A few years ago, a church friend hosted five or six women, including me, at her home. As we ate, we took turns reading aloud group discussion questions from a basket of index cards.
“For those who are married, what’s your favorite thing about being married?” one woman read. “And for those who are single, what’s your favorite thing about being single?”
Immediately, I felt very “other.” I was not the youngest at the gathering, but I was the only single woman. My favorite thing about being single? I wasn’t sure I could think of anything.
The gift of singleness?
After wracking my brain for something to say, I finally mentioned something about independence to decide what to do and how to spend my time. All the other (married) women nodded in agreement, affirming they thought of my independence as a gift. But is that independence really a fair trade, I wondered, for the families they all enjoyed?
I have long struggled with the idea of singleness as a gift. Of course, we’ve all received gifts we didn’t like, but most of the time, we’re happy to receive them. Presents, gifts, favorite things — these are not the words I think of when I think of singleness.
I’m more likely to see my singleness as a difficulty God uses in my life. The Bible is clear that God works through the difficulties we face to grow us closer to Him and more like Him. I can see how God might use my singleness to work in me or even prepare me to help others. But I always stopped short of calling it a “gift.”
Until I started listening to Elisabeth Elliot.
Most likely, you already know Elliot’s story: She married Jim Elliot after doubt-filled years of off-and-on courtship. They were married briefly — just over two years — before Jim was killed by a tribe of indigenous Ecuadorians he and four friends tried to evangelize. Elisabeth became a single mother to their 10-month-old daughter.
She remarried 13 years later, but her second husband died of cancer less than five years after their wedding. About four years after that, she remarried again. Elisabeth Elliot died in 2015 at age 88, leaving behind her third husband.
After a friend reintroduced me to Elliot’s books last year, I found a podcast that replays her recorded messages — many of which talk about singleness or other appliable topics like loneliness, trust, or surrender. In one message, she referred to her widowhood as a gift.
That stopped me in my tracks. Widowhood as a gift?
Elliot said that God didn’t just “allow” her to become a widow. “I don’t know any more accurate way of putting it than to say He had given me something. He had given me a gift: widowhood,” she said. “I’ve come to understand that even suffering, through the transforming power of the cross, is a gift. For in this broken world, in our sorrow, He gives us himself. In our loneliness, He comes to meet us.”
There’s something powerful about other people’s stories. God often uses others’ stories to help us get perspective on our own stories. If Elisabeth Elliot viewed her widowhood as a gift, then maybe my singleness is a gift, too. If she could see Christ’s work through her widowhood as a good thing, and live an active life in her widowed years, then maybe I can follow her example in my single years.
Maybe it’s not either/or, but both/and. Marriage and singleness are both gifts and difficulties. My married friends assure me that there are hard things in their seasons, too. It seems every season holds its own challenges and unique benefits.
No matter the season
“I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing,” sings Rend Collective. “Surely every season You are good to me.”
Surely every season You are good to me.
Elisabeth Elliot didn’t know how long her seasons of widowhood would last. None of us know how long any of our seasons will last. But I’m starting to see that God is good to us in every season, no matter what that season holds. Because in every season, He is with us. He shows us more about himself and guides us to a deeper relationship with Him.
Ironically, my self-proclaimed independence is not the best thing about my singleness. It’s the growing dependence on Christ that He is working in me — just as He is working in all of us in all of our seasons.
Copyright 2023 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.