|Sacred Singleness: The Set-Apart Girl's Guide to Purpose and Fulfillment|
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In Sacred Singleness bestselling author Leslie shares firsthand stories and testimonials of modern-day single women who may sometimes struggle with loneliness and personal desires but who, in following God's plan for them, have discovered a deeper delight, purpose and true joy in their lives. Sacred Singleness gives every single woman the inspiration to live counter to the culture and find amazing opportunity in this sacred season.
Describe your own journey of surrendering your life to God.
As a young woman, I spent most of my energy pining for the day when I would finally meet “the one”, walk down the aisle in a white dress, and live happily ever after in a cute little house with a flower garden and white picket fence. I had grown up in church singing songs about Jesus being my all in all – how He was everything I needed, the one who fulfilled the cry of my heart everyday. But the truth was that I didn’t really think that I could be happy, fulfilled and content without having a guy to turn to for comfort. And I was so repulsed by the thought of spending life alone, of never having my dreams of earthly romance come true, that I was willing to settle for a less-than-Christ-like guy in order to avoid being single.
God challenged me to lay down my “right” to be married, walk down the aisle in a white dress, and live in a cute house with a white picket fence. He was asking me to let Him be everything to me, to satisfy every need, longing, and desire in my heart – even if an earthy prince charming never came my way. It’s not that God was telling me I was called to be single for the rest of my life. But He wanted to make me completely willing to be single if He so chose – and not just willing, but eager and delighted to sacrifice my all for the One who gave everything for me.
I wrestled with the decision for days. I realized that the only times I’d ever been single without a guy in my life were the times that I’d had no choice. I’d never deliberately decided not to have a guy at my side. In fact, whenever I didn’t have a boyfriend, I spent most of my time and energy trying to find one.
I knew what He was asking of me: To stop spending my time and energy chasing after guys, daydreaming about guys, or wondering what guys thought of me. The gentle voice of Christ’s Spirit was challenging me to become so completely consumed in my relationship with Him that I no longer pined after an earthly romance. To become so perfectly content in Him that guys were no longer the focus of my existence. To be so fulfilled in Him that I had no urgent need to have someone at my side. To embrace singleness joyfully – no longer seeing it as a curse, but as an amazing opportunity to build my entire life around my Heavenly Prince.
Once I made that decision, everything changed. I discovered intimacy with Christ that I never knew was possible, and contentment and joy that I had never before known. My love story with my husband, Eric, was an outflow of putting my relationship with Jesus Christ first.
Why do so many women settle for less than their best when it comes to a marriage partner?
Because of society’s unhealthy view of sexuality, all too many women have fallen prey to the lie that their value comes from the approval of the opposite sex. Even strong Christian women often stumble in this area – and I was certainly no exception! Instead of allowing Jesus Christ to be our first love, we look to earthly guys to meet needs in our heart that only Jesus Christ can fulfill. And we end up disappointed and dissatisfied…time and time again. Often, we lower our standards and settle for a guy that we know is not God’s best for us, because we are so afraid of being alone.
But here is the crucial truth that all too many of us miss in our quest for true love: even a beautiful God-scripted love story can never satisfy the way Jesus does. Even the most heroic and Christ-like man on earth can never fulfill the longings of our heart like the true Prince and Lover of our soul. And until we are able to truly make Him our first love, until we are willing to give up our dream of an earthly love story for His sake, we will never know the fullness of Him who fills us all in all. We will always be looking to a mere man to meet the desires of our heart, rather than to the One who created us, who knows us better than we know ourselves, and who gave His very life’s blood to rescue us.
When we make a relationship our primary source of fulfillment, we set ourselves up for heartache and compromise.
The church tends to view discontentment with singleness as God’s way of suggesting that a young lady should marry. Why is this dangerous?
It’s a bleak irony that countless Christian single women face. They struggle daily with surrendering their dreams for marriage back to God and being content with singleness. They come to church hoping to find love, support and encouragement – but often the very people who should be cheering them on in their life of abandonment to Christ are the ones who overlook or disregard them because they are not married yet. I’ve heard many single young women say that being around Christians only seems to breed discontentment, impatience and insecurity, rather than joy, inspiration, and strength for the journey.
All too often, American Christianity does not encourage or support the concept of letting God orchestrate your love story – especially once you are older than twenty-five. At every turn, single girls are invited to Christian singles groups where they can meet available men, or told about online Christian dating services where they can be matched with their soul-mate, or given books about how to find their perfect prince and become more “dateable.”
There is endless pressure – both from outside and inside the church – upon single young women to take matters into their own hands when it comes to marriage. These messages resonate with our fleshly, selfish nature – the part of us that craves to be in control of our own lives and satisfy the desire of our heart outside of God. And if we can justify this “take it into my own hands” attitude under the banner of it being God’s design for us, that makes it even more appealing.
Just this past week I had a conversation with a Christian counselor who told me, “I see so many single young women in my office who are completely missing out on God’s amazing purpose for this season of their lives - because they are completely preoccupied with finding a husband, they don’t see how they can be happy until they find one.”
As odd as it may sound, I believe the best way to find a godly marriage partner is to stop hunting for one, and instead focus your entire life around Jesus Christ and His priorities. We should never put off fulfilling God’s calling upon our life because we haven’t met our man yet.
Should a single woman be proactive in finding a husband, especially if she is older or there aren’t a lot of available men around? What about the idea that “God can’t steer a parked car?”
It may sound spiritual to use the argument that since God created us for marriage, He has no problem with us being impatient, unhappy and discontent until we find a husband. It may be easy to believe that He applauds us when we take matters into our own hands and try to help the process along. But that’s not the pattern of Scripture.
When God promised a son to Abraham in his old age, Abraham did what seemed only natural to do – he tried to give God a helping hand. After all, God had said that He wanted to give him a son. What was so wrong with using the good common sense that God had given him and sleeping with his wife’s maidservant? It was the only way, as far as Abraham could see, that God’s desire for him to be a father would ever happen. The thought of just waiting around until Abraham and Sara were both on death’s doorstep was laughable. As the common saying goes, “God can’t steer a parked car!” Abraham bought that very lie hook, line and sinker. (But think about it: God can make bread out of stones and dry land out of an ocean – somehow I don’t think steering a parked car is much of an issue for Him.)
So Abraham did what countless single young women do – he tried to help God out, tried to speed things up, tried to use the resources he had to make God’s plan happen. And he ended up not with the son that God had promised him, but with his own humanly-crafted solution…Ishmael. Ishmael was not God’s perfect plan for Abraham’s legacy. Rather, God said of Ishmael that, “He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him.” (Gen 16:22)
God told Abraham that He would establish his seed through a child named Isaac that would be born to him and his wife Sara in their old age. Abraham’s response was, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” (Gen 17:18) Like so many of us, Abraham longed for his own handiwork to be blessed by God, rather than having to wait for God to fulfill His promise in His own time and way. God challenges us to let Him write our love stories in His own time and way, and our immediate response is, “Oh, that I could just create my own story and have You bless it!” That’s what our selfish nature craves. But our Lord has something far better in store, if only we will trust Him.
What if a young woman feels that she’s made too many mistakes in this area of her life? Can she still expect God to script a beautiful love story for her if His plan for her life is marriage?
I grew up in a Christian home and went to youth group, but like most Christian young people today I approached purity from a selfish vantage point. I constantly asked, “how far is too far?” rather than “how far can I possibly go to please God and honor my future spouse?” And as a result, my life was full of sin, selfishness and compromise. I gave my heart, mind, emotions and body carelessly away in temporary flings. By the time I caught a vision for the amazing purity and breathtaking beauty that marked a Christ-centered love story, I honestly felt like it was too late for me to ever experience it. I’d allowed the treasure of my heart, emotions, and body to be trampled time and time again. I knew I was unworthy of a God-written love story.
But then, in His gentle, tender, patient way, my King began to show me that I could be completely washed clean, restored, and made new. If I was willing to repent and receive His forgiveness, I could be set free from all the baggage of the past, cleansed from all the impurity I’d allowed into my life. And I could experience the fullness of a brilliantly pure, God-scripted love story, through the power of His redemption. It seemed almost too good to be true, but it was exactly what He promised.
God-scripted love stories are not just for those who have never compromised. In fact, the very reason that Christ sacrificed everything for us was to offer us the chance to be restored, washed clean, and given a hope and future.
What are some practical ways single women can use this season of their lives to impact the world with the love of Christ?
A 30-year-old single woman recently told me that the secret to being fulfilled is living a life poured out for the least. “When you live a poured-out life, it takes your eyes off yourself and your own struggles. It is hard for me to think about myself when I encounter a family living in a mud hut that has no food to eat and no bed to sleep in.” When we are single, we are freer than we will ever be to give to those in need and become Christ’s advocates for the least around the world. But rather than spilling our lives out “for the least of these”, single women all too often spend this season desperately searching for Mr. Right. Meanwhile, children are starving, women are being prostituted, and countless families around the world are ripped apart by disease and poverty. Where are the Amy Carmichaels and Gladys Alywards of today? Where are those who will lay down even the hope of marriage in order to become Christ’s hands and feet to the destitute and dying. And as Paul says, even those of us with spouses are to be so committed to Christ that He is all that matters. Singleness, marriage, and romance are important to God; He cares deeply about these things. But that’s not what this life is all about. We must remember that we are soldiers of the cross, whether single or married. Singleness is a short season. Marriage is a short season. Heaven is for eternity. We are called to spend our best energies, resources and time on the things of God’s kingdom.
There are 145 million orphans in the world. 27 million human slaves. Foster care children in need of love, prisoners in need of hope, starving people in need of food and water. Need is all around us if we will open our eyes to it, take our focus off ourselves, and become God’s hands and feet to this lost and dying world. For a list of practical ways to begin, visit setapartgirl.com/change-the-world.