanted.  So my single life is not a mistake. 

Consider this for a moment:  What if your singleness is not a mistake?  What if your life has gone exactly as the Lord would have it?  It says in Proverbs 20:24, “a man's steps are from the Lord” and, for the believer, this is confirmed in the New Testament:  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).   If that is the case, then He has prepared you and provided exactly what you need to glorify Him as a single Christian.  In viewing my marital status not as a colossal misfortune but as the life God always wanted me to live, I have become aware of an embarrassing abundance of blessings He has given me that I originally overlooked.  It has afforded me a completely new and enjoyable view of my singleness and I hope it gives you the same positive perspective.

Blessed for Singleness

The year 2013 was by far the toughest year of my life.  It started with the death of my father, who went to be with the Lord on December 28th of the previous year after a six-month illness.  I recall feeling guilty ringing in a new year that my dad would never see.  My elderly parents both lived with me due to their own financial difficulties so the pain of losing Dad was especially acute since I saw him every day.  Over the next few months, as my mother and I tried to cope with Dad’s death, Mom became ill and was eventually diagnosed with stage IV lymphoma in June 2013.  In mid July, right before a second round of chemo treatments, Mom had cardiac arrest, suffered extensive and irreversible brain damage, and passed away July 29, 2013.  My mother had been caring for my adult brother Marvin, who has severe developmental disabilities, at home so when she died the responsibility to care for him passed to me.

I have never wanted to be single and I particularly feared being single and childless when my parents passed away.  How horrible would it feel to no longer be a member of a family?  Who would I be if I was no longer a daughter and yet, not a wife or mother, either?  But when I faced the day I had long feared as a single, it was not an occasion for wondering where God was but a time of being overwhelmed with the Lord’s kindness, provision, and compassion for me. 

My church family surrounded me and cared for me in such a way that I never felt alone during this most trying time.  I can remember numerous days in the hospital with Dad and days in Hospice with Mom that I couldn’t have gotten through without their love and support.  I am particularly reminded of my pastor and a very dear sister in Christ sitting with me in the hospital as the doctors told me there was nothing more they could do for Mom.  Many of the women of the church provided meals and in the months after Mom’s death, so many deacons and men of the church helped with yard work, home repairs, and maintenance, it was like having 10 husbands.  As if that wasn’t enough, God provided the perfect adult daycare for my brother that he now attends while I’m at work.  I thought daycare would be a tough transition for him, being at home with Mom all these years, but he has absolutely blossomed in the environment.  He’s happy, learning new skills, making friends, and speaking more clearly than before.  God even gave me favor on my job – a manager who was very understanding and flexible when I needed time off work to tend to increasing family demands.

When I'm so focused on how God is blessing others I can't see how richly He has blessed me.

Since that difficult year, I have taken a step back and come to realize that God has kindly and graciously prepared me for life on my own with Marvin even before my parents’ deaths.  He has given me a stable career in which I have earned enough money to pay both mine and my parents’ bills and for a mortgage on a home that comfortably housed me, my parents, and my disabled brother.  God has supplied an abundance of close friends and caring colleagues who have been like family to me.  Through His church I have faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who comfort me, weep with me, look after me, pray with me, even teach and admonish me when I need it.  He has given me good health and the privilege of caring for my parents in their golden years.  It is as if God anticipated all my needs before I realized what they were – providing help from so many different sources.  Even though I never expected nor desired to be single at this age, God has provided all that I need to be successfully single and has cared for me like a doting Father.  Though I have not received marriage, and may never receive it, I cannot say that the Lord has forgotten me.  I see His loving, guiding hand in so many areas of my life.

Sometimes I can be so focused on marriage and my desire for it that I can’t see how richly God has blessed my singleness.  Are you guilty of that as well?  Take the time to look at your life with a fresh perspective, considering that God has known all along you would be single and has provided all you need to glorify Him and to thrive in the single state.  Seeing how God has specifically blessed us to be single helps us to avoid coveting what the married Christians around us have and gives us the ability to “rejoice always”, as we are commanded.  It makes singleness in Christ a state for which you can truly praise the Lord.

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