My sister, who hasn’t been living a Christian lifestyle since high school, has finally come back to Christ. I’ve been praying for this for years, so I am overjoyed to see her renewed faith and involvement with church.
The challenge is that she has just gotten involved with her church, and she’s already found an amazing, attractive, godly man that has her interest. While she was living her life how she wanted, I have been consistently trying to live a godly life. I’m not perfect, but I’ve been solidly pursuing becoming a godly woman; for example, I’m waiting until marriage for sex while she’s slept with all of her boyfriends.
I’m in my late 20s, and I’ve been asked out once in my life and never had a boyfriend. I’m eager to marry a godly man, but so often it seems like Christian men are more interested in the worldly girls who are just starting to find their way to Christ (like my sister), and they overlook the godly girls who’ve been there all along (like me).
I told myself that the kind of godly man who would be right for me wouldn’t be interested in a worldly woman without spiritual maturity, but now I wonder if I was wrong. I want to support her, but when she asks me for advice about him, I don’t know what to say because I can’t tell her the truth: how much it hurts that I’ve remained steadfast but single, while as the returning prodigal, she might get everything I always wanted. Please help!
I had a friend in junior high and high school who seemed to get away with mischief, get the boys, and still get to take leading roles in our small Christian school. It was very frustrating for me, a rule-keeper who felt like the pudgy tag-along. I wasn’t as pretty, as popular, or as prone to live on the wild side. And like you, I felt like she was getting rewarded for bad behavior, and I was overlooked, or even punished by life’s circumstances, in spite of all my good. The problem, however, wasn’t that life isn’t fair (though it’s not) but that I was looking at everything from the wrong perspective.
According to Scripture, everything that happened to her and to me was from the Lord’s hand (Ecclesiastes 9:1, Psalm 145:9, Job 42:2). He is sovereign over all, and in that, I had reason for rejoicing even in difficulties and trials. But knowing He was over everything wasn’t enough for me. Like Aravis in C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, I wanted to know more. I wanted to know why things worked out the way they did for her. It seemed so unfair. I needed to hear the voice of Aslan who said, “Child … I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.” Your letter reminds me that each of us is called to live our own story, eyes fixed on Christ. You don’t know the story of the man pursuing your sister, but even that’s not the point. After Jesus told Peter he would suffer in death, Peter looked at John and said, “What about this man?” Jesus looked at him and said, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22). Such is the call to each one of us. Regardless of what happens, Jesus says, “You, follow me.”
Your obedience in sexual purity is worth celebrating because it is evidence of God’s grace in your life. But your obedience must be motived by your love for God, not your desire for a certain kind of husband. Obedience isn’t a quid pro quo: I give you my obedience; You give me a husband. Any right actions, to be truly obedience, must flow from faith. As Romans 14:23 says, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
Like the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, I begrudged my friend’s restoration to faith. She seemed to get to have all the “fun” and still be welcomed home with open arms. Like the Pharisees listening in when Jesus told that parable, I was missing the point. I was as in need of God’s mercy and grace and just as deserving of His wrath as my friend was — as is every person who has ever, or will ever, live (Psalm 90:1-8).
The most wrong-headed view of all was my belief that I was good, and she was bad. Scripture reveals what’s true: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Even my best behavior wasn’t enough. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
Comparing my life to hers left me feeling like I got dealt the losing hand. But for all of life’s unfairness, what I deserved, regardless of my best efforts to keep God’s rules, was His wrath. Any good I received was pure grace (Matthew 5:45). If I had a beef with anyone, it shouldn’t have been with her, but with the Lord. But that’s where my view was wrong again. To be angry or frustrated or offended by my circumstances — to feel they were in any way unfair — is to forget not only God’s sovereignty, but also His goodness. Romans 8:31-32 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
Earlier in Romans 8 Paul says, “God works all things together for the good of those who love him” (v. 28, emphasis added). He doesn’t say all things will always go well for God’s children, nor that hardship and heartache won’t come. Jesus told us they will (John 16:33). Our comfort comes from knowing that in Christ, we have been restored to relationship with the Father, our sins are forgiven, our lives are in His hands and under His control, and one day all things will be made right and everything that happened on earth will be shown to have been for God’s glory and our good.
The problem is that I was comparing myself to her, another fallen person, instead of holding myself up to God’s righteous standard. And next to that, I deserve nothing but His wrath for my sin. Thanks be to God He opened my eyes to see the beauty of the Gospel, of Christ’s blood shed on the cross for sinners like me. He has given me the faith to trust in Christ for the forgiveness of my sins, including my sins of envy, jealousy and greed toward her (see Psalm 37).
It’s tempting in situations like yours to feel like the problem is all her — the other person and that if she would just stop getting all the dates and if a godly man would sweep you off your feet, all would be well. But that shows the folly of trusting our feelings. As wonderful as you may think it would be to see her enter a period of discipleship undistracted by godly suitors and as satisfying as it would undoubtedly be to meet your future husband this very day, we can’t know what God is up to (Isaiah 55:8-9). We are called to trust Him. It’s in the trusting that He strengthens us, sanctifying us to make us more like Jesus who humbled himself and submitted himself completely to the will of the Father.
Where does this leave you? Ask God to fill you with His love for your sister. Pour out your heart to Him and tell Him how hard it is to hear her talk about her romance when you have longed to be married. Tell Him how grieved you are by your response to your sister, who was once lost but is now found. Ask Him to help you love her unconditionally, the way He has loved you in Christ. Ask Him to fill you with grace for your sister, the same grace He has lavished on you. Ask Him to preserve and strengthen your friendship with her not as your biological sister, but as your sister in Christ. And ask Him for wisdom for these difficult conversations.
There is wisdom in being intentional in your conversations with her. You don’t have to engage in discussions that meander into the details of her love life. The best thing you can do for her, a new believer, is to encourage her in her faith. When she brings up her relationship with this man, ask her how these situations and opportunities and challenges are causing her to trust God. Ask her if she is praying for wisdom. Ask her if you can study together what the Bible teaches about Christian marriage (the goal of dating), biblical womanhood, and faithful discipleship. It’s OK for you to make the focus of your conversations your shared faith. It’s even OK if she starts sharing a lot of detail to let her know that it’s painful for you to hear all about her relationship given your years of waiting. You can ask her to pray for you for patience. You can tell her how God is working in your life to strengthen your faith in the waiting. It won’t be easy, but it is never wrong to humble yourself.
Philippians 2:1-8 shows us how:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
None of this will be easy, but all of it is possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. I pray your love for your sister will grow as you look to the Lord, meditating on His unchanging character and goodness, and trusting in His promise to work all of this together for your good.
Copyright 2014 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.