If you catch me on a bad day, you might hear me tell a friend I don’t think marriage is going to happen for me. I battle the stigma of being 43 and never married. Surely something must be wrong with me. I’m too immature, too self absorbed, too unattractive—or some combination of the three.
If you catch me on a good day or even a normal one, the hope is still alive and I dream about what marriage would be like. I dream about putting up the Christmas tree together. I dream about sitting in the living room with each other and not needing to say anything because even the silence is different when we’re together. And I dream about doing little things to surprise her—things like remembering the anniversary of our first date or bringing home a cup of her favorite coffee from the coffee shop she digs or sending her love texts throughout the day.
As Christmas came and went this year, I wondered if I would still be single next Christmas, and the Christmas after. And such is life as I experience the good days and the bad. If I had to guess, many of you are right there with me.
As we wonder about the future, let’s rejuvenate our hope by spending some time in Jeremiah 29—the chapter that is often quoted regarding God’s plan for our future. Rarely do we hear the context in which it was given and that’s a shame because it is full of hope.
Jeremiah is writing from Jerusalem to the remainder of the elders, priests, prophets, and “all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon” (verse 1).
He opens the letter by saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon” (verse 4).
At this point, the people must have been thinking, “Uh oh. We messed up big time by turning away from God. As a result, he allowed us to be taken captive and now he’s going to bring the hammer. We’re done. We’re without hope.”
But that’s not how God responds.
Instead, he says this: “Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished” (verses 5-6).
So, after making a mess of their lives, God tells his people to do what he always tells them to do—build, plant, marry, beget, give away, and then repeat in the next generation.
In other words, he doesn’t take away houses, food, marriage, or children even after his people have shunned him. In fact, even though they are tasting the fruit of their sin—they are living as captives in Babylon—he tells them to continue to carry on as normal. That’s His plan for His people. It always has been.
Of course, God chooses to orchestrate sovereign exceptions. He has given a few the gift of celibacy for life for kingdom purposes. And sometimes, for reasons we don’t understand, people are unable to have children.
But again, these are the exceptions. You or I could be in the exception category, but I find great hope in God’s norm and I know that his mercy and grace would sustain me even if I end up as an exception.
God goes on to tell his people that they are to seek peace in the city and to watch out for false prophets. He also says that they will be in Babylon for 70 years before he causes their return. That brings us to the often quoted verse 11: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
As I consider my shortcomings as a single man in light of God’s mercy and ultimately his plan for my future, I find hope in mercy personified in Christ Jesus and that allows me to flip the calendar to January 2010 in confidence as I continue to seek and hope for a spouse. I pray that you find and embrace that same hope.
This concludes the final post from Julie and me here at Single Purpose. Thanks for joining us throughout 2009 and we pray God’s blessings on you in 2010 and beyond.
Lee Warren is a forty-something-year-old single person who lives in Nebraska. He is the author of the book Single Servings: 90 Devotions to Feed Your Soul, published by Revell. Julie Ferwerda is a forty-something married person who has had a spectrum of experiences in the single’s life after divorce. She is the author of “The Perfect Fit: Piecing Together True Love,” and has written dozens of singles articles for CBN and other publications.