The Sacred Opportunity of Singleness

The Sacred Opportunity of Singleness

by Leslie Ludy | July 1, 2012

“One of the keys to being fulfilled and content is to be others-centered. When you live a poured-out life, you realize that you aren’t the only one struggling or waiting on the promises of God to be fulfilled in your life. It is hard for me to think about myself when there is a family living in a mud hut that has no food to eat and no bed to sleep in. It’s hard for me to think about my dreams when I am comforting a child who has just lost her mother to AIDS. It is hard for me to think about my desires when I live with 75 orphans who know the pain of rejection and abandonment.”

-Karris, 28 year-old single missionary

"Learning to be 'others-centered' is a massive cure for any type of ailment – single-sickness, depression, or anything else. For it is when we take our eyes off our own inadequacies and losses that we are truly able to be used for others. And as we are used to help others, our pain slowly goes away. (You can’t focus on two things at once!)"

-Mel, 32 year-old single nurse

Lydia was a beautiful, intelligent woman in her mid-thirties. A gifted teacher from Denmark, she had a thriving career and a seemingly perfect life. Her family was wealthy and respected, and she had recently become engaged to an attractive and successful man.

But something was missing from Lydia’s life. Inwardly, there was an inexplicable need for more. She had everything the world could offer – why did she feel so empty and unfulfilled?

In desperation, she began to wonder about God. She had never been a religious person, but for some reason she felt that maybe He was what her life was missing. Lydia did not know any Christians, so she realized that she would have to find out about God on her own. She pulled a dusty Bible from her bookshelf and began reading it. Night after night, she spent hours at her kitchen table – drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and pouring over the Scriptures. After several weeks, her heart was open and ready. She knew this was the Truth. And she knew she must surrender her life to this God who had died to rescue her.

Everything in Lydia’s life changed. Her addiction to alcohol and cigarettes was broken. Her love for late-night parties and concerts faded. Her desire for wealth and success was replaced by a longing to pour herself out for the least around the world. And her desire for marriage changed into an intense longing for intimacy with Jesus Christ.

Much to the astonishment of her family and friends, Lydia broke things off with her money-loving fiancé, walked away from her successful career, and gave all of the money in her savings account to a missionary who was starting an orphans home in Africa. And for months, she sought God and prayed about where she was to go, and what she was to do.

Out of all the things Lydia laid upon the altar during that season, giving up her prospects for marriage was the most difficult. Already in her mid-thirties, she knew that “time was running out” if she ever wanted to settle down and build a nest. But God was calling her to a life of radical abandonment to Him, and she trusted that He would be more than enough to sustain and fulfill her, even if He never brought a man into her life.

After a year of prayer, Lydia felt strongly that God wanted her to go to Jerusalem as a missionary of the Gospel. With very little money and no real contacts there, Lydia set off, trusting that God would meet her every need. She ended up in a tiny basement apartment, praying and wondering why God had called her to this strange place. A few days later, there was a knock on her door. A man stood there with a deathly ill baby in his arms. “We cannot take care of her,” he said. “She will probably die soon – but will you take her anyway?”

Baffled, Lydia took the child and laid her on the bed. The apartment was bitterly cold. There was no milk or food or blankets. There were no doctors or hospitals around. The streets were dangerous. Raids and attacks were common. No one ever ventured out at night. How could she possibly keep this little girl alive?

Crying out to God, Lydia prayed over the sick child, asking for a miracle. Many times during the night, Lydia thought the baby had died. But in the morning, she was still alive - and even looked a bit better. Soon it was evident that God had answered her prayers and performed a miracle.

That was the beginning of the amazing ministry God had called Lydia to. The child became her own daughter, and Lydia began to pour out her life in service to the sick, the orphaned, the poor, the dying, the fearful, and the oppressed people of Jerusalem. She learned how to lean upon God for her every need – for every meal, for every problem. God continued to bring needy children to Lydia’s doorstep, and within a few years, she was a mother to ten little ones. She didn’t have the natural resources to provide for them or keep them healthy. But God did, and never once did any of them go without. Lydia had given up expecting to get married. She certainly did not live in a place that was conducive to finding a husband. But she had no intention of changing her direction, because she knew that she was exactly where God wanted her. He was more than a Husband to her every single day. And He had beautifully blessed her life with many precious children.

Through her obedience to her Lord, her dream of motherhood had come true. She was joyful, fulfilled, and content.

One day, a missionary and Bible student named Derek came across Lydia’s path. He was just visiting Jerusalem for a short while. He never expected to meet someone like Lydia there. But when he began to observe her work and ministry, he was perplexed. He’d never seen a woman like her - or even conceived that a woman like her existed. Here is how Derek described Lydia’s impact upon him:

Having graduated in Britain from Eton College and Cambridge University, I had at that time held a fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge for six years. But a completely new phase of my education began the day I climbed the outside stairs of a gray stone house and met the blue-eyed Danish woman whom a houseful of Jewish and Arab children called Mama. In that house I met the Holy Spirit, not as one Person of a theological doctrine called the Trinity, but as a present, potent, daily reality. I watched Lydia set out plates on the table when there was no food to put on those plates, knowing that by the time we sat down to eat, God would have provided the meal. I watched her rebuke fever and sickness in the children and saw the sickness depart. Above all, I watched the Spirit nourish her, lead her and support her all day, every day, through the pages of the Bible. I had studied the Scriptures in their original languages, analyzed their historic components, pondered their exegesis. Lydia let them speak to her heart. “I read the gospel of John,” she once said, “like a love letter.” In thirty years of marriage I have learned from Lydia that prayer that springs from this kind of intimacy with the Bible is not a subjective thing, but a force in the world – the most powerful force there is.

Derek and Lydia were married and raised nine adopted children together, serving and laboring for the kingdom of God. Obviously from his own words, Lydia’s beautiful intimacy with her Lord continued to make an impact upon him all throughout their marriage. (Story adapted from Appointment in Jerusalem by Derek Prince.)

Derek and Lydia’s romance was a beautiful, God-scripted love story – completely free of human strategy or manipulation. Their life was a spectacular display of God’s glory and faithfulness, an amazing daily adventure with their King. And it would not have been possible if Lydia had clung to her own comforts and pursuits. She never would have met Derek or had the privilege of raising those children if she had stayed away from the mission field in the hopes of meeting the right guy, or if she had put her life on hold until God brought a man across her path.

If you are single, God has a much higher calling upon your life than spending all of your time and energy trying to snag Mr. Right. As Paul wrote, being unmarried is an amazing opportunity to serve the Lord without distraction (see 1 Cor. 7:32-34). It is true that you might find a decent Christian guy by reading books with tips on how to get noticed, or by joining an Internet dating service. But what a great adventure you will miss out on! What romance, beauty, and glory we forgo when we try to script the story ourselves.

God has not called us to build our lives around the pursuit of our own selfish desires, but to be poured-out sacrifices for His kingdom. One of the great tragedies of American Christian young women is our total preoccupation with self. In my book Set-Apart Femininity, I wrote about the dangers of the popular self-esteem message for women, which teaches that our own heart is good, and encourages us to live to our "true self" and inhabit our own beauty. Not only is this a non-biblical concept (we have no true eternal beauty outside of the beauty of Jesus Christ, and we only bring Him glory by dying to self, not living to it), but the real danger is that it keeps us consumed with “me, me, me” while the rest of the world is sick and oppressed, dying and impoverished. We in America are wealthy and comfortable beyond what most people in the world can even imagine. In the single season of life, we are freer than we will ever be to give our lives to those in need and become Christ’s advocates for the least around the world.

But we do not use our advantage for that cause. Instead, we sit around complaining about petty concerns and evaluating our own emotions. We attend retreats that are all about how we can feel better about ourselves and live more fulfilled lives. We read books about how we can somehow find the right guy. We spend hours online frittering our time away in endless social networks. We waste countless hours at the mall, snatching up the latest trends and trying to become more appealing to the opposite sex. We live a life completely focused on self. Meanwhile, children are starving, women are being prostituted, and countless families around the world are ripped apart by disease and poverty.

In your single years, more than ever, you have the ability to give your life for them, to pour out your time, your energy, your love, and your resources to those who have God’s special favor – the poor. Are you using this gift for the benefit of those in need, or are you squandering it on yourself?

So, how do we respond to such a high calling? My first challenge to you is to dedicate your single years (and all the years beyond, but it starts with where you are at today) to be poured out for the glory of Christ. Are you willing to lay all your own pursuits upon the altar and allow Him to make your body a living sacrifice? This is not a decision to take lightly. This is not just something that should be theoretical in your life. This decision will very likely require a radical shift in direction, and a painful letting go of comforts and dreams. And it may very well mean that you must forgo your constant striving to find an earthly prince in exchange for a more “hidden” life of sacrificial service to Christ. It may mean becoming far less “available” for guys to notice you, and far more available to Jesus Christ and His purposes. This commitment may call you to a remote village in Africa, or an orphanage in Haiti, or an inner-city slum. God’s sacred claim may ask you to pour your life out for one special needs child, or give your life to rescue hundreds of enslaved child prostitutes.

As odd as it may sound, I believe the best way to find a godly marriage partner is to stop hunting for one, and instead focus your entire life on Jesus Christ and His priorities. We should never put off fulfilling God’s calling upon our lives because we have not met our man yet. As Lydia’s story demonstrates, God is not limited by our circumstances or surroundings.

If He wants you to be married, He is more than capable of bringing a man into your life in the most unlikely way, in the most unlikely place. God can bring your spouse to you in the remotest village in Africa, or in the most hidden slum of Haiti. Or, like Lydia, He can bring him to an obscure basement apartment in Jerusalem. Lydia is just one of the many amazing testimonies I have encountered of women who did not put their life’s calling on hold until they met their man, but willingly followed the call of God on their life and began actively working for His kingdom – even though it meant being less available to the opposite sex. And amazingly, it was in a place of seeming obscurity that God wrote their love stories and brought along their husbands.

Remember, there are many Christ-built warrior-poet men out there who are praying and hoping for a set-apart young woman – one who is not following after the trends of the culture, wallowing around in discontentment, or prowling around looking for a guy. Nothing would thrill a true warrior-poet’s heart more than to know that his future bride was spilling her life out for the sake of the Gospel. Do you want to find a godly guy? Focus on pouring your life out for Jesus Christ, and leave the rest to Him.*

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