Singleness: the ongoing struggle

I’ve been wanting to write a post about singleness and contentment for a while and it’s funny that I’m writing it now when I’m really frustrated by my singleness and contentment is out galavanting somewhere else.

One of my closest friends has disconnected with our network of young women because she’s had enough of hearing about dating and being a ‘Ruth’, that it actually drove her into depression. If she’s pursuing all these things then how come the Hagars of the world are getting all the guys?

I’ve been in a similar place when I see women who choose differently with regard to chastity or modesty and they’re the ones metaphorically ‘bringing all the boys to the yard‘. It can really get a girl down. Plus I’ve had my hopes dashed more times than I dare to count by unrequited affections. In that respect God’s shown me that I still have a lot to improve upon. There are things He needs me to work on while I still have that freedom.

What concerns me though is how in our women’s network there’s constant talk about getting married and finding a husband. There’s plenty of independence in there as well. A lot of encouragement for building yourself up and taking the bull by the horns so you don’t have to start doing that post marriage.

One thing I appreciated about my growth in church was that we knew and were reminded that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-5), but we were also taught that not everyone’s going to get married and that’s okay. Amongst Catholics there’s an understanding that people will either be priests, religious (nuns, brothers, friars, etc), married or single. Three of these vocations will mean a life of celibacy and serving God (1 Corinth 7:7-8) the latter of which is possible in married life but this is why it’s a vocation, it’s a way you’ve been called to by God.

It’s now that I’ve come to network with more Pentecostal, Evangelical, non denominational etc Christians that I’ve been perplexed by the emphasis on people finding a spouse. There’s plenty of spiritual teaching but dang if someone doesn’t mention a spouse at least once during a session there’s something up. It makes me wonder why this is the case. I know other denominations don’t have priests or people serving from a religious order, but why is it so alien to have someone led to a life of singleness?

Not everyone in the Bible got married. A lot of them just dedicated themselves to God until they went to heaven. This is the whole thing about priests and the religious. The 12 Apostles didn’t get married (or if they did it wasn’t recorded in Scripture), they just lived and died for the faith. I’d love that level of being enamoured with the Father so much that it stilled that occasional ache for my other half (wherever he is).

I’m not saying the Catholic way is the way everyone should go, that’s between each person and Jesus, but I do think the other denominations could learn something. We’re all pursuing that same satisfaction in the Lord (Psalm 42), chasing holiness and if we can help each other along the way that would be great. We’d be showing each other a lot of grace.

19/10/16 I’ve since made a Spotify playlist for the days when singleness doesn’t feel like a blessing. If you’re interested here’s the link Content & Beloved

 

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Who do you choose?

I think, when it comes to sin, there’s that one that we all struggle with. It’s different for all and each of us but everyone struggles with something; whether it be lying, stealing, lust, envy, sexual immorality, whatever.

I know that I struggle a lot. I pray and I try and I’ve been given signs that God is answering my prayer for distraction and strength, but more often than I’d like I choose my own sinful nature over God’s glory and grace. It hurts knowing that I’ve hurt not only my Father and my friend but the one who knows me and loves me more than I will ever know. I return his love by turning my back for something that will only last in the physical world, leaving me feeling disgusting and guilty afterwards. I’m fairly good at showing love to my neighbour but when it comes to that one sin (and I pray that I’m not the only one) I don’t always love the Lord Our God.

Yesterday I fell and I was feeling that disgust and disappointment in myself and just before I fell asleep I was apologizing profusely to Jesus. I could tell that I was being torn, my great desire to be the child of God I know I am or to say a ‘sorry’ go to sleep and maybe try again later.

I had a dream. In that dream I was at a university with a friend. A lecturer/tutor was handing out assignments and the assignment was to either write a letter to Jesus or to the devil. I chose Jesus (praise God!) and so did my friend. In my letter I apologized for what I did and I hoped that He could forgive me and help me be clean and come closer to Him. As my friend and I walked we saw that others had chosen differently and even those who had chosen Jesus weren’t being kind to Him. Some of them took the opportunity to mock Him and someone asked me why I’d chosen Jesus and I think I answered because He is the one I want (It should’ve been the one I need). I was then asked what I would’ve said if I’d chosen to write the letter to the devil and without much thought I spoke out of character and I said “F-you”. I never swear but if I was going to swear at someone it would be the one who causes such filth in the world.

I woke up later than usual and I’m still contemplating the meaning behind this dream but I’m glad that I chose Jesus. It got me thinking about the people who chose Jesus but were practically spitting in His face. Choosing the light or the dark is an easy move to make but what do we do once we’ve made the decision? Do we try to conform darkness within the light or do we pick dark because it’s easier with less pressure? I know I’m not perfect and I stumble and fall all the time but I think this has made me want to preserve the light a lot more. The dark will always be there but I’ll have to do like Paul says and run in the other direction when it confronts me.

So which will you choose?

I pray that you don’t simply pick an answer but you find your answer.

“God Is Not A Man”

Occasionally I counsel young people struggling with depression, anxiety and other such disorders. It can be both challenging and fulfilling. Recently I’ve been challenged to not hide my faith when I am providing advice. Some people agree, some don’t comment at all. You can imagine how negative people’s views of God/religion can be.

Recently there was a girl who started a discussion asking whether or not people believe that God answers prayers. The responses were equally divided. Some said yes, others said no, some said that He listens but may not always answer them. There was one girl who stated that God doesn’t exist and the Bible is lies. When I asked her why she replied “Because I said so”. The sad thing is that she is not the only one out there. My response to the discussion was that God always listens to prayers. Always. The problem arises when it comes to finding an answer to these prayers. You see, mankind has it in their minds that when you pray you get what you want, but I’m relatively sure that that isn’t what prayer’s about. Mother Theresa once said “More tears are shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.” The answer to a prayer doesn’t have to be ‘yes’; sometimes it has to be ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘not yet’, but mankind is often too selfish to accept an answer that isn’t ‘yes, of course! Let me do it now!’

As I mentioned in my last post God had no obligation to make us but chose to make us anyway. That is the foundation of my personal definition of grace. Why is it that when people think of God as being a just, loving being He must conform to what we want Him to be? Since when does an apple go to the chef and say ‘Hey buddy, I want you to make me into a pie’? The chef may indeed want to bake a pie and he may use the apple or he may use the cherries or the steak instead. Does the apple then say because it was not made into a pie then the chef doesn’t exist?

I’ve never doubted the existence of God. To me He was always present and watching and I was just trying to figure Him out. I am guilty however of trying to make God into a man. I wanted to understand God and so I’d try draw pictures of God with me sitting in His lap, or after my grandmother passed away I demanded that He bring her back because I knew that for Him it wasn’t impossible, after all He had breathed life into her to start with. So many other people try to get the concept of ‘God’ in a neatly wrapped package in their mind and they like to believe that they understand God. They like to believe that they have God in their pockets, ready to whip out when they need Him. Since when does God conform to what you (a mere insignificant pixel in the vast unending universe) want Him (the Almighty Father of Heaven and Earth, and Creator of the universe) to do for you?

When speaking to people who have some form of anxiety disorder you can’t really present this sort of view to them in the same way that I’m doing so now. A lot of them find strength in God and others are enraged at this God who gave them an illness which makes them want to slit their wrists at every waking moment on a daily basis. It is hard though, I would never lie and say that it isn’t.
Often atheists will bring up the world’s various illnesses, whether they be war or poverty or high mortality rates, and ask how this ‘apparently all knowing, all loving God’ allows all the chaos and pain of the world to happen. Is He not able to make it better or is He simply not there? In regards to this let’s look back to the Old Testament. God made the universe and it was good and He made man and woman and all was good until sin came along. Sin and our own sinful nature is what has lead us to where we are. We know the difference between right and wrong and yet we choose to do wrong anyway and then complain when God doesn’t instantly fix everything for us.
So many people were given countless chances,for example in Kings, and it was through their own disobedience of God that they met death and dischord. He kept saving them and they would be good again for a while then fall back and they would be punished then saved then it would happen all over again. I’m surprised God hasn’t just become fed-up with us by this stage. Seeing that there could only be one solution to this, so that every person would be saved and God could punish sin at the same time, The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us aka Jesus Christ. Jesus came, the human embodiment of God, in order to give us another chance and to take our punishment for us. Here it may get a bit tricky; Jesus did die for us but He truly died so that God could spare us but still exact His wrath and so He did so upon Himself in the form of His only begotten Son. He did it because He wanted to, it was all according to His will. No other human has ever had to endure that and yet we still believe that for us to acknowledge and agree that there is a God He must first prove it to us by granting our every desire. If you want a genie go off into the Arabian desert and look for one but I’m going to stick with the God who I am completely incapable of comprehending.

Another argument that’s often brought up is the battle of religions; Christians against Christians, Jews against Christians, Jews against Muslims, Christians against Muslims, Muslims against the world, Christians against the world. Why believe in something that causes so much sadness in the world? I’ll address this from my point of view, feel free to disagree and comment your own understanding. I believe that God isn’t in these disputes. God has sent armies to punish people before but where there is hatred and rage in the heart I don’t believe that you leave enough space for God to work. It’s more likely that the voice of the Holy Spirit within you is silenced. God is in actions of love because God is love. Love starts with Him and ends with Him. Not everyone is given an easy life but it’s like a diamond which starts off as coal or a piece of rock which starts off jagged and coarse but is weathered into something smooth and shiny. It would be wrong to believe that because you’re going through a hard time God isn’t with you. He is, holding your hand along the way. In the moments where you don’t get what you want or you face some form of hardship it doesn’t instantly mean that there’s no God or that He hates you, look around, maybe it was someone else’s turn to receive a blessing and yours is coming by snail mail instead.

I don’t want God to be a man. I don’t want Him to be someone I can wrap up neatly in my mind. I don’t want Him to do what I want but rather what I need. I don’t want to view Him as though He were a meal from McDonald’s (Here’s your God, do you want a slice of peace with that?). If I made Him into a tangible being that I could fully comprehend then I might as well walk out the door, find the first guy saying things I agree with and go worship him. Sounds ridiculous right? So why do we feel that it’s ok to do that to God?

At times I sit in my room alone and ask, why do you believe in God and why do you believe that He is a good God? It’s similar to trying to describe to someone why you’re favourite song is your favourite song. You could explain the lyrics, the sets, the instruments, the notes, the key changes and the emotional psychological impact, but at the end of the day you can’t explain something like that. You just know when you know.

In a single sentence what I’m saying is that God was not made for man, man was made for God. Below I’ve added a link to a video I found recently, it describes what I’m getting at quite well.

May God watch over you, your family and all your loved ones and may we all marvel at His awesomeness and show love in our actions.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”- Hebrews11:1

Are we losing the plot?

Firstly I’d like to apologise for the delay in my follow up post. I will do what I can to update my blog consistently at least once a week.

This past week I attended my university church’s camp which focused on God’s rage and his passion in the Bible. My eyes were opened to matters I’d never even considered and how significant Jesus’ death on the cross really was. It shook me to the core and I can feel that I’ve been changed deep within me. The teachings were practical and heartbreaking at the same time and they appealed to all ages and all denominations or so I thought.

On the second to last evening the talk took a turn for the worse in two ways for me. It seems that wherever I go where I just want to blend in as a fellow believer in Christ there will always arise some form of comparison. For about twenty minutes to a good half hour I had to endure why Catholics aren’t regarded as Christians. The speaker admitted that ‘the church and Catholics’ agree on a lot of things for the most part but different standings on the matters of blood and forgiveness of sins and a few others. It was one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life. From being one of the group who the other hundred or so people was eager to learn about I felt like all backs had been turned from me, they were all saying I was wrong, I had become less Christian than the ducks in the lake. In that moment not only did I turn up my internal defence system but I also risked turning away from the God I had come to adore days before.

What hurt me most was how these people were being taught that some Christians aren’t Christians and having a list of their faults fed to their hearts. Sometimes I genuinely wonder if Christians know that they are Christians because the Bible said that others would be able to identify us by our love. Where is the love when you’re educating others and leading them to believe that someone can’t be like you because they believe differently? We read the Bible. We attend church. We praise God. We believe in the Trinity and that this world and this life is merely an introduction to a greater eternal life where God may finally receive the praise he most rightly deserves.

I understood some matters I suppose. The issue of ‘good works’ is always a hot topic amongst people who may not fully understand Catholic ways. Obviously it isn’t like the ancient Egyptians where we have to lead a super good life and at the end of it the god Ra places our heart on one side of the scale and a feather on the other to see whether you’re worthy to move on to the afterlife. What would the point of Jesus’ dead on the cross have been then? During the seminar sessions we looked at various Bible passages and James 2:22 & 26 caused quite a stir which I just didn’t understand. It says “You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected…For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead”. People just couldn’t understand why this was written there and what it meant and that made me a little sad. Do some people believe that Catholics just pull ideas out of their bums and cross their fingers that it makes sense? To me, and with my background, these verses meant that faith is highly important but it’s necessary to act with that faith. This is where you would bring in a couple of my favourite verses; “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you”, “Love one another as I have loved you” and “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”. There’s a great focus on expressions of faith and love, that may be in serving the church or community or donating clothes or leading a life like Jesus (he taught, healed, cared, explained, etc). What’s wrong with having good morals and acting on your faith? Obvioulsy it would need to be sincere otherwise you’re no better than the ancient Egyptians. Do good without expecting good to be returned to you. Jesus did so much good and yet he was beaten and tormented and even today hundreds of people reject his existence. He did good because he loved us that much so what’s wrong with wanting to live like him?

There’s also the matter with confession. It breaks my heart when I hear what people think confession is about. The priest can’t forgive sins. He can’t cleanse you of your sins.Everyone knows that God and God alone can forgive sins. The priest serves the purpose of giving advice and praying for you with you to God. Yes, Jesus died to cleanse us so that all sins are forgiven but that doesn’t mean you can ignore your sins or sweep them under the carpet and hope no one knows. It’s important to come to God and own up to what you did. The same speaker from the camp urged us to find someone we trust and admit to sins we’re struggling to combat so that we can pray together.That’s exactly what confession is about; a fellow child of God praying with you to God that he may forgive our sinful nature and give us the strength to not stumble again.

Back to the matter at hand, why is it that time is spent telling people that some people are Christians while others aren’t? It makes me wonder when people say that the number of Christians is decreasing or stagnant in some places and they don’t know why. Would you join a soccer team where the members say that the goalkeeper isn’t a soccer player becuase he can hold the ball and doesn’t run as much? Would you join an orchestra where the members say the flutes aren’t instruments because you blow into them to make music? No one will run to join a group which is divided against itself. At the same time why is it a debate against Catholics/Protestants and yet every other denomination within Christianity is left untouched? There are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons who are questioned at times but aside from these four are all the other denominations in impeccable condition? Why then leave them untouched? Why be subjective in your judgement?

I am doing my best not to judge here because judgement is for God alone but what I’m trying to say is we should celebrate and be united through our similarities instead of educating others to look down on others because of our differences. Instead of wasting time trying to pick who fits in and who doesn’t we should be using that time to pray or thank God or praise Jesus or spend time with the Holy Spirit. There are so many better things we could be educating others on instead of creating rifts between ourselves. Let’s be brothers and sisters in Christ and glorify the Lord instead of looking at each other with contempt and animosity.

May God Bless everyone, those who believe in him and those who do and bring uniting peace over all those who live for Jesus regardless of their differences.