Loving and Understanding Your Unmarried Friends Better

When more teaching and energy are aimed at godly marriage and parenting than any other stage of life, when people continue to use the language of choice to describe the single state (despite the fact that most of us are not single by choice), when single people are viewed as inherently less-mature than married people or in need of sympathy because of their marital state, when chastity is primarily taught as saying no to intimacy, I think it’s safe to say the church needs to grow in painting a better, more biblical vision for the lives of unmarried people in the church, especially in the 21st century where romantic love is seen as the pinnacle, even the purpose of human existence, and yet where we are more isolated from community than perhaps at any other time in history.
A person who got married at 18 or 20 or 24 doesn’t know what it’s like to be 32 and single any more than I know what it’s like to be 40 and married with four kids. Just because every human has at some point in the past been unmarried doesn’t mean they have some kind of window into the struggles of people who have been unmarried while desiring marriage for ten, fifteen, twenty years — THAT is my reality, and I need to know what it looks like to live out the gospel in my life. Married folks and parents get that message all the time — thank God! But we need it too, and we need a bigger, more beautiful picture than “don’t have sex until you’re married.” The scriptures present that picture, and if we are committed to teaching the whole counsel of God, we need to lift those life-giving truths up to EVERYONE who is suffering because of where they are in life, including unmarried people.
Just as an example: my best friend hasn’t been “single” in a meaningful way since she started dating her now-husband when they were both in high school. Now, our struggles, though they don’t seem externally the same, often reveal similar besetting sins and heart issues: we’re both learning about trusting God’s total control over and loving care for our lives, I through dealing with loneliness and depression, she in other ways, but the lesson is the same. In the broader church, how many resources are available to her, to help her see how God is at work in her marriage, to remind her of the sacredness of her calling right now, to give her resources to be a godly wife and mother? Countless! One problem she faces in her stage of life is that there are too many voices competing for her attention, from the pulpit and elsewhere, and it can be overwhelming. A big problem in my case? Silence. Or nothing more than a “no.” Or a reminder to be patient, together with a tentative encouragement to join eHarmony. To paraphrase Chesterton, we cannot be expected to build our lives around a negation, an absence — especially when the messages to our married friends and friends with kids seems to be by contrast a life built around love and intimacy. Is it any wonder so many of my unmarried friends have contemplated becoming single parents, or even marrying unbelievers?
What I need help with from the church, from my pastors and from my brothers and sisters, is in seeing how the vision God has for me right now in my life. Maybe God has called me to lifelong singleness, or maybe not — that question’s pretty irrelevant, honestly, since I can’t know the future — but God has a purpose for me right now regardless, and I have an obligation to live a godly life right now regardless. I need God’s people to be faithful to show me and other single people how to do that, how to see God’s purposes in my life, how to live a godly life now.
When I call for the church — especially my married friends and particularly married pastors — to be more faithful in how they present the truly good news of the gospel to unmarried people, how they portray the single life, how they view the sacred calling of chastity, I’m not asking for special treatment. I’m pleading with my brothers and sisters to see me as a valuable member of God’s church now, worth the time to work out what it looks like for me to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel now, cherished enough to come alongside with a fiery, countercultural vision of Christian virtue in a season of celibacy, in just the same way that we are already committed to seeing stay-at-home moms as valuable members of God’s church, that we work out what it looks like for fathers and husbands to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, that we come alongside couples with a fiery, countercultural vision of Christian virtue in marriage.
And please trust that I’m not just sitting on the sidelines telling YOU what YOU have to do. I want to be used by God to change the way at least my little corner of modern evangelicalism loves unmarried people of every age. But as members of one body, we have the joyful obligation to join with one another — even those whose lives look so different from ours — in our triumphs and sorrows. I join with you, married brothers and sisters. I join with you, faithful parents. Will you join with me?

Prayer for the Persecuted Church

For Endurance in Particular Sufferings

God our Father, who made heaven and Earth,
the fountain of all love and goodness,
fill your suffering servants with strength as they face persecutions of many kinds,
especially those in ________________________.

O Lord Jesus Christ
who suffered separation from your Father
that we might never know such separation,
pour out your mercy to Christian men and women,
made lonely and isolated by acts of persecution
and children orphaned by these same acts.

O Lamb of God
by whose stripes we are healed,
have mercy upon those of your people
who are sickened, maimed, or wounded,
who are forced into deprivation or starvation,
who are kept from your Table by persecution,
who have the Holy Spirit for comfort and fellowship.

O Messiah,
who became a servant, identifying with the lowly,
have mercy upon your servants in slavery, captivity, and exile.
You who left your heavenly throne
and did not consider your equality with God as something to be grasped,
have mercy upon your servants who have lost homes and property,
possessions and earthly goods,
and whose true inheritance is kept safe for them in heaven.

O Suffering Servant,
who did not open your mouth before your accusers
have mercy upon those who,
witnessing vile acts of violence against their loved ones,
are tempted to anger and retribution.

All-Seeing Father,
when one part suffers, we all suffer.
Remind us of our share in each particular suffering
that besets your people around the world.

In the name of Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever,

AMEN

Prayer for the Persecuted Church

For Endurance with Rejoicing

O God who rules the nations,
Whose Word calls us to deny ourselves,
take up our crosses,
and follow Christ,

Hear the prayers of your servants on behalf of your persecuted children,
especially those in the country/countries of _________________.

With the Apostle Paul,
we are sorrowful yet always rejoicing:
sorrowful to know of the persecutions our brothers and sisters suffer,
rejoicing because you have promised never to leave them or forsake them.

Strengthen them in this truth by your powerful hand.
Give them, too, the grace to rejoice in their sufferings,
because in them they share the sufferings of your own dear Son, Jesus.

Cause them, Father, to rejoice in their “better possessions” (Heb. 10:34),
which are heaven itself
and Christ himself.

Strengthen them to take comfort that,
as they are persecuted,
“so the prophets were persecuted before” (Mt. 5:12).

Preserve them by your Holy Spirit
to praise you in their sufferings to the end,
and to look forward to “the revelation of His glory,
[when they] may rejoice with exultation” (1 Pt. 4:13).

Merciful God, who abounds in love
whose favor lasts to a thousand generations,
show mercy to those whose crosses are heavy;
give endurance to those who suffer,
that they might see not only their salvation,
but that of children’s children, who will rise up and praise you.

May this generation of persecuted believers
praise your works to the next, and declare your mighty deeds.

God of all comfort,
give peace to your suffering children.

In the name of Christ, who bore our griefs and carried our sorrows,

AMEN.

November is Pray for the Persecuted Church Month

Hello Dear Friends,

November has been set aside as a month to remember and pray for the persecuted church. Please join me as I pray each weekday for a different group of persecuted Christians – dinnertime or bedtime are great times to pray as a family for those around the world who risk their lives daily to worship God. The schedule I’m using is below. I’ll post a new prayer every week.

You can visit idop.org for more information on how to pray. Use these prayers as a guide to help you intercede for these brothers and sisters whose suffering God has not forgotten. 

 

Week of November 4: Prayer #1
Monday: Christians in the Middle East, especially Syria
Tuesday: Christians in North Korea
Wednesday: Christians in Africa, especially North Africa
Thursday: Christians in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia
Friday: Christians in South and Southwest Asia, especially India

Week of November 11: Prayer #2
Monday: Christians in the Middle East, especially Iran
Tuesday: Christians in China
Wednesday: Christians in Africa, especially West Africa
Thursday: Christians in Southeast Asia, especially Laos and Vietnam
Friday: Christians in South and Southwest Asia, especially Pakistan

Week of November 18: Prayer #3
Monday: Christians in the Middle East, especially Afghanistan
Tuesday: Christians in Taiwan
Wednesday: Christians in Africa, especially East Africa
Thursday: Christians in Southeast Asia, especially Burma
Friday: Christians in South and Southwest Asia, especially the former Soviet Republics

Week of November 25: Prayer #4
Monday: Christians in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia
Tuesday: Christians in Tibet and Mongolia
Wednesday: Christians in Africa, especially Central Africa
Thursday: Christians in Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia
Friday: Christians in South and Southwest Asia, especially Bangladesh and Sri Lanka

Technical Difficulties

Hey sorry, y’all, due to some technical difficulties (i.e., crazy scheduling conflicts), today’s scheduled post will be AWESOME but not published until Thursday (and Friday!) — sorry for the delay.

In the meantime, rock out with a little vintage Whitney Houston — in memory of one of the greatest voices of her generation (gratuitous 80s sax solo!):