I am 21 years old and have never had a boyfriend. Shocking, right? Sure, there was the mutual infatuation that culminated in going to the spring formal together in ninth grade. But that is where my romantic history begins and ends.
As a perpetually single female (I can’t speak for my male counterparts, but I would assume their experience is similar), I generally come across two main reactions, whether from family, friends or people I would barely call acquaintances. The first and most common response to my eternal descent into singledom goes something along the lines of “Let me set you up with my friend, cousin, brother, etc.” It comes from a place of love and concern, but comes off as shallow and trite. This is how it feels: “You must be so lonely and are obviously pining away, so let me fix that for you.”
The second response is to throw a Bible verse at me as though that’s supposed to make me feel better. Don’t get me wrong; I am a born-again, Bible-believing Christian. But throwing a Bible verse that I already know when I am clearly struggling is like throwing a Fruit Loop to someone who’s drowning. Sure, it’s the right idea (it’s the same shape as a life ring), but it’s not enough to get the job done.
Allow me to illustrate.
My church has this program called “Secret Encouragers” where women of all ages and stages anonymously write a little about themselves, their struggles and reasons for praise. Each woman is assigned another, and it’s their job to pray for that person specifically and write notes of encouragement. I wrote about, among other things, my struggle for contentedness in singleness (surprise!). Shortly afterward, I received a card with these words:
‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
And that was it. Zero words that were from this person’s own mind. A Fruit Loop, if you will. And there I was, frustrated again and marginally annoyed.
Now I have my own little catch phrase for Jeremiah 29:11. I like to call it “The Go-To Cliché for Christian Singles.” I, of course, acknowledge that it is applicable in many spheres of life and doesn’t speak specifically to singleness. But it is one I’ve come across again and again in my relationship-less-ness. And so, to me at least, its overuse has made it stale. I became desensitized to the wonderful promise.
But God, in His providence, used my initial reaction of frustration and annoyance to cause me to truly meditate on the verse. The realization hit me: I had always zeroed in on the second half of the verse and what I thought was the thrust of the verse: “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.” My first-world self, molded by a life of ease ate up the part about prosperity. I immediately pictured my knight in shining armor (sorry — die hard Disney fan), 1.6 perfect children, a dog, a white picket fence, etc.
But I was missing the point. “For I know the plans I have for you” (Jeremiah 29:11a, emphasis added). This is the best and scariest part. He knows the plans. And they’re His plans. Not mine. And I am not privy to them. And this is where we arrogant humans run into trouble.
We all like to control things — be masters of our own destiny. Giving up that control is especially terrifying for me. See, I was raised in a community of hard-working, self-made Dutch immigrants. A real “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” bunch. I can achieve X, Y, Z if I just work harder/longer/faster. There is no Plan B — just get it done. So to give up control and to say I’m not steering the ship is downright unnatural to me, as I suspect it is for many.
We are not promised security or stability or predictability in life. We are not promised a spouse or a steady job. But we are promised something even better: an omniscient and omnipotent God. Tweet This He’s not some clockmaker who sets the hands in motion and then watches from the sidelines. He has a specific plan for your life that may or may not include a family of your own. But that’s where it ends: He has a plan. How comforting is that?
My struggle is to keep trusting God.
Ask yourself: When do I acknowledge providence in my life? The answer is it’s always in hindsight. You look back at specific events in your life and see how God was there all along — guiding, orchestrating every last detail for His plan. So let go of the proverbial reins and acknowledge that you’re not in charge (you never were). And pray with me, Your will be done. Because the peace that ensues — a peace that passes understanding — is worth it.
Amber Vandermaarl is a college graduate and works full time as a registered veterinary technician.
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