This perspective on the single life is the hardest for me. I’ve realized lately that trusting the Lord is something I tend to resist. I like to have all my theology worked out, all my plans in place, every contingency sorted out in my mind. I don’t like to have to do anything that requires an absolute trust in the faithfulness of the Lord. Yet this is the sort of faith that is required of all of us. It’s the faith of Abraham.
Abraham’s faith is scary: “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.…So Abram went, as the LORD had told him'” (Genesis 12:1, 4). The author of Hebrews explains:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8–10)
We learn three things here. First, this was an act of faith on Abraham’s part. He obeyed “by faith.” We who follow Christ are justified by faith, and that same faith is what drives us to obey the Lord even when the way isn’t clear. When we do hard things for God because we trust him to take care of us, we work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12). Our faith is completed by our works because works are the natural response of faith (James 2:22); you can’t tease them apart since they are bound so close together.
Second, this act of faith was a huge risk. Abraham was leaving everything that was familiar to him—his family, his city, his culture. He had no idea where he was going. He had no idea what he would find when he got there. The road was long and dangerous, along wilderness roads rife with bandits, away from the safety of the city of Haran.
Third, he left this city because he was looking forward to “the city that has foundations,” what is later called “the city that is to come” (13:14). Its designer and its builder is God. In this city there would be safety and rest for the weary traveler. When we look toward this city—the heavenly Jerusalem, where God dwells with his people (Revelation 21:2–3), we gain the courage we need to face any challenges that come our way. We know that God will preserve us for it and that he will welcome us home with open arms to spend eternity with him. We are safe in the hands of the sovereign Lord who has always loved us and always will.
That’s why trusting the Lord is so important, whether you’re single or married, young or old, man or woman. Without it, we can’t do anything to please God, “for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). If we seek him, trusting that he will reward our search for him by revealing his loving presence to us, there is no trial, no suffering so great that we cannot handle it; there is no opportunity that we cannot seize to glorify him.
For someone who is single, faith can express itself in many ways. I think we’ve lost sight of this. Whenever I see the phrase “trust in the Lord” applied to a single person, it’s almost always in the context of waiting for marriage. The prototypical narrative, found in Christian books and articles and personal testimonies, goes something like this: someone really wants to get married badly, but finally learns to trust in the Lord, experiences a wonderful feeling of peace about it, no longer seeks a spouse, and then God dumps a man or woman in that person’s lap uninvited, and they get married and live happily ever after. Sometimes this does happen. But I wonder whether many people reduce it to a formula: God won’t give you what you want until you don’t want it. Really? Is God some sort of killjoy? Is he playing games with us? “Nope, you can’t have that! Oh wait, you don’t want it now? Too bad, I’m giving it to you anyway!” This is not always how God works. Trusting in the Lord always means that we rest in his sovereign will, but it doesn’t always mean that we sit back and do nothing.
If you are single, there are actually many different ways you can trust the Lord. Maybe more than one of these applies to your situation:
- You can be content to remain single, trusting that you don’t have to be married for the Lord to use you in remarkable ways (in fact, trusting that you can serve him in ways a married person never could!).
- You can give up worrying about whether or not you will find a spouse, knowing that the Lord will give you what is best for you (Romans 8:28), that his grace is sufficient to bring you through this season of pain (2 Corinthians 12:9), and that he will never abandon you (Hebrews 13:5).
- You can stop pursuing, in your actions and in your mind, men or women who aren’t believers or who aren’t eagerly following the Lord. You trust that if you pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ, it will bring you far more joy than a relationship with anyone else ever could.
- You can stop setting impossible standards for a spouse, trusting that the Holy Spirit will always be working to sanctify both you and your husband or wife.
- You can have the courage you need to ask out that young woman you’re interested in, because you trust that the Lord will not abandon you even if you are rejected. You will not fear; what can man do to you? (Hebrews 13:5–6)
- You can have the courage to ask that young woman to marry you, trusting the Lord that he will always be there even as your whole life is rearranged and everything you understand and know is thrown out the window.
- You can have the courage to break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend, trusting the Lord to protect you and to bring you through any ensuing trials.
- You can trust the Lord after being dumped, knowing that he is present in the deepest darkness and will bring you through it (Psalm 23:4). His own Son was forsaken so that you would never be abandoned.
What is wonderful is that there are so many ways to trust the Lord! You might even face a decision where there is no “right” or “wrong” answer—just a choice of how you will express your faith in God. Here’s the bottom line, delivered with a heavy dose of hyperbole: whether you marry, and who you marry, are not important questions. What’s truly important is that you act out of faith in a gracious God, showing the world how great his faithfulness really is. His steadfast love for you will never cease. Every morning, you will see his mercy to you in new and precious ways. He has given himself to you. Hope in him. (Lamentations 3:22–23)