When God Closes A Door

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He proposed.

Not to me. But to her. The man I’ve been praying for for years is now someone else’s.

Can you relate? Is that a familiar song in your life? Perhaps you’ve been praying for someone you’d thought would make a good life partner. You thought the door was wide open, or even slightly ajar, only for it to be slammed shut. Or perhaps it’s a job or opportunity that you’ve been lifting up to God these past few months, or years.

We cannot twist God’s arm or bend Him to our will. But here are three lessons I’m learning from it.

1. It is God’s purpose.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

I don’t see what God is doing behind the scenes. He brought this man into my life for a purpose. I can kick and wrestle, reasoning that God wouldn’t bring Him in if not to be my future spouse. But there are a thousand and one reasons for God to do so. I can only see within a finite and limited frame, but God sees all things. He can see ten, fifteen, twenty years from now and know what’s best for me.

When I met this man, I wasn’t a follower yet. I wanted to take my walk with Jesus seriously because I was following his example. I thought, this is the kind of woman he would be looking for. Indeed, but it’s not me. Nevertheless, God gripped me with an unsatiable thirst for Him, with or without this man. God used him to bring me closer to Him. And that is ten thousand better a reason than any temporal earthly relationship.

2. It is God’s protection.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? (Luke 11:11)

God hears my prayers. Or my rather lengthy list for a future spouse. This man, though on the outside is seemingly the perfect fit for me, may not be the best that God has in mind. God is the ultimate matchmaker. He’s not just thinking of what will give me joy now, but in the years to come as well. So much Kingdom time is lost on poorly made matches, says Gary Thomas in Sacred Search. In this case, God was sparing me.

The same is true for that dream job or perfect house or other closed doors. God knows us and our circumstances better than we know it. That glamorous job may be too stressful for you or it’s not really a good match of your skills and interests. Perhaps that rainbow-bright, white picket house may have a hidden leak or faulty foundation that years down the road would be a massive headache for you. We may not see how God is protecting us. But we can trust that He is.

3. It is God’s hope.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? (Romans 8:24)

We are counting down the last few good single Christian men. Or are we? On one hand, I could, fist-in-air cry out, Lord, another one out the window! On the other, I could take it in stride and see that there are still men like him around. They are out there. I just need to be patient and wait.

There is hope. If not this one, then surely God is brewing something or someone out of the corner of heaven. He is raising up someone. He will speak that job into existence. Let’s not believe the lie that God is incapable of doing something right this very moment. Because He is. God wants that person to be a part of our life more than we do. Or for us to walk into His plan more than we seek for it. God is still in the business of answering our prayers.

But behind all this, there is one door that will never close for us. And that is Jesus. Through Him we have already gained everything. Let us continue to look to Him as our only source of purpose, protection and lasting hope.

 

 

 

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How to Encourage Single Men in Church

Photo credits: www.intentionalworkplace.com
Photo credits: http://www.intentionalworkplace.com

As dinner wound to a close, I thanked the young man sitting across me for the evening – for fetching me, choosing a restaurant and paying for dinner. By any other definition, that would have constituted a “date”. But neither of us wanted to get ahead of the other.

These days, it takes courage as big as slaying a lion for Christian men to ask Christian women out on a “date”, namely for what it would imply (Are they dating? Courting? Has he prayed about it? Has he sought counsel from his pastor? Has he asked permission from her parents?) A simple coffee date can be blown out of proportion by well-meaning brothers and sisters in church. If he hasn’t analyzed this enough, then perhaps he isn’t ready to date.

The repercussion of which, we are seeing less and less single men taking that step in intentionally getting to know a girl. He waddles in between group activities because that is the only “safe space” to get to know someone. Meanwhile, Christian women are left wondering, “Where have all the single eligible men gone? Why aren’t they asking us out?”

 

The Problem of Single Men

It’s a crappy time to be a man. Expectations are off-the-roof – they are to lead, serve, provide, protect and pursue. These God-given responsibilities have not changed in an ever-changing world – absentee fathers, extended “adultoscence”, proliferation of pornography and other sexual outlets.

No one knows how to be a man anymore. Fathers are not present to teach, to guide, to exemplify manhood. If they are, they have received weak examples from their fathers before them – short temper, lack of communication, not treating women right. Hence, this is what they pass on to the younger generation.

Lacking that guidance growing up, young men are left to wander on their own and meander. And what better path to take than that one which allows them to play. Video games, endless hobbies, new toys and technologies. Boys will be boys. With that missing link of a strong father and strong vision of what’s on the other side, growth spurts into adulthood are delayed. What’s the rush? I’m happy where I am and I’ve got game night with the boys later.

But the biggest challenge for young men nowadays is that which attacks their purity. It’s everywhere! Pornography is anything which intends to cause sexual excitement. It has seeped into the fabric of what we consider “normal” and has invaded our daily routines. Videos shared on social media, magazine covers of scantily-clad women displayed on eye-level of kids in the supermarket, movies with sex scenes played on long-distance bus rides. It would take a gouging-out-of-eyes and cutting-off-of-hands to take stock of one’s thoughts and not spiral into that darker realm of sin. What once can only be viewed and enjoyed within the context of marriage is now mass-produced and sensationalized for easy public access. Why buy the cow when you can drink the milk for free, right?

 

Single Men, You Are Not Alone

While it takes a village to raise a child, it may equally be true for a village to raise up young men. With the overwhelming odds stacking up against them, it takes real community effort to surround them with godly values and solid examples of God’s design for each one of us.

1.Ladies, Act like Ladies

Then [older women] can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (Titus 2: 4-5)

While this verse speaks to young married women, we can glean out the traits set out for all young women alike – to be loving, kind, self-controlled, pure, busy and subject to God-given authority.

We show love and kindness to our brothers in Christ when we engage them in real friendship. No need to shy away in fear our actions may be misconstrued. But let us not overstep our boundaries either. Let us guard one another’s heart by being pure with our words and actions, and not mislead them or cause them to stumble. Ladies, this includes dressing modestly. We want men to lead so let’s give them the space to lead. Let’s restrain ourselves from wanting to do things our way because we think it’s better or they’re too slow. Compliment them and thank them when they step up, even in the little things. Gentlemen will rise up when they see the gap and recognize the need in an accepting and nurturing environment.

2. Older Men Teach the Younger Men

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned. (Titus 2:6-8a)

Young men need to see the example of older men. The wisdom of men is seasoned through years of experience, failures and triumphs. Ideally, this is passed on at home from father to son. But spiritual fathers can be sought out to counsel and mentor. While it is tempting for us women to be the ones to teach and lead, it may not be our place. They need to see other men do it. They need other men to speak truth into their life and hold them accountable.

This is what community is all about. We do what we can to help one another. We are not the ones to do things for them, rather we set the stage that would allow them to perform their God-given roles. Let us continue praying for our single young men to rise up and be the men God wants them to be.

Impatient and Restless

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It takes over in bouts and cycles. One minute, singleness is a season I’m thankful to be in – enjoying and embracing it like no other. But the next, I get restless. I think of the man I’m praying for and God’s perfect timing. Will he ever come? Is marriage a gift God will ever give to me?

I thought I had gained triumph and victory over this season. Being content and joyful in my present circumstances. And yet, random daily things reveal the impatience hiding in the inner recesses of my heart.

This is the yoke of singleness. 

It goes through peaks and valleys, through joys and struggles unique to it. Just like any other season. Just as in marriage. Just as in life.

 

Paul – The Single Man

Not even Paul was immune to it. In his letter to the church in Corinth, he talked of the hardships and sufferings he went through in preaching the Gospel. And this –

“Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin,and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Corinthians 11:29)

This is as real as it gets for Paul in his single state. He struggled just as any of us do. He went through times of weakness, of loneliness, of burning inside.

But he pressed on.

Did he ever thought of giving up? Of leaving this for another life? Of coming home instead to a warm meal and soft bed, to a wife he can share his life with?

Perhaps. We don’t know.

But we do know that he continued to fight the good fight of faith. Perhaps he thought of these things, yes. But perhaps he also thought that none of these compared to the greatness of God’s mission for him. That what this life has to offer paled in comparison to seeing God’s glory in the midst of his suffering.

And just like Paul, I will fight the good fight of faith.

When my heart feels weak and restless, I will look to Jesus. It’s not a yoke of singleness or of marriage. There’s only one yoke that all of us share – the yoke of Christ. And He promised that His yoke is easy and His burden, light.

How can this be?

Because Jesus carries it for us. Let Him.

When God wants to give you MORE

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It amazes me how God takes His time, beautifully crafting replies and reframing our perspective according to what He really means.

As I’ve been drowning out heaven with prayers for a mate FOR YEARS, I thought that what He meant with “immeasurably more” is with the partner He’ll give me. That if I’m praying for ten things I want in a future husband, then He’ll give me 15 more! Now that’s immeasurably more, right?

But I’ve come to realize that maybe that’s not what He meant. He wants me to have an abundant life (John 10:10). He doesn’t want me to just have a husband. He wants me to have a full life.

Remember the story of the woman at the well? She has had five husbands and yet she was still not satisfied with her life. She said to Jesus: “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:15, NIV) Five husbands and still thirsty!

So perhaps it’s not just one part of the equation that He wants to give us. He wants to give us so much more.

 

How to experience God’s “immeasurably more”

1. Let God define what is “more”. 

“Now to HIM who is able to do..” It starts with God. And He is the one who is able to do this. I could be wrong in what I want. But God knows me better than I know myself. So let go of what “more” looks like to you. For me, “more” is getting a better husband than what’s on my list. But God redefined that for me by giving me much more – a full life.

A husband would only be one of many relationships that I will have (albeit the most important if there is). But life covers a wide spectrum of needs – social, spiritual, emotional, physical, occupational, intellectual, environmental (Seven Dimensions of Wellness). So what about the rest? And this is where God wanted to meet me first. He wants me to experience wellness – establish healthy relationships with family and friends (social), be at peace with where He has me and experience joy no matter what (emotional), enjoy work and pursue passions (occupational and intellectual), learn how to take care of my skin and body (physical), live an organic and natural lifestyle (environmental), and most importantly, build my relationship with My Creator (spiritual).

Whatever “more” looks like to you, just let it go. Let God be the one to define it for you.

2. Know God as a Loving Father

Verse 20 is preceded with Verses 18 and 19: “(that you) may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

What is a loving father like? Fathers who care deeply about their children will not withhold good things from them. He will provide for all their needs and much more – toys, chocolates, birthday parties. He will not do this reluctantly but it would be his joy to give these things to his child.

We need to know that kind of love – how wide and long and high and deep, and which surpasses knowledge. That is how much He loves us. To see Him as a stingy, reluctant, unloving Father would limit who He is and what He can do in our lives.

Your earthly father may be different. Don’t confuse the two.

3. Start living the full life

“..According to his power that is at work within us.” As children of God, His very Spirit is at work within us. That full life began the moment we received Christ into our lives. So what does a full life look like to you? Don’t just look at it from one angle. Remember the Seven Dimensions of Wellness. Consider your relationships, work, spiritual life. All these factor in how well you live your life. You have a role to play. That immeasurably more is within your grasp as you recognize that power at work within you.

I don’t just sit around waiting for God to drop a husband on my lap. I live my life the best way I know how. I work on my relationships, I meet new people, I try out new things. I continue to seek God, know more of His Love for me and tell other people about it. I enjoy life and this is immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine.

Had He given me a husband first then I may not be able to appreciate this gift – a gnawing feeling may seethe deep within me as other aspects of my life are not satisfied. But He wants to answer that prayer, even ones that I have not uttered to Him. And so He is making sure that I am whole and complete first, not lacking in anything – and that is the fullness of life.

I don’t know what you’re praying for. But when we dictate too much what we want, we limit God. He wants to give us more than what we ask for, but first, we have to let Him. Let go of any expectations you may have on how God will answer you. Only then will you be able to recognize how God is already giving you that immeasurably more in this life. Let Him.

 

 

Celebrating Your Singleness

seasons

Dear Sister-in-Waiting,

I know.

I know it’s hard. I know the days can drag on. I know about all those lonely nights.

I’ve been there.

And I wish it wouldn’t be this hard. But there are days when your heart literally hurts, especially after meeting a promising young man, only for it to turn sour and find out he’s not the one for you.

I know.

And I know you’re tired of people telling you,

“It’s going to happen soon.”

“He’s coming for you.”

“Just be patient and wait.”

So I’m not going to tell you those. Because honestly, I don’t know.

I don’t know if it is going to happen soon.

I don’t know where he is.

And I don’t know how long you’ll have to wait.

So maybe you pray even harder. Read even more. And they tell you,

“Wait on God.”

“Jesus is your Husband.”

“Prepare for your marriage.”

All good advice. But it’s been a year. Or two. Or five. And hope is not what it used to be. It’s dwindling a little.

But I will tell you this:

This season too shall pass.

That I know.

I have been where you are. I read. I prayed. I met new friends. Potentials even. I was expectant. I had high hopes.

I guarded my heart. Took captive of my thoughts. Tried to think only of what was pure, noble and right. But I couldn’t. I thought of marriage. A lot. I thought of potential husbands. A lot.

But, nothing.

And then it hurt. And hurt some more.

But you wake up one day, and you’re ok. Literally, ok.

No longer panicky, no longer anxious. I had peace.

I trusted Jesus. I trusted God. If it is His will, it will happen. He wants this to happen more than I do.

So yes, it will pass. And you will enjoy your singleness like never before. You will see with new eyes, feel with a new heart. You will crave for God just as when you met Him as your First Love. You will want to know Him more, serve Him as He has called you to.

This season is a gift from God. No husband to care for. No kids to run after. Your time is your own. You can focus on your passion for singing. Take up painting. Watch your favorite episode of Friends. Go on road trips.

This is your life. It doesn’t start after marriage. Marriage does not define you. THIS IS YOUR LIFE.

And it’s great to be alive.

So it’s ok. Just hang on to God. With every bit of your might.

Because, my dear Sister-in-Waiting, this too shall pass. And what’s around the corner is worth waiting for.

When (almost) ALL your friends are getting married

In the span of two months, I would have attended five weddings. Two on the same day, twice as a bridesmaid, once as a church reader, and five times wishing it were me over there. Sigh. I’ve got wedding fever! But I know my time down the aisle will come. I just need to trust. In the meantime, here are four tips for surviving and thriving in this season of waiting.

1. Learn from your married friends.

Whenever I get together with my married friends, this question never ceases to pop up: Well? Have you met anyone yet? It doesn’t get old and it doesn’t really bother me. I know they mean well. We joke about it and try to come up with strategies for me to meet someone. How I can pretend to trip or fall over and let the guy catch me. Meet-cute.

But seriously, watching my friends with their husbands and their babies is a great resource for me. I listen to their stories of how they share responsibilities, how they handle different situations, how they interact with one another. It offers me a glimpse into how my future marriage can work.

So use this time to prepare. Ask questions. Listen. Even get some practice with their kids!

2. Meet new single friends.

While hanging out with married friends are great, you can’t escape that great reminder that you’re still single. Now would be a good time to expand your horizon and meet new people! Share this season with ladies who know what you’re going through and swap stories and wisdom along the way.

3. Serve.

Now is the best time to serve in church. We are not preoccupied with things of this world, on how to please our husband (1 Corinthians 7:34). We can focus on the Lord’s work, learn hospitality and serve others. This is good training ground as well for a future wife. Someday we will serve our husbands and children, and hopefully open up our homes to those in need.

Bonus: What better place can you meet single godly men but in ministry and see him in action too!

4. Work on your relationship with God.

Our primary relationship will always be with God. Use this time to be more intimate with God and let Him guide you in this season and prepare you for marriage, if that is His will for you.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Let Him rule our hearts. Only in Christ can we be truly satisfied and not in earthly relationships. Learn to hold loose anything of this world, even romance, family and desires for marriage.

 

 

 

Penning down my Mission

Recently, a new guy friend has come into my life and has caused my prayers to go on overdrive, not that it hasn’t already been. Let me reiterate that: Guy friend. We’re friends. His situation is a bit complicated. I met him a few days before he left for a different city and now he’s based abroad. Before he left though, he let me know his intentions and told me that he would come back and pursue me. Sweet? Reminded me of military men going off to battle and leaving their ladies behind wondering when they would see each other again, if at all.

Being the thinker and analyzer that I am, I’ve twisted and turned it over in my head a million times whether he is the guy for me. Can I wait for him? There’s so many things to consider and the fact that he’s away leaves enough room to doubt whether I’m just waiting in vain.

I’ve read so many resources on dating and marriage, not to mention seeking God’s wisdom on this. I thought I had things figured out. But I find myself faltering on the vision I’ve set for my life and the mission God has for me.

So here is my simple attempt to pen down my Mission (following the Master-Mission-Mate flow) and answer that question of whether he is the guy God has prepared for me.

My Mission: A reflection on Proverbs 31

  • To be the woman God has intended me to be
  • To be a supportive and loving wife – a helpmate and lifegiver, gaining my husband’s full confidence (v.10-12)
  • To create a warm and hospitable environment for my family – biological and spiritual (v.13-15, 27)
  • To have some knowledge in business and investments that I may be able to help my husband and multiply what God has entrusted to me (v.16-18)
  • To serve alongside my husband in ministry – lead a small group and counsel women (v.26)
  • To act with kindness and compassion towards those in need – set aside an offerings fund (v.20)
  • To budget our finances well and be prepared for all occasions (v.21-22, 25)
  • To raise up my children in the fear of the Lord and possibly homeschool them (v.28)

With God as my only priority, He directs my path to prioritize the rest in this order: (1) my husband, (2) my family, (3) work, (4) ministry.

With my Mission secure in place, this is the nugget of wisdom I’ve gathered in choosing a Mate:

Choose a mate who will allow you to fulfill your Mission.

  • Will who he is help me be the woman God has intended me to be? Do our characters, strengths, weaknesses complement each other?
  • Will who he is help me be a supportive and loving wife? Will he prioritize our marriage as much as I will? Will I be able to submit to his leadership?
  • Will who he is help me create a warm and loving home? Will he take an active role in raising up our children? Will he help out in areas that I find difficulty in?
  • Will I be able to support the work that he chooses? Do I respect how he makes business/work decisions? Do I respect how he handles his finances?
  • What is the ministry he is called to serve? Is it the same as mine?
  • How does he feel about giving? Investing in God’s work?

These are only some of the Mission-Mate questions that I aim to explore once I and the guy, or other possible potential suitors, get to know each other. Each one will have a different Mission and so have different criteria for their Mate.

We may settle on peripheral areas such as background, looks, interests but don’t settle for someone who won’t allow you to be all that God has intended you to be.

You are you and God has great plans for you. Choose God’s best.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30